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Slow Train Coming

Entry 1624 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash

Snowy MBS The Belgian railways have this magnificent computer management system that fully automatically delays all trains with 20 minutes or more whenever weather conditions change.

Although most Belgians knew it was going to freeze a couple of weeks ago the over-subsidized operators of the NMBS, drinking pink champagne with scarcely clad nymphets in corporate bubble baths, weren't aware of this fact and thus the train schedules suddenly looked like overcooked macaroni.

On television a communication officer explained that the train schedules were disturbed by, and I quote, the extreme weather conditions.

I understand it had snowed a lot and that it was minus five. Celsius that is, not Fahrenheit. But the press buff apparently wasn't aware of the fact that, in Belgium as in most other European countries, there is an annual recurrent phenomenon called winter.

Over four decades ago I learned a little French poem about winter, it was in first grade and I must only have been 7 or 8. I still can (partially) recite it now.

L’hiver est là
Et nos pas
S'effondrent la gelée (?)
Un beau matin
On n’entend rien
Car la neige est tombée

(Winter has come.
Our steps trace the ground.
On this beautiful morning,
you don’t hear a sound,
because snow has fallen down)

In those last 40 years something very important must have happened to our school education system that young university graduates who are willing to speak for our national railways do not have a notion anymore of what could eventually happen in winter. Do they not play White Christmas anymore on the radio? I would call minus 20 degrees damn cold, but is minus 5 extreme? People go swimming in the Northsea at minus 5.

It is a well-known secret that trustworthiness isn’t really demanded from NMBS public relations people. Belgium has always been an ambassador of surrealism and these spin doctors, paid with taxpayer’s money, need to excel in that artful quality as well.

A couple of years ago, and I dare betting my left testicle on it that this is the truth and nothing but the truth, the Parliament wanted to know why the Belgian trains had this uncanny tendency of always arriving too late.

This was, so said an NMBS fantasist on television, due to the fact that people were getting in and out of the vehicles when these halted in the stations, implying that if trains would drive around the country without any passengers on board they would at least drive on time. Obviously that made sense and the answer was very much appreciated by our politicians and the Belgian press.

It has to be said that most spokesmen (or women) of the NMBS only make it to the television screen once and that after their maiden speech they are never heard of again. It was rumored that this one was last seen in a straightjacket, just before he was ceremonially drowned in one of the corporate Jacuzzis.

This week on Tuesday, the commuter train I daily take was announced with a delay of 20 but arrived only after 50 minutes. The reason?

The temperature had risen above zero, in other words: it had stopped freezing. Just like an autistic can't bear a sudden change of environment so can’t our Belgian railway company.

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