I HOPE you've had a good week. Because I certainly haven't. I seem to have spent most of it on the trail of the missing tenner, which the Oyster Card system has nicked from me (again).
It doesn't matter that it must have cost me the equivalent in a week's earnings trying to get it back, plus all the money I've spent ringing the 0845 OYSTER CARD HELPLINE.
I think I'm becoming addicted to it now. I just love ringing up the OYSTER CARD line to be told that there is nothing they can do to help me because the computer system is not live sir. So they tell me to go to a tube station to get my money back. But I tell them that I've already been to a tube station, several of them in fact, for I'm nothing if not thorough, and the nice helpful people in the tube station told me to ring the OYSTER CARD LINE, because they said there was nothing they could do because they don’t have enough information on their computer system sir.
This comment, There's Nothing We Can Do, is the catch phrase of TFL, you hear it constantly from the hapless staff forced to work with this ridiculous, scandalously inept hi tech system, which is designed for maximum confusion, so TFL can constantly nick money off us and make it impossible for us to get it back.
So I rang the OYSTER CARD line and the OYSTER CARD people, who are all made of cardboard, said go to a tube station. So I went to a TUBE STATION, a different one from last time as I like a bit of variation in life and North Acton is so much more aesthetically pleasing than Ealing Common - . Yes, off I went, and the nice kind man there said you must ring the OYSTER CARD LINE.
"Hey that's a great idea," I replied. “I haven't spoken to those guys since the last time I talked to them, I wonder how they're doing,.."
And so I rang the OYSTER CARD LINE, and the lovely people there, after very thoughtfully allowing me to rack up another £7.00 on my mobile phone bill, advised me that I might perhaps like to pay a visit to a TUBE STATION. "Oh a tube station, what a splendid idea," I replied, with a childlike sense of delight, and off I tootled, to speak to the very lovely highly trained and on-the-ball staff at Perivale.
What a wonderful time I was having on my TFL tour of the London Borough of Ealing's best beauty spots. And the people at Perivale said “Sorry sir, because the system is not live and I'm frankly a bit dead, there is nothing I can do to help you and you must ring the OYSTER CARD LINE."
"Oh, wonderful" I replied, almost beside myself with joy, "another opportunity to speak to the simply delightful people on the OYSTER CARD HELP LINE, who don't give you any help at all, which it simply fantastic because it means you can spend even longer chatting to them about nothing... And I do so enjoy our chats about nothing at all, as my phone bill clocks up by the second. "
Yes, how I look forward to the sound of the voice of a haughty woman in a Scottish call centre telling me that all I need to do is go to a TUBE STATION.
"Hey that's just amazing, you're so in tune with my needs, because yes, that's exactly what I need to do. You know I haven't been to one of those places since the last time I was in one of them; I wonder how they're getting on down there."
And so I got to thinking, how about I aim for a place in the Guinness Book Of Records as the person who visited the greatest number of TUBE STATIONS - ie all of them - and still failed to get a refund for a cock-up on the part of TFL and their thoroughly useless OYSTER CARD system which, even as we speak, is extorting thousands of pounds from Joe Public.
There is much more to be said on this subject. An extensive investigation will appear in this space soon. Meanwhile, a letter is on its way to Boris Johnson, the only man in London who can save us. So stand by for nothing to happen..
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have been cheated by your oyster card and failed, or given up trying, to get your money back.
Phil Zimmerman is resident comic downstairs at the Drayton every Friday. Tonight: hilarious 'German Comedy Ambassador' Henning Wehn.Next week: Shazia Mirza. Book tickets at www.wegottickets.com. Info: 07853 664 877