In a recent issue of a tech magazine that I receive, I saw the following advertisement, which is good for a laugh. I’ve deliberately blurred the company’s name, location, and sales telephone number.
The photo in the background is nice, and gives you the impression of a fast-moving train. That is, until you take a closer look at it, and realize that it is unmistakably a picture from the London Underground.
Trust me, Unnamed Company, you don’t want to associate your services with the Tube, especially its speed and reliability.
I started riding the Tube about 15 years ago. Back then, the novelty of an underground railway that went everywhere made me think it was cool beyond belief. As far as I can tell, the government has barely invested in upkeep since that time. In January, I was in London for an IEEE meeting, and I loathed taking the thing. Most of the stations are only a half-step above decrepit, deferred maintenence kept good chunks of the system from running, even during weekdays, and it takes more than an hour to cross central London if you need to do something stupid, like transfer. One day, the network was even completely shut down to to “high winds.” (Bonus points for anybody who can tell me why high winds can almost completely shut down an train system, even the underground parts.)
All that said, it could have been worse. A few days after I left London, I was on a Belfast-Amsterdam flight delayed by snow over London. It apparently could have been worse: I could have been trying to ride the tube. Here are two precious photos: TFL’s delay apology and the service update.