Belfast Telegraph

How a Jobsworth very nearly sent me off the rails

By Francea Burscough

The formal dictionary definition of a 'Jobsworth' is as follows: "A person in a position of minor authority who invokes the letter of the law to avoid any action requiring initiative, co-operation etc." The term originates from the phrase "Sorry, love, but it's more than my job's worth" which is the daily mantra of a proud and pedantic Jobsworth and is always (without fail) accompanied by a gesture involving raised eyebrows, pursed lips, a sharp intake of breath, a slow shake of the head and a look of absolute glee in the eyes.

My own personal definition is not printable in a family newspaper, but let's just say I've had enough encounters with them over the years to know one when I see one, even before he/she prises open his pursed mouth to say it.

However, yesterday I encountered someone who – if there were awards given out to such a sector – would surely have received the Nobel Prize and an OBE for his contribution to the cause. He took his position as Jobsworth far, far, above and beyond the call of duty

I will recount the circumstances carefully, omitting names and precise locations to avoid the angry letter which would surely follow. (There's only one thing that a Jobsworth likes more than following the letter of the law, and that is penning angry letters to the law, including newspapers, MPs and the authorities in general.)

After a series of meetings in a certain city, I arrived at a large railway station with half an hour to spare before the next train to my home town was scheduled to leave. I was laden down with heavy luggage including a laptop and a large portfolio and so I purchased a coffee and then took a seat in the empty waiting room.

After a few minutes, the incoming train appeared at the far end of the platform and all its passengers disembarked. So as my load was all rather cumbersome I decided to walk down the platform and find a seat on the train, to avoid the rush and crush when all the other passengers started to arrive. I had just settled into a window seat when I was approached by a certain pursed-lipped ticket inspector.

"I'm sorry, but this train is currently being inspected. You'll have to alight immediately and take a seat in the alotted waiting room as per regulations," he said in classic textbook Jobspeak. So I "alighted", albeit reluctantly, as I didn't want to cause a fuss or get in anybody's way. But, rather than cart everything (including a hot takeaway coffee) back down to the waiting room I decided instead to stand on the platform. I propped my luggage carefully against the railings and proceeded to drink the coffee when I became aware of a silhouette looking out at me from inside the train, clearly agitated.

It was, of course, the ticket inspector.

"I'm sorry, miss, but you can't wait here!" he said in exaggerated, aggravated, agitated disbelief. "I told you to go to the waiting room down there!"

When I refused to budge, he glanced at me as if to say "We'll see about this!" then stormed off.

Before I could mutter nearly enough expletives under my breath, lo and behold he was back, now accompanied by a posse including the station manager, a platform attendant and a seven foot security guard wearing a helmet.

I looked around, incredulous, half expecting to see a military fighter jet scrambled overhead ... or Jeremy Beadle clutching a clipboard.

"I'm sorry, miss, but you are going to have to accompany me to the waiting room, according to our regulations ... "the Jobsworth-in-Chief said while his pursed-lipped colleague looked on gleefully.

"Regulations? Could I please see these regulations? Is it unlawful in this country for a passenger to wait on a platform? Isn't that precisely what a platform is for? Where are the signs which state NO WAITING ALLOWED? I don't see any!" I replied, rather ... err... pedantically.

They looked at each other, all four of them now agitated with exaggerated disbelief that someone should dare question the "regulations". By a man. In a uniform, no less!

Just then, as I was really starting to get into my stride, there was an announcement over the tannoy: "Would all passengers kindly board the train now waiting at platform one!"

So I smiled, lifted my bags, handed the empty cup to the security guard and sauntered onto the train, leaving Lord Jobsworth OBE and his cronies to become even more aggravated without me.

But the feeling of triumph was soon replaced by guilt, though, when I observed the agitated ticket inspector taking out his pent-up rage on a group of pensioners who had dared to place a suitcase on a seat.

"It's more than my job's worth" I lip-read him saying at the far end of the crowded carriageway.

Belfast Telegraph


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