At one of the train stations I regularly use, there are four automated ticket barriers.
I tend to use the barrier on the left (let’s go wild and call it Automated Ticket Barrier 1) simply because it’s the first one you come to when you walk onto the concourse.
I suspect that almost everyone uses this particular ticket barrier, save perhaps during rush hour when lots of people need to get through and are forced to walk ever-so-slightly farther along to Barriers 2, 3 or 4, or are jostled in their direction by the crush.
But what might be the implications of Automated Ticket Barrier 1’s popularity in automated ticket barrier society?
Is Automated Ticket Barrier 1 their equivalent of a billionaire oligarch who slurps up more tickets than the other barriers purely due to the accident of being installed in a location slightly closer to the station door? The lucky, lucky bastard.
Or is ticket collecting actually seen as hard and undignified work in automated ticket barrier society and, in fact, Ticket Barrier 1 is some sort of ghastly pleb who, through same accident of installation, is cursed to stand there like a dumbass, taking tickets all day long while the others are living their best life and saying “gee, aren’t we a lucky lot. Shame about Automated Ticket Barrier 1, but what can you do?”
Maybe the others admire the hard work and the spiritual sacrifice of Automated Ticket Barrier 1 and they look to it as a Mother Theresa-like example of selflessness. Maybe they all pay their somber respects in some sort of Remembrance Day- or State Funeral-like ritual whenever the biped in the high-vis jacket comes along to relieve Automated Ticket Barrier 1 of its heavy accumulation of magnified cardboard slips at the end of a day’s work.
I should mention that the fourth barrier along is intended for wheelchair users and, as such, isn’t anywhere near as utilized as Automated Ticket Barrier 1 (or even 2 or 3), so I once decided to walk all the way along to give this underused barrier some action. If tickets are desirable currency, then I would provide Automated Ticket Barrier 4 with some much-needed business and attention. On the other hand, if tickets are some sort of terrible carcinogen in their world, then at least I’d be spreading the pain and giving the other barriers a well-earned break.
On the day I decided to use Automated Ticket Barrier 4, my ticket was rejected. The fourth barrier just didn’t want to take it. My ticket kept getting sucked in, seemingly chewed over for a while, and spat back out again even though it was as valid as ever. It’s almost as if the fourth machine was saying “Who do you think I am? Automated Ticket Barrier 1? Get ye downwind to the narrower gates.”
Perhaps Automated Ticket Barrier 1 is seen by its peers as a scandalous tart and the others look on with a mixture of moral indignation, disgust and a wistful fear of missing out. “Look at her,” they would say to each other with a nudge, and “yesterday, the biped had to come three times to empty her bin.”
But it all depends on ticket barrier society’s attitudes to sex doesn’t it? Maybe the others look upon Automated Ticket Barrier 1’s shagging about with open envy and in fact aspire to one day being pulled together enough — maybe even facing the necessary mechanical upgrades — to be so decadent as to slurp up so many tickets.
Whatever tickets mean to them, maybe Barriers 2, 3 and 4 are superbly envious and don’t understand how Barrier 1 can be so successful in its automated ticket gobbling. Perhaps in their world, Barrier 1 appears on the covers of magazines and has a lucrative sideline in producing books and videos about How You Too Can Make A Rip-Roaring Success of Noshing The Tickets of Perfectly Unremarkable Passengers Some Of Whom Have Glasses.
Anyway, long story short, I finally decided to ask. According to the station manager, it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference which barrier one goes through and, actually, I should sling my fucking hook.