Friday, 19 February 2010

Temporal aberrations and the nutter on the bus

Having (nearly) recovered from the journey home from ZL-land, fate has placed me back in HB for a few days. Taking a ridiculously early train from Lausanne towards Geneva Airport (where I have a date with SleazyJet) I found myself drifting in and out of sleep.

Perhaps it was the semi-conscious state which made me laugh at something...

Switzerland - of course - has a reputation for several things, amongst which are the precision of its timepieces and the punctuality of its railways. It was the ironic conjunction of these two which amused me so much in my slumbers at Geneva station...

The Swiss Federal Railway System uses a station clock which is recognized as a design icon. It was, apparently, designed by one Hans Hilfiker (1901-93) and is now copied in watches, Swiss souvenirs etc..

Whilst peering out of the window, waiting for my train to advance towards the airport, I noticed that Swiss railway time, as told by Hans' iconic clocks, isn't the regular, linear story one might expect. Rather, the passage of "time" is rudely interrupted as the second hand reaches the vertical at the top of the minute.

There, mysteriously, time stands still for (what seems to a casual, sleepy, stationary observer like me) several seconds.

No wonder Swiss trains leave "on time"!.

Strangely, this irregular time-keeping isn't reflected in a random sample of Swiss Railway timepieces on the net. All other things being equal, we ought to see most of the clock photos with the second hand in the upright "time stands still" position - but we don't...



Obviously artistic considerations amongst those more excited by a design icon than a chronometer have biased our photographers to make their exposures with the second hand in relatively improbable locations (the probability density function having a "spike" at the upright twelve o'clock position).

To redress the balance, here's my clumsy iPhone snap of one of the clocks at Geneva Airport station, showing 7:01 am (little wonder I was tired). Note the second hand just visible in its proudly erect maximum likelihood position!



Whilst we're on the subject of public transport, Jasper Carrot had a sketch years back (when political correctness was still a twinkle in the killjoys' eyes) entitled "The nutter on the bus". It told how Jasper felt a certain class of fellow traveller always gravitated to the vacant seat next to him.

After this morning's journey I'm beginning to feel a certain sympathy with Mr Carrot, as a young couple with coughs and sneezes honoured me with their proximity in an otherwise un-crowded carriage. Unfortunately, though English speaking, they hadn't benefited from our Department of Health's advice (this version from 2007)...



... which has been such a consistent message that I (foolishly, it seems) thought it was now just a matter of common courtesy rather than disease control.

Suddenly all those girls in Asian airports wearing face-masks don't seem quite so stupid.

Get well soon, fellow travellers.

...-.- de m0xpd

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