No scanner

« previous post | next post »

I'm on the Amtrak train from Philadelphia to New Haven. Although I've ridden on trains hundreds of times all over the US and around the world, something just happened that I've never experienced before. The conductor was going through the entire car (and other cars too — with hundreds of people) asking each person politely and calmly, "Last name on your ticket?"

Whereupon each passenger said his or her name. Since the names were of all kinds of nationalities and variant spellings, in most cases he had to follow up by asking them to spell their name. Every single passenger did so, politely and clearly, and the conductor typed their surnames into his handheld electronic device.

I thought this was peculiar, because usually the conductors just scan the tickets and move on. It was only after another conductor entered the car I am in that I heard our conductor say these two words to him: "No scanner". In other words, his scanner wasn't working, yet that did not stop him from doing his job. It took our conductor less than a minute to enter each passenger's surname into his handheld device, in many cases only 15 seconds or so. The records of all the passengers holding tickets on this particular train were accessible from his digital device.

I was amazed at how efficiently our conductor carried out his duty by tapping in on the glass panel of his digital device the letters of each passenger's last name.

The beauty of the alphabet!



  1. Victor Mair said,

    April 13, 2019 @ 11:47 am

    This is the first post on the old old LLOG machine.

  2. David Marjanović said,

    April 14, 2019 @ 6:26 am

    This is a test.

  3. Bob Coard said,

    April 14, 2019 @ 9:08 am

    Clicking on "read more of this post" results in " refused to connect."
    Whereas clicking on " See all comments" brings one to the full post.

  4. John From Cincinnati said,

    April 14, 2019 @ 9:30 am

    Language Log's server failure mirrored that reported for the New York City Wireless Network, NYCWiN, as reported April 10 by the New York Times, here.

    The problem stems from a worldwide rollover of GPS dates every 1024 weeks (about 19.6 years), because GPS timekeeping was designed before the infamous Y2K consciousness-raising event. Date zero for GPS is Sunday January 6 1980, the first rollover back to that date occurred Saturday August 21 1999, and the second occurred this month on Saturday April 6 2019. We are led to believe that henceforth "modernized" GPS will repeat only every 8192 weeks (157 years), handing the problem forward to around the year 2137. Wiki article here.

    (The GPS that Language Log relies on is the Grammar Precision System [citation needed].)

  5. B.Ma said,

    April 19, 2019 @ 1:40 am

    In Italy you get an alphanumeric code which you just flash at the conductor, but you can also say your name if you can't find the code (as happened to me when the train's wifi failed and my phone browser wanted to reload the ticket email just as the conductor came by).

    But as you must occupy a reserved seat, I'm not sure why tickets need to be checked at all, as long as all unreserved seats are unoccupied and there aren't any instances of two passengers claiming the same seat.

RSS feed for comments on this post