Kapibarasan, beady with disapproval
Eurostar have just texted me asking for comments on their service, which is nice as I have many comments, which I outlined at dull length to them.
I basically love the Eurostar, it seems like a small miracle of the modern world that it only takes me two hours to go from Brussels to London, in great, peaceful comfort. The seats are starting to look quite shabby, yes, and their pricing is out of control, but apart from that it is an astonishingly good and efficient service 90% of the time. The remaining 10% is a black hole of catastrophe as the last two winters have demonstrated, but I did not dwell on those dark, dark times in my response, because I am British, a fact Eurostar relies upon to keep anarchy from breaking out entirely when it is keeping a train full of Christmas travellers prisoner in a metal box in a hole in the ground with only half a stale waffle and a sachet dehydrated Carte d'Or coffee granules between 300.
I also resisted the temptation to ask for one coach to be turned into a petting zoo in the Bompas & Parr 'rabbit café' mode, or indeed to text them the single word “owls”. Instead, these are my suggestions:
1. Segregate the middle managers
A “no corporate bullshit speak” coach where no one is allowed to cock on to their companions or down the phone about how well the kick off meeting went and how busy the next three weeks are looking, or how they've set up a call with the Dusseldorf team because they really need their arses kicking. Maybe seat pockets in these coaches could be equipped with a laminated card you could hand to corporate miscreants that would read “No one gives a shit about the third quarter sales results”. Perhaps they should also have a "corporate espionage" coach where you can listen at luxuriant length to details of the third quarter sales results, and the problems in the Swindon office.
Other coaches needed:
(i) The chatty American senior citizen coach
(ii) The stag/hen party coach
(iii) The bile-inducing beautiful, glossy haired, glamorous job, Euro-fillies coach. I imagine this one would prove popular with gentlemen travellers.
2. Self-opening doors
Because I hate that thing where I’m the person nearest to the door as the train draws into the station. The train always does this ‘I’ve stopped, no actually, I’ve nearly stopped, I’ll just shuffle forward a little. Ok, now I’ve stopped but I haven’t actually done that thing where the whole train sighs and the door release button works’. So Either I wait, and worry that everyone behind me believes I am a halfwit who does not know how to open the door, when in fact I am just WAITING for the moment when the door release button works, or I press it pre-emptively and look like a tit. Take door release out of the hands of passengers, Eurostar. It worked for London Underground, it can work for you.
(This, I realise, is the kind of anecdote people in group therapy were always telling, and I would nod along knowing EXACTLY how it feels to agonise internally about how the way you nodded when the man in the shop asked if you needed a bag could be interpreted as cold and dismissive. Group therapy was good for confirming that you are not the only one experiencing those kinds of thoughts, albeit the others are in the basement of a private psychiatric hospital in north west London).
Give us something to look at in the tunnel when we cannot even play with our telephones and are alone with the thought that a gazillion tonnes of water sits a few feet above our heads, ready to crush us at any moment. Maybe a nice illuminated mural of fish outside? Some kind of son et lumière? Get Jean Michel Jarre involved. Actually, don't.
4. Get rid of that fucking statue
A ballot box into which we can drop suggestions for something to replace that godawful statue at St Pancras that looks like Jack Vettriano decided to try his witless hand at sculpture. I HATE IT. It is irredeemably naff. I would suggest a gigantic, deformed pigeon in its place, angled so it looks like it is swooping towards your head in low, erratic flight. What would you like?
5. Lavatory matters
Remove shelves from onboard loos, so that I cannot forget my possessions in there like I usually do. Also, what is it with that odd mirror configuration in the loos? If I wanted a slightly vertigo inducing view of my own arse, well. I don't know what exactly, but I DON'T and nor do most other people, I think. Confine such mirror madness to the Euro-filly coach.
6. On-board parlour games
Once passenger per train - selected randomly on the basis of seat number - should be required to dress up as Hercule Poirot and parade up and down the train asking the others searching questions.
7. Improved retail opportunities
Less crap shops on the post-passport control side of the terminals. No one wants to go to Caffe Sodding Nero, it is foul. At least the old Waterloo terminal had a bagel shop. Bring one of those back. As for Brussels, Pierre Marcolini is all very well if you are, say, Peter Mandelson and you have forgotten to buy presents for your serfs, but you need to sell a kidney for an 80 gramme bar of Peruvian Civet Grand Cru. Cheap and cheerful gift corner please: less Edition Limitée ganache, more Manneken Pis corkscrews (yes, you can get a few in the paper shop, but I want MORE) and sickeningly sweet Leonidas Type 2 Diabetes selection boxes.
8. A proper bloody loyalty scheme for the Eurostar lumpenproletariat
Even though you do not let us, the regular passengers who do not pay your ridiculous full-whack business rate ticket prices, earn enough points to reach Lounge Nirvana, the place where you serve roasted swan on a bed of shredded stagiaires, and celestial harps play the Ode to Joy, I think we deserve some recognition. So, I am suggesting that after 20 trips, we should be allowed to have a badge that reads "Regular traveller. Do not stand in front of me and faff for fifteen minutes looking for your passport or I WILL TUT".
I think that covers it. Anything else, Eurostar travellers?