Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tickets, please?

Every Monday, I buy a weekly ticket to London in order to get to work. Every day the ticket is checked, at least twice, usually 3 times. First checking is in the train, when a ticket inspector walks by and asks,

"Tickets, please?"

Without pausing the movie on my tablet, I reach into my pocket, pull out the 3-part ticket folder, open it, and hold it for him to check and nod.

"Thank you" he walks on by.

Since I sit in First Class I can be sure to be checked every day without fail.

Then I come into the station and there is a long line of ticket checkers, about 5-6 on either side of the exiting passengers. Again, I reach into my pocket, open the folder, and let them see it as I walk by. Two or three of them look at it while the others are distracted or busy doing something else.

Now, here's the twist. As I said, it's a 3-part folder. One display window contains a photocard with my photo and number on it. Second window contains a weekly ticket, that's related to the photocard by the number. The weekly ticket changes every week, the photocard stays the same. Every week when I buy a new ticket I place it in the display window.

But one week, I didn't!

Instead I placed it in my wallet and travelled like that next morning. I expected to be challenged by the first ticket checker I met. Here's what happened:

"Tickets, please!"

No pause. Show ticket.

"Thank you!"

Jerking my head up staring at the back of his head, then at my ticket! Yes, it is the old ticket!

Then at the station, same thing, 3 inspectors look at the ticket, 2 of them nod. I turn to look back at them with disbelief. I should mention that the end date of the ticket is largest, most centrally located, highly visible text on the ticket.

This continues for 4 days. On the fourth day, Friday afternoon, I am the only one in the First Class compartment, the ticket inspector comes up,

"Can I see your ticket, please?"

No pause, show the ticket.

"Thank you."

I went back to my movie. I was used to this now.

Two seconds later, the ticket inspector comes back, "Can I see that ticket again, please?"

As he takes it and starts scrutinising it, I know the jig is up. I take my current ticket out of the wallet and place it on the table.

Also, this ticket inspector had never checked my "invalid" ticket so far.

It took 4 days and 40 ticket inspectors to catch one invalid ticket. How many ticket inspectors do you think it'll take to change a lightbulb?


Always Happy said...

hehehe..really?? I thought these inspectors were quite good and observant especially while checking in the first class coach.

Sunil Goswami said...

Well, they are, but the observant ones are the exception not the rule.
I had the same experiment going this week as well since Tuesday morning and got caught this evening. And this time the inspector didn't go and come back, he had figured it out by the time I closed the folder. So, maybe they are getting better :)

This is why I maintain that humans are not very good watchmen, they relax their vigil when nothing happens for a long time.

Always Happy said...

Oh you naughty passenger on the London train!

Sunil Goswami said...

I wasn't so naughty, but hey, I like to push the boundaries. Oh, I guess that'd be called naughty.

But by now I have acquired some skills by playing this game.
1. Now I can tell which inspector has noticed the date and which one hasn't, even when I am showing them the right ticket. The percentage of the ones who notice is dismally low.
2. I have come up with some tricks or stratagems, if you will, to make it very unlikely for them to notice the wrong ticket, esp. for the ones who flock the passengers at the station.

Hence, the game fits in with my motto - "I must be wiser than yesterday." :)

Having said that, I have NO intention of cheating the British Railway.

Always Happy said...

oh so this is a game for you? Must be making your journey interesting.

Sunil Goswami said...

Of course. I always work to make every journey interesting. Life is also a journey, you know!

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