Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Tube English - 5 Customer Accident

There was a problem at West Ham this morning, due to what the announcer described as a "Customer Accident". Leaving aside the interesting question as to how they knew the person involved was a customer (they might have been an interloper, an imposter or merely a fare-dodger), it is the word "accident" that jars. What sort of accident was it? Like the time I was on holiday with my parents in Israel, and an elderly woman on our coach voided her bowels, and my mother said to cover her (and our confusion) that she had had an accident? Or had the customer (I still loathe the use of this word in this context) caught his tie in a ticket machine and been remorselessly sucked into the little slot, his body stretching and flattening like a reckless astronaut straying too close to the edge of a black hole? Or had she merely broken a nail and been loudly bemoaning her fate?

During the second world war they used to speak of "incidents" when anything really nasty happened. In the same way, the use of "accident" makes you wonder what they are trying to conceal. Since they do actually tell you when there is a body on the track, this option can be ruled out. But that does mean that what we must surely call the Ghastly Happenings at West Ham were worse? (Cue a crack of lightning, a howling wind and a high pitched scream, cut off in a highly sinister way). I would be tempted to despatch a private investigator, clad in trenchcoat and false moustache, if only there were one in my employ.

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