One Less Place To Read A Book


Sp eighty of London’s stations are to get free Wi-Fi in time for the Olympics, which means that our last refuge from being emailed and texted is about to vanish.

I relished my time spent reading on the tube, until TfL decided that we need to be alerted by the driver every time a train stops in a station for more than a nanosecond. And unlike Paris, there are both electronic audio and visual announcements before every station, plus messages about what you might find there. In a polylingual city like London, why make audio announcements in English? Hell, we could go through ‘Alight here for the Covent Garden transport museum’ in 32 key languages, although it would mean holding up the train for 15-20 minutes at each station.

Did somebody pick book-readers as the next endangered species? What did we do wrong? Ah, of course, we’re not consuming fast enough! We’re the equivalent of slow cookery, a hold-up to progress, paying a flat fee for an object that might, God forbid, last forever.

And that’s an idea which is reaching its end. Ultra Violet, the content carriage system that’s set to co-ordinate all of your online music, films and photo files might sound like a great idea – it’ll be region-free and should work universally across all systems – but it will come at a price, and a time is fast approaching when you’ll pay a subscription fee for the service or risk losing all your stuff.

Back to the tube Wi-Fi. One good thing has emerged; public space etiquette. Teenagers are pretty good at using their mobiles quietly as they prefer texting and most people on trains are mindful of others. Within one month of anyone moving to London they’re saying sorry every ten seconds in public.

Bit of a rant there. Sorry.

8 comments on “One Less Place To Read A Book”

  1. Alan G says:

    I used to love making announcements! If I was being held at a station (usually to conform with timetable) and the signal was at danger, I would announce the fact in English, French, Spanish, Italian and, if time served, Portuguese.

    It was lovely to think of the train full of people checking their watches, rolling their eyes and sighing.

    Look! In a dull job you take your fun where you find it!

  2. Dan Terrell says:

    So true.
    I have had to learn to read under extreme conditions and now find that when the conditions are perfect: great chair, good light, quiet house, right temperature, glass of wine, or fresh coffee, I usually fall asleep and get nothing much read.
    However, as I read a great many weighty hardbacked books, I have found a way to solve the above.
    It’s called Thump! Which is the sound a book makes when it slides off the lap, sofa or bed and strikes the floor. That sound plus searching for the bookmark, usually wakes a person up enough to enable reading onward for another dozen pages or so.
    Don’t try Thump! when reading on a Kindle.

  3. Laura J says:

    Well may you rant. You have a blog. Your opinions are not even cretinous.

    At least you HAVE public transportation.

  4. Sparro says:

    “So eighty of London’s stations are to get free Wi-Fi in time for the Olympics…”
    Not only the last refuge of being e-mailed is to vanish, what fills me with dread is that it’s possibly the last refuge from the bl**dy olympics. I foresee running commentaries from the driver on the 100 yard synchronised solo egg & spoon triathlon or whatever being broadcast because we all, of course, want to know everything about the global sports-day every second it rambles on until its (blissful) termination.

  5. John says:

    We’ve had one cellular phone service make our subways “live” for their cell phone subscribers. There may be one other service that has made it easier for the techno-addicts to “stay in touch.” Why this need to constantly be typing and scrolling and viewing is beyond me. I am amazed by the amount of people talking on cellphones at 7:30 every morning I make my commute. Who are they talking to? I’d kill you if you called me a 7:30 and someone wasn’t dead or a building wasn’t on fire.

    One lovely courtesy that Metra, our commuter train service, has and also Amtrak, the national passenger train line, is a “quiet” car which is supposed to be a no cell phone conversation zone. I used it once on a train ride to Milwaukee and it was like travelling back in time when people actually read newspapers and books on board. But at one point there was one woman who came in and sat behind me (Murphy’s Law strikes again) who didn’t get the very simple concept. Just like those people on the airplanes who simply can’t turn off their devices for the brief take off period and need to be chided by the flight attendants a conductor had to ask her three times to stop. The last time he was not at all friendly when he asked her to hang up and shut up. I couldn’t stop grinning.

  6. Helen Martin says:

    Our buses and Skytrain have automated announcements which are triggered by ??? GPS possibly. The bus ones are preceded by a tone which is supposed to remind one of the streetcar bell. There is a reader board to show you what that indecipherable announcement actually was. How can you make Irmine St. hard to figure out? Both are at the stations, too. Of course, our Skytrain has no drivers so the announcements are automatic unless there is a real problem and they announce from central control. None of the announcements keep me from reading and I have to look up every once in a while to see how close I am to my stop.
    I used the quiet car on Amtrak going to California and it was just lovely – newspapers and books galore.

  7. Alan G says:

    Spiro – that is a brilliant idea! Train Operators can keep their “customers” up to date with a second-by-second update on the Olympic events they were hoping to attend while their train is stuck in a stifling tunnel for hours.

    Have you given this idea to the organisers and TFL? It is just breathtaking and you could… oh

    You were being ironic, weren’t you…

  8. Alan G says:

    Sorry “Sparro”

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