Virtuous cycle

Bartlomiej Owczarek weblog

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Touchscreen sportello

I just returned from the train station, where I bought a ticket to Warsaw for tomorrow. I had a peculiar experience at the ticket office and I didn?t have a camera with me, not even a crappy phone one, shame on me. The picture is worth thousand words, and video would be even better, but I don?t have neither, so I will go for words.

At the station, the ticket seller was sitting in front of a machine which instantly attracted my attention. Instead of the old ordinary computer that I got used to see there, it was a shiny, actually cream white, new piece of equipment with a monitor and a printer, but interestingly, no keyboard.

Tomorrow to Warsaw, Odra, second class, no smoker, I said. The lady started to energetically hit her fingers against the front of the monitor ? a touchscreen! – trying to input the ticket data.

A new system, I observed aloud, but the remark received rather cold reception: Try to sit in my place for 12 hours and you will see how it?s like!, the lady snapped. I watched as she was desperately trying to move computer?s focus to a small data field on the form, apparently too small for the touch screen to handle properly. Her frustration rose steadily with each consecutive unsuccessful attempt to move to the next screen. But eventually she managed.

This whole system is a crap, she declared.

Perhaps a keyboard would do the trick?, I asked.

Nope, she replied, they are economizing on everything, there is not even a space to put keyboard here!, she pointed at the desk with, in fact, no free space.

She manually fed the blanks to the printer, one by one – agonizingly slow printer. Then she added the amounts of the ticket and the reservation, again manually, on the pocket calculator and told me the amount.

I am a strategy guy looking at a lousy system implementation. Or perhaps, what do I know about system implementations? In any case, the process took many times longer than before. Maybe sellers need more practice to get faster. But you can?t go much faster with this touch screens.

On a separate note, when I was starting the studies, 1999, it took 4.5 hours for the fastest train to get to Warsaw, now it takes minimum five hours.

Hey PKP, Polish Railways, welcome to the XX century! Actually it?s XXI-st, but you are one behind (the phrase after one of our partners).

Update: upon examination of the ticket today I discovered that the reservation is for a smoking compartment. Great.