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These are the ramblings of Matthijs Kooijman, concerning the software he hacks on, hobbies he has and occasionally his personal life.

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Since the NS (Dutch Railways) have their problems and regularly cause train travelers a lot of frustration, almost everybody has a negative attitude towards the NS and, as the public face of the company, the conductors. Even though I cannot deny the frustrations caused by train delays and other railway problems ("Leafs on the tracks"), I think this negative attitude can be a very undue punishment for the NS personnel.

Even though I don't like some of the NS policies and I still do not see the new schedule being much of an improvement, I notice that most conductors and other personnel try to be as helpful as possible when a problem occurs. Even when the cause of the problem is not even related to themselves or the NS (as is the case when it's usually my own fault :-p).

For example, last week I misplanned by a few minutes, meaning I had no time remaining to buy myself a ticket from Harderwijk to Enschede. Buying a ticket at the conductor is no longer possible without paying a EUR 35 fine first, but I had a dateless ticket from Enschede to Ermelo to bargain with. He allowed me to use that ticket to travel the wrong way, at least until Zwolle. There I would need to convince the next conductor of my pitiful case.

I expected a though bargain with the next conductor, since there was no way for him to test my story. For all he knows, I could be trying to turn a Enschede - Ermelo ticket into a Enschede-Zwolle return ticket with my story. Having bought another dateless ticket as a backup option I was rather surprised when I explained my story. "Sure. Hop in!", were the magic words.

Another example occurred about a year or so back. I was traveling during the weekend, but (as happens to me more often than I'd like) I forgot my public transportation student card only works on weekdays. So, halfway Eindhoven - Utrecht I had no ticket to present to the conductor. Instead of making me buy a ticket in the train (this was before the EUR 35 fine, but a ticket would still be a lot more expensive than normal), she allowed me to buy a normal ticket from Utrecht on to Ermelo instead. Very thoughtful of my wallet indeed.

As you might expect, I totally forgot about that when we arrived in Utrecht. So, just past Amersfoort I managed to end up in the same situation again, with a conductor but without a ticket. Even though I admitted I half-truthfully said I came from Utrecht (from Eindhoven would be fully truthful, from Amersfoort would be cheapest), he allowed me to buy a ticket from Amersfoort instead of Utrecht. Even though this was against train-tariff, the price was about a third of what my original Eindhoven - Ermelo ticket would have cost.

I thought about proposing a Be-Nice-To-Your-Conductor-Day or something similarly silly, but apart from that it probably already exists, it wouldn't be too useful anyway. It's probably a better idea to be a little friendlier to our helpful conductors and try to see them separate from the company they work for. And, looking at the time of the year, perhaps this is suitable for inclusion on your list of good intentions?

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