In praise of the Ticket Office
Guest post by Green Christian member, Edward Gildea
One of the things I value when I use my local train station at Audley End is the ticket office. Not only do they provide invaluable advice about timetables, connections and off-peak deals, their service is far quicker than the ticket machine on the platform which seems impervious to my jabs!
More than that, though, are the precious moments of human connection, the smiles, the good wishes and thanks which we seem to be losing in our everyday transactions.
Part of the ‘efficiency savings’ planned for the rail network is the closure of our ticket offices. All the pre-recorded messages when we phone companies or organisations will have been justified as ‘efficiency savings’. But oh! The joy when you finally speak to a human being!
We must be wary of the word ‘efficiency’. Far too often it means putting people out of work, outsourcing labour to distant and poorer countries and removing or diluting the human element in any operation.
Our economy, they say, needs to do that. But while politicians promise us a ‘high skill, high wage economy’, what we seem to have been given are zero hours contracts, a gig economy, minimum wages, uber drivers and dependency on cheap foreign labour. Such things certainly make the businesses more profitable and their directors more wealthy, but hard working families have enjoyed few of those benefits since austerity kicked in 14 long years ago.
The world’s 10 richest man have doubled their massive wealth since the start of Covid, while 99% of us are far worse off.* The richest 1% of UK households are worth £3.7 million while 10% have less than £15,000 or are in debt. ** In line with this, the plan to remove the cap on bankers’ bonuses was not cancelled by Jeremy Hunt.
Underpinning all the strikes we are facing is a sense of the injustice of this yawning wealth gap. If you are in a profession engaged in caring, curing, educating, safeguarding or nurturing humanity, society might value you, but our economy won’t reward you.
One of the meanings of Christmas so powerfully expressed in The Magnificat is the hope for a fairer, more just world. It is also our chance to establish, renew and enjoy our relationships with others. Surely it must be possible to build an economy that also values that human dimension?
*World Economic Forum April 2022
**Guardian Jan 2022 Rupert Neate
Edward Gildea writes magazine articles for his local church, St Mary’s, Saffron Walden in north west Essex, each month. He has kindly given permission to anyone to re-edit for your own parish newsletters. Please credit him and his church website.
Next: At war with nature?