So, as I mentioned in a previous post, I’m fresh back from a trip to Madrid and Paris with the lovely Kerry Howley—about which I expect I’ll have more to say once I’m over my jet lag. But here’s one observation about cultural differences: Automatic ticket machines seem not to work in these two great European capitals.
At train stations in both cities, we noticed folk waiting on long lines to buy rail tickets from human tellers who took a pretty ridiculous amount of time to go through the process of producing a couple slips of printed paper for each customer. The walls, meanwhile, were lined with abandoned automatic ticketing machines. I found this odd… until I tried to use them. None of them worked properly. And, in fact, the only people who even bothered trying them seemed to be tourists, who invariably walked away frustrated and ticketless—suggesting that this was a sufficiently longstanding problem that the natives had all learned not to bother. Kerry attributed this to a more relaxed European attitude toward, well… fixing stuff. I harbor dark suspicions that some kind of nefarious conspiracy by the human ticket clerk unions. Other hypotheses are welcome.