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The Flat Cap on ... Waiting Rooms

Today The Flat Cap has been on a train journey to the Lake District and as such had to wait around a fair bit for his connections. This led him to spend part of his day in station waiting rooms, which in turn encouraged him to find out more about the various types and their origins.

Perhaps the most famous railway station waiting room is at Carnforth in Lancashire. It was here where scenes from the classic film Brief Encounter were filmed. The Flat Cap had to stop off in Carnforth en route to his destination. Nowadays you need to keep a close eye on the platform displays that announce the arrival of trains. Miss them and you can end up missing your train, or getting on the wrong one entirely. Back in 1945 it was all different of course and the famous actor Noel Coward, who was between jobs, actually made the station announcements that feature in the film. Nowadays famous actors and playwrights wouldn’t dream of taking up such work. The Flat Cap thought Stephen Fry would make a good station announcer and wrote to him to suggest it, should his career presenting QI ever dry up. One of Mr. Fry’s personal assistants was kind enough to write back to advise that the comedian / actor / television presenter / author had no plans to give up any of his jobs and added that the royalties from re-runs of QI and other shows on television channels such as “Dave” meant that it was unlikely he would need a change of career. Ex newsreaders like Sir Trevor McDonald would also be good at announcing train departures.

As well as railway stations GP and Dentists surgeries are two places where you’re most likely to find a waiting room. The best NHS waiting rooms are bright and airy and the free magazines on offer are no more than a year old. Go private and the likelihood is that the magazines will be dated the same week and there will be complimentary daily newspapers, and bowls of boiled sweets. Simply put, the NHS can’t compete when it comes to waiting rooms, or indeed waiting times. And if you’re really unlucky you have to listen to other people’s children, or patients coughing. This gets worse if you ever have to attend an A&E Department on a Saturday night. Then you’re likely to have to wait for several hours. And it can be tricky attempting not to make eye contact with those worse for drink, people who have inadvertently fallen over a kerbstone, or members of stag parties who have been subjected to pranks from fellow revellers that have resulted in the need for stitches. Unsurprisingly academic studies have concluded that waiting times influence patient satisfaction; as does the type of people you’re compelled to wait alongside.

It’s the same thing at airports. You can end up queuing for a Boots meal deal in Departures with everyone else, or you can pay to go in one of the many executive lounges that offer complimentary drinks, sandwiches and pastries. The seating in executive suites is usually superior and you don’t have to compete at the bar with hen parties off to Benidorm, or middle aged men on their way to Portugal for a golfing weekend. Airport waiting areas are always full of shops with things that you don’t really need such as books, and clothes, and gadgets for your mobile phone. But because you’re on holiday you end up buying them anyway.

It’s what’s called clever marketing; same with the fragrances and alcoholic beverages that you could probably get at your local Superdrug or Bargain Booze for a fraction of the price. The Flat Cap once saw comedy duo The Chuckle Brothers at the airport arguing over whose turn it was to carry the suitcases. This is probably where they got their catchphrase, “To me, to you” from. Since winning Celebrity Coach Trip in 2010 the brothers now prefer to travel by road whenever possible.

Whilst waiting for his train The Flat Cap asked railway enthusiast and fellow traveller Colin all about waiting rooms and learned some very interesting facts:

  • There is a charity in the UK that supplies short collections of poems as cards for patients to read whilst waiting to see their doctor, and you can even take away the poems to enjoy at a later date. The Flat Cap thought he might submit a poem about the number of people coughing the last time he went to see his own doctor

Cough, cough, cough

Has Mother Nature jinxed us?

Wouldn’t we be better off?

If we just went and bought some linctus?

  • A lot of former railway station waiting rooms have been turned into restaurants. The Flat Cap thinks you can hardly complain about the speed of the service if you dine at somewhere called “The Waiting Room”

  • Across the world at any one time there are at least eleven people waiting in Airport arrival halls convinced that Elvis is not dead and about to walk through to resurrect his career. Since Elvis’s death in 1977 there have been over sixty thousand reported sightings of “The King” passing through airports in various disguises

  • The largest station waiting room is in Beijing, China and can accommodate 1,900 people during busy periods

  • The average UK hospital waiting area has at least four vending machines

  • If you’ve waited for more than two hours in a station waiting room on the Southern Rail network there’s a good chance you’ve chosen a day where there is some form of industrial action

  • 5% of people sitting in Dentists waiting rooms will break wind as a result of nerves

  • Vampire Hospital Waiting Room is the title of a comedy musical

  • The world’s oldest railway station waiting room is in Manchester and is part of a museum. Anyone waiting for a train from there would be wasting their time as it closed to passenger services in May 1844

  • In 2014 Woman’s Realm was voted the most popular dental waiting room magazine of all time

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