Playing soldier
If soldiers ran trains, that is.
Longtime readers of my blog will no doubt have picked up among many other threads in them my ongoing antipathy towards the Bay Area Rapid Transit. In their defense I will say:

1. They are fast,
2. There are a lot of trains
3. The police officers are nice.
4. The stops are conveniently located

So it is not all dislike, though I do have one real complaint before I start the blog proper: is it possible to get some standard of when you announce the station? The narrators can't seem to decide whether "now approaching" means "eh, in a couple of minutes" and "doors are about to close, get out now or we're pulling out of the station".

Anyway today's bit of commentary comes from the puffery. For some reason BART and/or its employees deeply, deeply wish to pretend that they are a) important and b) awesome. Maybe those actually go the other way around; I don't know.

This professionalism does not extend to "being on time" or "keeping people from eating on trains and getting salsa everywhere". What it actually means, really, is "pretending we are soldiers". BART really wishes it was under military control but, pending takeover by the Defense Department, has to make do with what the have.

For starters, it's the "BART System," as in the following announcement: "all elevators are in service in the BART System; all station elevators are in service in the BART System". You can almost hear, sometimes, the desire to add "I repeat" or some other fake-military lingo in between the statements.

Periodically we also get messages from BART "Operations Control," which gives the impression of a group of neatly-uniformed men (and women!) hunkered down around a wall of computers, two or three computers to a soldier, with a big wall that probably displays a map of the world with glowing lines on it. In actuality I suspect "Operations Control" looks like an office building, but that could just be me.

Getting off the train is not "getting off the train" or even "disembarking," it is "offboarding," which is not a verb in English and in its usage here appears to have been created by BART to give them a neat neologistic way of saying "leave the train," especially as one presumes what they really wanted--"Alpha Team, go! Go! Go!"--was disallowed by someone. Maybe Operations Control did it.

Operations Control is probably also responsible for the practise of saying "stand by" before the elevator updates. This is also not necessary--purely bombastic military jargon. In actual radio speak (if you were in a discipline that used the phrase) you would say "stand by" to mean "hold on a sec". It has the same meaning as "wait one" or similar phrases that are intended to give the transmitter a moment to figure out what he wants to say.

Nobody stands by for the elevator updates. They don't have to stand by, because the elevator update immediately follows. Nobody waits for anything. At first I was going to excuse this because I was hoping that "stand by" might be related to the Border collie command "come bye," but it is not. And here it's just BART trying to pretend they're NASA.

Part of the problem with this charade is that not everyone buys in. The train narrator on my way in, and the reason why I started this, spoke in a very clipped, military way. "Attention passengers! Offboard here and transit the terminal for reembarkation" or somesuch. The narrator on my way home is more laid back. "We're coming into MacArthur now... if you need to transfer, get off the train and walk across the platform". He does however say "thank you for riding Bay Area Rapid Transit" at every stop, which is a little tiresome.

Mind you I don't actually... really... care. Like, it doesn't make me respect them any more; it kind of makes me pity whoever thought it was cool. If I had a problem it would be that, again, this air of professionalism does not come with much actual professionalism but then--no offence to the BART narrators--it's a fucking train, not the space shuttle. And fortunately my days of riding it draw nigh on their ending.

But for now, this post has encountered a Code Bravo situation. All readers are here by advised to stand by for further updates. I say again, stand by for further updates.

Offboard now.

Comrade Alex
24.09.2008 - 2h03

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