Passenger A, a Swiss business woman in her mid-forties enters the predominantly empty train compartment of an Intercity Express in Zurich main station. She plops down on a window seat, sets up her laptop and sips on a cup of delicious Lavazza brew. She plugs in her earphones and starts working away happily as the train pulls out the station. 2.5 hours of uninterrupted headspace while whizzing through gorgeous scenery lie ahead of her. She wears a content grin.
Enter Passenger B: A voluptuous woman of colour in her late forties, in what appears to be a full Bavarian Dirndl costume. She scans the compartment and then sinks down on the seat across from Passenger A with a heavy sigh. After a few minutes, Passenger B starts rummaging around in her oversized bag. She pulls out an iPhone 4 and starts fiddling with it, while shifting nervously in her seat. After a few minutes of heavy sighing and shifting, she taps Passenger A on the knee.
Passenger B: Excuse me?
Passenger A: (removes headphones) Yes?
Passenger B: Is this the train to Bosnia?
Passenger A: Come again?
Passenger B: Is this the train to Bosnia?
Passenger A: Not quite. This is an Intercity Express going to Geneva. It only stops in Berne, Fribourg and Lausanne along the way. Where exactly are you going?
Passenger B: Bosnia.
Passenger A: (Cocks an eyebrow) Can you spell that for me?
Passenger B pulls up her iPhone, which displays a photo of various train times between Zurich and Bussigny taken off a screen.
Passenger B: This is what they sent me.
Passenger A: Ah, Bussigny, right. I believe you have to change to a local train in either Fribourg or Lausanne.
Passenger B: This train does not stop there?
Passenger A: No, it does not.
Passenger B: Where do I change? Fribourg or Lausanne?
Passenger A: I don’t know. Don’t you have a timetable or travel plan?
Passenger B pulls out her iPhone again and shoves it in Passenger A’s face.
Passenger B: I have this.
Passenger A: Well, this only tells you the times of departure and arrival of your different options from the Swiss Railway system website. See here, on the left side of each option is a small plus. On the website, you can click on that and it’ll give you all the details and tell you exactly the stops and modes of transport along the way for each option.
Passenger B: Oh. Ok. I see.
Passenger B starts hammering at the screen of her iPhone with her index finger.
Passenger B: (Frustrated) It doesn’t open.
Passenger A: What doesn’t open?
Passenger B: The little plus sign. It doesn’t open.
Passenger A: Well, yeah. You are not on the actual website of the United Swiss Railways system, this is only a picture of your travel options, a screenshot.
Passenger B: My screen is shot? (Looks worried)
Passenger A: No, your screen is fine. The image is called a screenshot. (Sighs). Look, I have the railway app on my phone. I can check when and where you have to change trains if you like.
Passenger B: Yes, please!
Passenger A pulls out her phone, starts the app and checks for connections.
Passenger A: Here you go, the best way to travel is to get off in Lausanne and take the local S2 train, which leaves on track 9 at 13.01 hours. That’s gives you 20 minutes to change trains, which is plenty of time. It’ll only take 2 minutes to go from track 5 to track 9. (Smiles reassuringly)
Passenger B: And that train goes directly to Bosnia?
Passenger A: The one in Lausanne on track 9, at 13.01, yes, that goes to Bussigny.
Passenger B: Not this one?
Passenger A: No.
Passenger B starts to shift nervously in her seat again.
Passenger B: Are you sure about this?
Passenger A: Do you want me to write this information down for you? Or, you know what, I have a better idea: you could take a photo of the info from my screen with your phone! (Holds out train connections on her phone towards Passenger B).
Passenger B: Why would I want to photograph your phone?
Passenger A: So you have the information available if you need it?
Passenger B: And this is reliable information?
Passenger A: This is the official app from the United Swiss Railway system and shows all the current timetables, so yes.
Passenger B: Maybe I better ask a conductor. Just to be sure. There hasn’t been one so far. Why has there not been a conductor so far?
Passenger A: I don’t know. I am sure one will be here soon.
Passenger B starts shifting in her seat again, while Passenger A plugs her earphones back in and attempts to get back to work. After a short while the train approaches Berne. No conductor has shown up in the meantime.
Passenger B: OMG. We are in Berne. Maybe I need to change here?
Passenger A: I don’t think so.
Passenger B: Maybe I better go and find a conductor? (She gets up and grabs her bag) Can you hold this seat for me, in case I do not have to get off here?
Passenger A: (Stares at empty seats all around the compartment) Sure.
Passenger B dashes off to find a conductor. After a few minutes, the train pulls out of the station. Passenger B reappears, shoulders slouched and mumbling to herself. She sinks down on her previous seat.
Passenger B: There was no conductor.
Passenger A: Why don’t you go to the restaurant car then? I am sure they could help find the conductor there.
Passenger B: And lose my seat? No way.
Passenger A (Glances at all other empty seats and shakes her head). Your call.
Passenger A continues to attempt to work on her laptop as Passenger B gets visibly more and more agitated. After a few minutes Passenger A receives another tap on the knee.
Passenger B: It’s my birthday today.
Passenger A: Is that so? Congratulations!
Passenger B: Thank you. I look forward to celebrating it with my family.
Passenger A: That sounds wonderful.
Passenger B: Provided I can make it there on time.
Passenger A: I am quite sure you will.
Passenger B: I don’t know. There still hasn’t been a conductor. Why is there no conductor? I should have dodged the fare. You could be sure there would have been a conductor if I had dodged the fare.
Passenger A: (Forces a knowing smile.) Of course.
Passenger B: This is soooo unnerving. I just don’t know what to do!!
Passenger A: Well you could go find a conductor, if you need to be sure.
Passenger B: (Crosses her arms). No, I am going to wait for him here.
Passenger A resumes earphones and laptop duty as the train chugs along. Eventually the train pulls into Fribourg.
Passenger B: (Close to tears) Maybe I should get off here? I am going to find a conductor!
Passenger B jumps up and rushes off without another word. The train resumes its journey and Passenger B reappears, tears visible on her face. Again, she plunks down in her previous seat.
Passenger A: No conductor?
Passenger B: (Defiantly) Obviously not!
Passenger B stares out the window. A few minutes later, lo and behold, a conductor appears.
Conductor: Tickets, please.
Passenger B: OMG. OMG. Finally!!
Conductor: Excuse me?
Passenger B: I have been looking all over for you! Where have you been all this time?
Conductor: Checking tickets on the lower deck.
Passenger B: Well, for future reference, you should start with the upper deck. Isn’t that the place for better service?
Conductor: (Checks her ticket) No, m’am. This entire car is second class. You probably mean first class. But you are in second class.
Passenger B: (Confused). So I am not in the right place?
Conductor: (Unphased) Yes you are. You have a second class ticket.
Passenger B: But this train does not stop in Bosnia?
Passenger A: (Chimes in) Bussigny. She needs to go to Bussigny.
Passenger B shoots passenger A a dirty look.
Conductor: (Still unphased). For Bussigny you need to change in Lausanne.
Passenger B: Really? Can you tell me which train I need to take?
Conductor: Let me check that for you. (Pulls up large device, types in some letters, waits for results.) Ah, here we are: Take the S2 which leaves on track 9 at 13.01.
Passenger B: Thank you sooooo much!!! And Lausanne is the next stop, yes?
Conductor: Yes, we are going to be there shortly.
Passenger B: Thanks again. I am relieved. It’s my birthday, today and I am going to Bosnia to be with my family.
Passenger A: (Under her breath) Bussigny.
The train approaches Lausanne and passenger A is packing away her laptop and is gathering her things to exit the train upon arrival.
Passenger B: What are you doing???
Passenger A: (Slightly irritated) I am getting ready to get off. This is my stop.
Passenger B: You are also going to Bosnia?
Passenger A: No, I stay in Lausanne. I have a meeting here.
Passenger B: Ah. (Pauses, grabs her bag and while they wait for the train doors to open to release the passengers she turns to Passenger A) You’re weird. Have a nice day.