Another Train Story

Here is another train story: In January I finally bought a reduction card for dutch trains, because I use trains in the Netherlands all the time. I bought it at the station in Eindhoven, where I ended up with some spare time because of just missing a train. I was given a temporary card because the real one containing an ID photo could not be done immediately. I was a little surprised when I heard that the expected time frame for delivery was going to be about three months (I received my german Bahncard within a week, also containing a photo). I never really had a closer look at the temporary card and was therefore taken by surprise one evening last week, when a conductor told me that it had expired and that I should contact the NS about my card. The next morning I had to take an early train again and of course there was no time to contact the NS in the meantime.

Again a conductor noticed that my temporary card had expired (I had been using the card for a while after the expiration date without anyone noticing). She stamped my ticket and said: “You’re not getting your card back, it has expired”. Since this card was my only receipt, I insisted on getting my card back – as a compromise I offered that she could de-validate it. When she just ran off I went after her, demanding that she would give me back my card. She freaked out threatening to call the police. I told her that this was exactly what I was going to do, if she insisted on keeping my card. When I asked for her name or employee’s ID she refused to give it to me (so far I thought this was a french speciality).

To make a long story short: I let her go with my card after we had agreed on involving the police. 5 minutes later another conductor (the supervisor) showed up. excusing himself and giving me back the card. He told me that he knew that there was a delay with the delivery of reduction cards and that not all conductors had been informed about it. He politely asked to see my ID and explained that the temporary cards are often passed on when people receive the actual card. That is of course no surprise.

But that the NS doesn’t seem to be able to install a system where they don’t need to give out thousands of temporary cards in the first place is a bit surprising. 3 months and a delay on top of it? Get real!

After all the Netherlands are the self proclaimed country of pragmatism and efficiency and unlike the french SNCF which is famous for poor service the NS has been privatized.

Oh yes, did I mention that one can’t use the card during rush hour? Of course I found out after I had bought it, the person selling it to me apparently didn’t think that this was an important detail.

Singing Train

interior of a dutch double decker trainWhen I travel with trains in the Netherlands (which I do fairly often), I usually try to avoid the double-decker trains, because of their poor interior design. The seats make my butt hurt and using a laptop is a pain in the ass: You can’t have it on the roundish table, because it’s to small and you can’t have it on your lap, because the table is in the way.

Being forced to do nothing but hang on my own thoughts during a 90 minute ride, I noticed a melody. It was simple, elegant and slightly melancholic. I tried to identify the source but couldn’t. I couldn’t even tell what direction it came from, the source seemed to change it’s position permanently. The melody seemed to consist of only two tones that alternated with no clear pattern, but not really randomly, a bit like a minimalist free jazz improvisation. It was quite beautiful and the low volume of the tune enhanced the experience additionally.

Because I do not have absolute pitch, I wanted to record it with my phone, so I could reproduce it or at least memorize it. I knew that the chance of actually hearing it on the recording was miniscule, but I tried nevertheless. A young guy who was sitting across the corridor asked me what I was doing. I told him that I tried to record the Sound and to my relief he confirmed that he could also hear it. His theory was that it came from the energy feedback brakes. He also mentioned that one of his professors in industrial design at the university of Eindhoven was the designer of the train’s interior.

Since my musical skill are too poor reproduce the two tones from my memory, I decided to bring better recording equipment next time I’m in the netherlands. My plan is to write a primitive script that would reproduce the tune for me.