The seaside landlady lives on

There used to be a stereotype in England of the seaside landlady who put up a list of unpleasant rules for her guests, usually including the requirement that they be off the premises during the day. Her spirit still reappears from time to time and I notice it a lot when travelling.

For instance, on the bus to the aircraft at Heathrow, I noticed a prominent sign explaining that BA won’t hestiate to prosecute any passenger who attacks staff. Do they really believe that an irate passenger is going to calmly read that and think, “Oh, I was thinking of headbutting the driver but now I realise there may be consequences, perhaps I’d better not”. But the effect on me is unpleasant. I feel distrusted, unwelcome. It undermines all that expensive effort to reassure me what a nice company they are.

I was on Amtrak’s high speed train up to New York today. The little dot matrix indicator in the carriage was full of bossy instructions about where to put my luggage, where not to use a mobile phone or (oh the irony) talk too loud – sometimes in block capitals and flashing lights. The conductor, clearly inspired, liked to remind us that our tickets only entitled us to one seat and not to put our bags on the spare seats. Most of the onboard communication was a list of things not to do.

I don’t know how they do it, but life’s rulemakers seem highly efficient at taking over the conversation with travelling customers.

5 thoughts on “The seaside landlady lives on

  1. Jack Yan

    I also noticed the signs around JFK which advised people not to make jokes about terrorism. I realize why you should keep mum about it at the counter, but a ‘No humour’ instruction, particularly in America, seems to go against the sort of topic that may arise in the queue. Now, if that sign were in Germany … (just kidding).

    Reply
  2. Johnnie Moore

    Euan, that’s a very funny picture. Jack, I find airports very prone to this kind of thing… there’s a fine line between intelligent concern about security and paranoia.

    In US customs/immigration they have lots of warnings not to use cellphones, and I noticed lots of passengers ignoring this.

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  3. Jack Yan

    I began one time at LAX making a quip about Richard Reid before someone pointed to the sign. Just doesn’t feel normal to hold back when the stress of travel demands relief, even if it is a joke. Perhaps I could joke to a travel companion but no one else—and certainly not within earshot of any officials. If the cellphone prohibition is not enforced, then maybe the humour prohibition isn’t either. (Imagine if you were fined for joking.)

       Speaking of signs, how about this one (you may have seen it linked from my blog)?

    Reply
  4. Steve Portigal

    I’ve got some examples from a recent trip through Asia.

    here, here, here, here, and here.

    I will say I’m always bugged by the automated announcement on the long-term parking bus at SFO that announced “No Eating! Is allowed on this bus” rather than “Please do not eat on the bus” or something that asks for our cooperation rather than officiously informing us of the rules we might possibly violate.

    Reply

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