Hugh Rants: The Zebra Crossing Conundrum

Hugh Coates

This next gripe of mine is I’m sure quite familiar to the majority of you. As an impoverished student sustaining himself on the thoroughly underwhelming pay of a waiter, the use of motorized transport is a privilege. As a result, I am often necessitated to join the walkways of Great Britain.

Taking to the footpaths and pavements is in no way demeaning to me nor is it that much more of a hindrance to my day-to-day life as it currently stands. In fact, there is really nothing much to complain about when it comes to using one’s legs to propel yourself from A to B…well, actually there is just one thing.

Pavement congestion of an inner city is logical, you can’t help it. Homeless people practically tugging at your purse strings as you shuffle into Primark doesn’t get under my skin. I can even restrain myself when getting cut-up by a kamikaze cyclist. There is, however, just one aspect in the wanderings of a pavement-traveller that truly astounds me. I am referring to the strange social conventions surrounding those familiar black and white walkways that allow us to safely navigate across a road. Zebra crossings.

My complaint has nothing to do with the way in which you take you’re life into your own hands when navigating these black and white death traps. I have come to accept that you cannot simply expect a car to stop at a Zebra crossing, this is modern-day natural selection which I am merely adapting to. What I do fail to comprehend, is the the ambiguous motorist-pedestrian relationship at this point in our journey. Here we have a recognizable feature of the Highways, one that, if the narrow pass in my theory test has taught me, gives pedestrians the right of way over road users and requires them to stop by law. So why then do some people, including me on occasion, wave to thank these apparently charitable road users for abiding by the recognized laws of this country and indeed of most others?

It is something the more you think about, the more ludicrous this action becomes. To pluck a most extreme comparison, it would be like walking down the high-street, stopping random people and publicly applauding them for not assailing you. Why do we thank people for something they are supposed to do? There just isn’t a reasonable explanation for expressing gratitude towards someone for not maiming you with there vehicle as you saunter down to One-Stop. Maybe people just like saying thankyou.

To date, my most far-fetched conclusion is that there is a widely held idea of a very immediate form of karma. That it has now become mandatory to thank road users as some sort of courtesy to the next pedestrian, and failing to do so may result in said motorist going on a demonic rampage running-down frail old ladies on Zebra crossings across the land.

I am still very confused by this behaviour….

Hugh Rants : The Elusive Pound

Hugh Coates

I did a fair amount of travel on the train this weekend, £45 worth to precise. This was not including the necessary refreshment stops at St Pancras’ overpriced, head-up-own-backside cafes where if a man wants to get a bacon butty he has more chance of out running the fast train to Ashford International than he does of obtaining such a mundane snack. Am I an irritable traveler? Maybe.

We all know somebody that lives out in the sticks and in being so to remain within the social loop of his friends he must hike far and wide on the magnificence that is British public transport, as his financial impotence has denied him access to that very ordinary machine known as a car. That sorry desperate oaf is me. Yes, living in the the blissful peace of Norfolk is marvelous in the latter stages of your life, but to a young man like myself it is merely an unnervingly flat prison locked in by rat infested water ways, whereby the only means of escape are the First buses which are about as punctual as the Americans arrival to the war (apologies for the use of that already haggared metaphor).

This being considered, a 16-25 railcard seemed to be as worthy investment as ever. As a student ‘worthy’ investments are a rarity I include in this bracket of questionable investments the £9,000 a year tuition fees – zing. In the most part, this little orange card with my rather immature face haphazardly stuck onto it, has saved me a fair amount of money. Well done the person who created this card.

But then again, even the mighty Roman empire had to come to an end eventually, and like Hannibal when he tried to destroy Rome, Greater Anglia trains too tried to destroy a good thing. In what still baffles me while I write this snottogram, are an astounding sequence of events occurring in the space of about 15 minutes. In reading the following account you may think many things of me as a person, I can guess what a few of these may be: petty, deluded, lazy or just really a bit of an imbecile. I hope you will lose these thoughts by the end of this…

As I boarded the luxurious, sun seeking pleasure mobile that is the Greater Anglia train to Great Yarmouth, realizing that time was not on my side, I decided to buy a ticket on the train. This was certainly a reasonable aspiration of any train user within the last 20 years where card payments and more flexible ticket inspectors have come to the fore. Not thinking anything of it, when the ticket inspector came along, I reached for the trusty debit, the card having been inserted for it then to be unceremoniously rejected, much to my dismay. So much so, that a whimpering comment escaped my mouth. I informed the fair inspector that there was definitely money to be taken off of me as I had not long been paid. However, this comment was ignored, along with many pleas I was to make later on. Instead, this beacon of common sense came to the conclusion that despite me reaching for my card to pay the fare initially, that I must have just been trying to waste his time and that secretly I had the required amount of cash stashed away somewhere in my fairly light feeling wallet. However, much to my relief, I had the correct change for a railcard priced ticket. And then it dawned on me what the man had said to me before he took my card  ‘railcards are not ‘valid’ when using them on the train from Norwich.’ Bummer.

Not only had I been denied the price that was rightfully mine, I was now, according to the-inspector-that-makes-up-his-own-fares, £1 short. He duly went off to prey on other travelers promising to ‘come back later’. Unfortunately, I have been cursed with a rather vivid and imaginative mind, one which conjured a host of expectations of what to expect when he returned. They ranged from a fare settled by a wrestling match to a good old fashioned fine of something well over what my whole weekend of travel had cost me. He returned, the only progress I had made was in finding a fairly apologetic looking 2 pence coin, no good at all. My last resort: appeal to the public for help. Surely there was a human being on this train that would donate this fairly embarrassed looking young-adult/child a pound? My first attempt to attract some charity was to to ask the ticket inspector to repeatedly tell me the amount that I owed him and then repeat how much I had available – no response. This dead-end led me onto the no-shame approach of loudly announcing ‘oh dear, I’m only a pound short if only I could find one’. No prizes for guessing that this appeal to the public met with similar levels of success. My faith in humanity severely dented, I accepted my 21 day unpaid fare notice and skulked off the train.

From this experience I can say two things. Firstly, karma, where were you? I helped a blind person off the lift the other day. Secondly, humanity, and in particular Nor-folk, I hope you chose you property based on its elevation above sea level as it is due to rain this weekend and it would be terrible if you got a bit of flooding. You let me down.