Some time ago, in a Times of Israel blog, I attributed a quote to Albert Einstein that he may not have said. I quickly received a polite note from the Albert Einstein Archives at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem asking me to be more careful in the future. I hope that my blogs are a popular read at the Einstein Archives, but it is probably just a computer that keeps a watchful eye for the word “Einstein”.
So, I will be very cautious, in case, somewhere out there, a George Bernard Shaw Archives is reading my blogs, and just say that Shaw might possibly have once said that most family murders could be prevented by one of the two parties buying a bus ticket.
I was reminded of this when I tried to buy a bus ticket for a journey in Great Britain. While I did not have murder on my mind when I started, I most certainly did when I had finished. I consider myself to be a reasonable man; buying a bus ticket should have been simple. I put in my starting point, my destination and the date of travel. So far, so good, I continued to ‘Place Your Order’.
First, I was asked to prove that I was not a robot. I’m not sure why a robot can’t buy a bus ticket if it is prepared to pay for it, but I’m sure there must be a reason. To show that I am a human I was presented with some six small pictures and asked to select all that contained traffic lights. This was a little strange as the traffic lights are all controlled by robots, they could probably recognise their own lights with a little help from a friendly pattern recognition algorithm. (If you don’t know what a pattern recognition algorithm is, you have just proved that you are not a robot.)
Having proved my credentials as a human being, I was asked for some more details. I entered my ‘phone number. I dutifully entered my address. Large red letters informed me that ‘Rehovot’ did not exist. I looked out of the window, just in case, but Rehovot was most definitely there. Resisting the temptation to enter 10 Downing Street, I gave my English family’s address in London. I half expected to be asked why they were not living in Israel, but this address was accepted without comment. It seems that, in England, only Englishmen can buy a bus ticket.
Moving on to the ‘Pay Now’ button, I found a new problem. The address for my credit card was not the same as my English family’s address. Fortunately, the bus company was not going to let a small problem like this deprive them of the 75 pounds Sterling for the five-hour journey. We will send you an SMS code, the website announced, to confirm your identity. Sure enough, after a short delay, my phone beeped and I had my code.
I entered the code on the Pay Now page and my payment was accepted. As I had given them my ‘phone number just a few minutes before, I would have been surprised if it had not been accepted. This confirmation of my identity seemed absurd to me, but I didn’t want to appear unreasonable.
I was then offered the choice of receiving my ticket by post or collecting it at the bus station. E-mailing a simple PDF was not on the menu. As the post is not as reliable as it might be, I chose to pick up my ticket when I reach the bus station. It will be interesting to see if the system works and I get a ticket.
And for those who mistakenly believe that Britain is a cheap country, the five-hour journey from Tel Aviv to Eilat costs just 112 Shekels (24 pounds) which is very reasonable, just a third of the price of a similar, five-hour, journey in Britain.
I started this blog with George Bernard Shaw so I will let him have the last word.
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world around him; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”