Sunday, October 17, 2010


I love the Daily Mail – not that I agree necessarily with what they say or how they report a story, but it is, let me say, entertaining to read the story and the underlying prejudices of the reporter that are carried along in the style of the writing. Even more entertaining are the comments of readers that are posted on the internet. Take for instance the story of the man who objected to being woken (prodded – he claimed) on the train by the ticket conductor and refused to show his ticket. I will include the article as it appeared on the Daily Mail website, so that you can read it for yourself.
This is because papers tend to withdraw stories after a while.

'Don't prod me you silly little girl': Train-rage pensioner screamed at woman ticket collector who woke him up
A pensioner who flew into a rage after a woman train worker woke him up to check his ticket has been fined £965. Peter Dodd, 66, left Nicola Loynes in tears after he screamed at her not to 'prod' him and called her a 'silly little girl'. He angrily refused to show his ticket on the Southeastern train because there were barriers at Ebbsfleet and Kings Cross.
Dodd, who was unrepresented, was yesterday found guilty of disorderly conduct and failing to produce a ticket following a trial at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Dodd looked like he was about to attack Ms Loynes as 'everything they said was enraging him into a volcano of fury', a fellow passenger said. 'He was so bloody-minded,' he added.
The retired researcher then refused to speak to ticket conductor Leslie Conway when she intervened on the 8.05 service from Ebbsfleet last October, saying: 'I'm sleeping.'

After his arrest, he made a counter-allegation of assault against Ms Loynes for nudging him awake. Dodd said he had been awake all the previous night and was intending to spend a full day at the National Archives in Kew. He said: 'I'm a gentleman of a certain age, used to certain consideration and certain manners - these I did not receive.
'I was manhandled by Ms Loynes while trying to sleep.I was woken rudely and inconsiderately and I'm a client - they can wait.'

He added: 'To use the playground refrain: she started it.' Passing sentence, Deputy District Judge Stott said: 'Train staff have a right to ask for your ticket and you must show it.
'It isn't you for you to lay down conditions. 'On this particular date, clearly you chose not to produce your ticket. 'There was fear in the evidence I have heard today of your reaction under a trivial circumstance. 'I regard it as undoubtedly being disorderly - you lost control of yourself for reasons best known to you.'

Dodd, of South Kensington, west London, was fined £300 and ordered to pay £500 costs, £100 compensation to Ms Loynes, £50 compensation to Mr Conway and a £15 victim surcharge.

Mr Dodd, in my opinion totally overreacted and deserved the consequence of the fine and is lucky to have got away without a ban from the railways. However – I titled this article "Jobsworth" because in the comments that followed there were a number of people accusing Ms Loynes, the train worker, for being a "jobsworth" - a new expression to me – but I have come to discover that it is not that new in terms of usage.

"he did not need to be woken up by a petty jobsworth" - wrote one commenter.

"Difficult to depends on how this panned out. Perhaps the ticket collector on a 'jobsworth' poked him aggresively and startled which case I would also be annoyed. On the other hand if she just tapped him politely,then he shouldn't have been so's all to do with attitude...." wrote another.

"Another example of the ordinary British person being fed up with over-authoratitive jobsworths. If we weren't constantly harassed from morning to night by people with more power than sense, this sad little girl might have had a nicer day!"... observed another.

Not being familiar with this quintessentially British expression, I looked it up, and here is the definition – for those of you equally befuddled.

A jobsworth is a person who uses his or her job description in a deliberately un-cooperative way, or who seemingly delights in acting in an obstructive or unhelpful manner.

A minor clerical worker who refuses to be flexible in the application of rules to help a client or customer.

Jobsworth is slang for a person who is very pedantic at work; named after the oft heard, "I can't let you do that, it's more than my jobs worth."

To my surprise there has even been a song written about this strange breed, aptly named "Jobsworth" - written by Jeremy Taylor, who also wrote "Ag pleez, Daddy!" and The Lift Girl's Lament".

Well, I hope you had a smile, I enjoyed it and I know exactly the kind of person he is singing about. I don't however think that the hapless Ms Loynes can be described as a "jobsworth" at all. She was simply doing her job, and given the number of people on benefits at the moment and the moans and groans of those who are burdened with a "tax-bill" - should we not be grateful that this lady is earning her wage? I was happy to see today that she had written a comment in her own defence:

I would just like to say in my defence that Mr Dodds was lightly tapped on his arm to wake him as he did not respond to me twice asking for his ticket. I have a duty to care for the passengers travelling on my train so after receiving no response Mr Dodd's welfare became my first priority. I was at no time rude to Mr Dodds, I am a firm believer of treating those how I would like to be treated myself. I was never bought up to be rude to anyone and have often been commended on my high levels of customer service. We all have a job to do at the end of the day and will do it to the best of our ability, I am and never will be a jobs worth but believe in treating all customers fairly and with a level of consistency no matter what the age. I would also like to add that I didn't let anybody apart from my colleagues see me upset. I have never been reduced to tears by a customer but this time these where bought on when the shock of how I had just been spoken to set in.

This comment puts a different slant on the whole story. The impression created by the grumpy pensioner was that he was suddenly set upon by the conductor, Ms Loynes and that she demanded to see his tickets. It turns out, she spoke to him and he did not respond. As she says herself, Mr Dodd's welfare became her priority. She was not aware however that she was about to disturb Mt. Versuvias and it would erupt.

I heard this week that the people who would judge us the most are those who know us the least – or words to that effect – and I think that this is the case with this story. I must admit I have not had a high opinion of Mr Dodds, and there may be reasons which he has not shared with the court or with us, which would explain, if not justify his bullying behaviour towards Ms Loynes. I think it unnecessary and unfair to brand Mr Dodds as terrible, etc. His behaviour on that occasion may have been totally uncalled for and unjustified, but this does not mean that he is always like this. Likewise, if one has a difficult exchange with an official, it certainly doesn't mean that the person is in general a difficult character, or that they are necessarily being a "jobsworth".

Young people in London are becoming fed up with being cast in a negative light simply because of the actions of a few delinquent young people. They have set up a website for their cause – it is:

However the same can be said of most groups of people who are lumped together and demonised.

  • Bankers – characterised as over-paid, greedy, swindlers, people who caused the credit-crunch.
  • Evangelicals – right wing, fundamentalist, Bible-bashing, judgmental, uncompromising (in a negative sense of lacking any compassion).
  • Homosexuals – characterised by promiscuity, wishing to corrupt young people, HIV positive, etc. I chose the term 'homosexual' rather than 'gay' because many who would speak badly of this group use the "H" word.
  • Politicians – lying, self-serving, unhelpful, etc.,
  • Unemployed/people on benefits – undeserving, lazy, thieving, scroungers, etc.
  • Young people (or 'hoodies') – characterised by rudeness, inconsiderateness, violent behaviour.

All negative stereotypes of groups – just because some bankers have made an awful lot of money at the expense of the economy, does not make every banker responsible for the crisis. Just because some big names in the Evangelical world have had hardline and intolerant attitudes, or that some have acted corruptly does not make every evangelical Christian a hypocrite. There are gay men who have multiple partners, and there are those who, illegally, seek sexual relations with teens and younger boys. However, these people are not the majority of gay men. It is also true to say that it is not only gay men who engage in pedophilia. The actions of politicians are very frustrating at times and we are right to criticise them for their actions, but there are politicians who are not simply power-hungry but genuinely seek to serve society. In the UK it has become a national sport to ridicule the jobless and characterise them as lazy and scrounging. This may be the case with some, but many simply cannot find work and need the "Job seekers allowance" just to get by.

I hope that after reading this, you will come away with a pause for thought – I think we all need to realise that we can sometimes fall into the TRAP of over-generalizing. When we do this, whether or not we express these prejudices out loud or just think them, we are contributing to the problem rather than being part of the solution. Jesus came into the World and unlike the revered rabbis of his day, he would go and talk to the eople who were marginalised – the "drunkards and 'sinners' – polite talk for prostitutes. There was never any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour on his part, but this did not stop the Pharisees and Saducees from being very condemnatory. However Jesus brushed off their criticisms with contempt.

When I reflect on this newspaper article, I think we can learn that we need to show understanding and respect to those who live and work amongst us. Mr Dodd did not show respect and paid a hefty financial penalty as a result. Instead of being grumpy and cursing the ticket checkers, it would be far more beneficial to smile and thank them for their service.