It seems that we give up and give in all too easily.
Take the tube strike for example. The amount of people who simply give in these days is shameful. But is it? Isn’t it all so convenient, now we all have laptops, remote access to this and that, mobile telephones, and grocery deliveries to our front doors? Who is it really bothering?
We have got used to everything being rything being so easy, it is as if as soon as we are challenged, we cave in. But what would Churchill say? Never never never give up, unless there is a tube strike?
At the very start of my working life, the Office Computer filled an entire room, newspaper print came off on your hands, and only the CEO had a mobile phone, even though it was as big as a brick. I worked in the city; a junior role, in a Financial PR company. The men wore three-piece pinstripe suits, and the girls wore velvet hair bands and piecrust collars, and everyone said “OK YAH” a lot.
In those days, business was done in the office, drinking was done at lunch, and the afternoons were a means of stalling time until the working day ended. Nobody had your number, so when you left the building, that was that for the day.
In those days, the Tube Strikes would send the city into utter chaos. Because everyone had to physically come in to work, the only way to ensure Business kept Going was either by staying in a hotel on expenses (out of the question for a junior) or tapping Petty Cash for a monstrously expensive cab ride, hastily arranging car shares, and making polite conversation with work mates, while sitting in a stinky car for at least three or four hours, helplessly watching the snarling snake of traffic drag its sorry emissions back out of town.
The next day, following an equally horrendous return journey, the topic of conversation around the kettle (long before coffee machines, water coolers, and Nespresso) would be how long and or tedious each commute took. The hero would inevitably be someone from Accounts, who took six hours to get home, and had to perform a double amputation and mouth-to-mouth open-heart surgery with caesarian section to the Post Boy en-route.
These days, the tube strike is not really hitting the city, where they think the important people are and the actual money is. Nowadays, bankers are starring or glaring at their own personal terminals, and phoning in from Surrey, or Santorini or San Diego, or they live in Canary Wharf, and are simply strolling into their airy scary glass Punctuations to do more of the same. The fact is, the tube strike doesn’t really affect anyone one in the world of commerce.
Pro rata it is much cheaper to own a car than it was even twenty years ago, and so most people will drive in, if they need to, and as long as they are prepared to sell a kidney to pay for the cost of parking.
It is those who cannot remotely do their work or cannot afford a vehicle that get stuffed. The people at the bottom of the pile, in manual jobs once again suffer. So do teachers, and those in the beleaguered National Health system who suffer low enough wages and long enough hours anyway.
It is madness that you can earn more money driving a tube train than teaching children or caring for the sick and the dying. According to the Telegraph, the basic pay by 2015 will be £52,000, while the best-paid Tube driver is on £61,218 per year. What are we doing?
Last week, I went to visit my mother, and I took a bus. You know; it’s a big red thing with adverts on the side. It was Friday, and because it was raining, I gave up looking for a taxi, and felt quite determined and almost eager to take that old fashioned method of transport. I thought it might be nostalgic, as it was the route I used to take home from school. Anyway, I waited and waited and eventually the cumbersome charabanc arrived. It really was slow, the constant announcements of each stop in a pre-recorded voice were irritating, and condensation on the windows prevented me from enjoying the exterior gloom of the Finchley Road on a rainy afternoon. But it trundled along efficiently enough, and finally I arrived at my destination.
One thing that is impossible to do is to make and consolidate connections remotely. You just have to be there. Nothing can take the place of face to face communication. It’s like one of those jokes that s of those jokes that someone tells you, that does not sound the slightest bit funny, but the others are laughing, and all they’ll say is “You had to be there…”
I’ll be hosting a Black Pearl Dinner next Tuesday 6th May. Will you be there? How determined and tenacious are you? What is it worth to be seated in a private dining room, with the finest connections in London? I can get all the way to W1 from the wilds of Cornwall… but I will not be using a skateboard, so what mode of transport will you use?