Columns - Features

All Apologises: Translink’s Comedy of Errors


We’ve all been there. Underslept and shivering, kicking your heels to keep you occupied because the idea of blankly trawling through your phone yet again could send you into a spiral of technological self-condemnation. The banshee-like Enterprise train from Dublin roars past on the adjacent track, vengeful and creaking, when the immortal words come blaring over the tannoy in an irreducibly grand English accent: “We are sorry that the 8.55 train to Great Victoria Street has been delayed by approximately 8 minutes. Apologises for this late running and the inconvenience it may cause you.” A giddy pocket of school children elaborately trade sweets to your right, all hockey sticks and Hogwarts scarves, collectively unknowing of the grammatical calamity that has just befallen them. You sigh, inwardly – a feeling of reluctant self-importance clashing with a wholly justifiable reason to curse the world and everything in it. Apologises.

For many regular train (and indeed bus) travellers in Northern Ireland, the seemingly unremitting ineptitude of Translink often verges on the fable-like. Delays will, of course, always happen – such is the unavoidable reality of public transport; something to be endured, occasionally embraced, even. The seldom bonehead bus driver emanating silent contempt at your perfectly excusable lack of exact change: an unfortunate but ultimately inevitable consequence of strangers, stress and transportation coming together. But – for whatever reason – there’s something just so incomparably untenable about an automated apology nullified by the downright nonsensical “Apologises for this late running…” – essentially a clerical typo manifest as a laughably habitual microcosm of Translink’s nigh on comic repute. “Is it just me?” I wonder. Perhaps I get out of the wrong side of the bed every morning? Does something so truly insignificant really warrant an article berating its existence? Despite the tongue being firmly in cheek at all points, the answer is always “yes.”

Of course, the explicit “inconvenience” of the would-be apology is, in itself, easily fifty percent of my problem. Were Big Sister instead inclined to occasionally announce “Congratulmalations, all tickets on Translink NI today are free of charge” my scorn of the grammatical lapse in question would probably not warrant more than an imperceptible shake of the head followed by a warm feeling of having slipped through the renumerative net. That, however, will never be the case. Instead, the semantic equivalent of rubbing salt in the wounds continues. I stand there, kicking my heels, ruing the few hours of sleep I managed to catch, erstwhile occupied by equally-as harmless everyday quandaries, as if possessed by the perfectly begrudging spirit of one Larry David. “God knows I make grammatical and punctuation errors all the time. Things could be a whole lot worse” I reassure myself, shirking the mild cloud of frustration that surrounds me as I anticipate the foreordained fuck up. I sigh inwardly and stretch my legs. Try as I might, I make no apologises for my disdain. Brian Coney


is the editor of The Thin Air. Talk to him about Philip Glass and/or follow him on Twitter @brianconey.