Monday, November 26, 2007
"The Emma 9000 unit appears to be malfunctioning"
Over the weekend I was chatting with someone who had recently experienced some frustration with an automated supermarket check-out unit and who admitted that, for a moment, they had forgotten that they were arguing with a talking computer
A fairly standard device in late 1960s/1970s sci-fi films was to include a scene where the hero of the film would engage in dialogue with a human-sounding computer. The computer would then get stuck in some kind of repetitive loop or the voice would start speaking... v... e... r... y... s... l... o... w... l... y... ; leaving our hero in some kind of doodoo as the result of being in an environment where he was reliant on a unreasoning, unemotional box of wires
70s sci-fi films were fucking excellent
A few days before my supermarket check-out chat I was kicking my heels at Cockfosters underground station at the end of the Piccadilly Line
There were no fecking trains
The guard on the ticket barrier struck up a conversation with me and we got to chatting about all things Piccadilly Line and some of the joys of traveling on that particular route. Anyone who uses the Piccadilly Line regularly will know what we were talking about and there’s no reason to go over them here
We had plenty of time to chat because…
There were no fecking trains
What made the conversation particularly special was that every few minutes a recorded voice would blare out from the station speakers
‘There is a good service operating on the Piccadilly Line’
After about the third or fourth play of that message, the guard said to me…
‘You can’t believe how bloody annoying that message is when there are problems on the line’
London Underground have been regularly playing messages and putting up signs which talk about a ‘Good’ service across the network for a couple of years now
'Good', of course, means ‘Normal’ and the purpose of endlessly repeating such inane messages can only be an attempt to subliminally convince passengers that London Underground’s service isn’t shit
I wonder how much they stumped up to management consultants for coming up with that little wheeze
So, there you are walking around London Underground stations listening to crude attempts at low-grade brainwashing; delivered in the kind of recorded voice that we are accustomed to hearing in dystopic sci-films delivering messages like…
‘Thirty minutes to reactor core meltdown. Do not be alarmed. Everything is under control’
Anyway, I only mentioned all this because Emma Clarke the woman who has been recording the bollocks messages for London Underground for the last eight years has just been given the boot by Transport for London for recording a series of spoof announcements and posting them on her blog
Spoof announcements such as…
* "We would like to remind our American tourist friends that you are almost certainly talking too loudly."
* "Residents of London are reminded that there are other places in Britain outside your stinking shit hole of a city and that if you remove your heads from your arses for just a couple of minutes you may realise that the M25 is not the edge of the Earth"
* "Would the passenger in the red shirt pretending to read the paper but who is actually staring at that woman's chest please stop. You are not fooling anyone, you filthy pervert."
* "Would passengers filling in answers on their Sudokus please accept that they are just crosswords for the unimaginative and are not in any way more impressive just because they contain numbers."
* "Passengers are reminded that a smile is actually a friendship signal, not a sign of weakness"
* "Do not drop litter on the train. Please use the tramps provided"
* "Here we are again crammed into a sweaty tube carriage… and today’s Wednesday, only two more days before you can binge drink yourself into a state of denial about the mediocrity of your life. Oh, for goodness sake. If you're female smile at the bloke next to you and make his day. He's probably not had sex for months"
The spoof messages are still available on Emma’s home page, though it does seem to be struggling with bandwidth issues at the moment. And if you do visit I strongly recommend flipping through her blog and the fascinating insights it offers into the voice-over business. The post ‘How to make reading credit examples fun!’ which ends with the plea 'Any suggestions as to how to jazz up credit examples are very welcome’ is pure gold.
cf. Chris Morris spoof airport announcements