Staff at a busy London tube station who display humorous ‘Thought for the Day’ quotes have followed it up with a popular web site – and can boast of being featured on Japanese television!
It all began in 2011 when Customer Station Assistant (CSA) Ken Walters, who works at Angel Station on the Northern Line, heard about a suburban station where passengers dropping off their partners in the morning were banned from kissing them goodbye.
“Apparently it was causing traffic holdups in the station car park,” said Ken. “I thought this was quite funny and wrote on our ticket hall whiteboard that ‘Kissing is allowed at this station’. As it seemed to make our customer smile, after talking to colleagues we decided to continue to put up regular light-hearted quotes. The aim is to get customers to stop and smile when they pass through the station, as they are often in a rush and feeling stressed.”
Helping Ken with his daily dose of ticket hall wisdom are fellow CSA’s Devika Webb and Rathees Kadadcham.
One of the first jobs for whoever’s on duty to open up the station to passengers each day at 5.40am is to put up that day’s thought.
“We sometimes get them off the internet or we make them up,” said Devika. “Regular station users are so used to seeing them now that they tell us off if we don’t change them every day.”
The jokey quotes also appeal to schoolchildren as well as adults and many travellers, including tourists, take photographs of the day’s offering.
The Angel trio has put up a comment box in the ticket hall where people can leave their own quote suggestions, which usually go on display within a couple of days.
“Lots of people who don’t even use the station come in off the street just to see what’s on the board that day,” said Ken.
Rathees is the trio’s computer wizard who knows his way around the internet.
He has set up the ‘Thoughts of Angel’ web site (www.thoughtsofangel.com), billed as ‘your daily dose of fun, laughter and thought’. It features images of each day’s message and is seen by around 300 people daily.
Every image is archived and visitors to the site can vote for the message they like best. The site is linked to Twitter and Facebook, increasing its exposure, and several hundred people subscribe to its email newsletter.
The site has been picked up by blogger Annie Mole and is featured on her ‘Going Underground’ blog, which takes an irreverent look at aspects of the London Underground network. It also features on the Time Out and the islingtonpeople blogs.
“Annie, who lives locally, takes a picture of the ‘thought’ every day and downloads it onto her site, which has a link back to our site,” said Rathees.
Internet exposure led to the station being featured on Japanese television.
“NHK, their national broadcaster, found out about our web site and sent a crew to interview us and also some customers,” said Rathees. “The item featured in a documentary they made about the world’s underground systems, where we are described as the ‘human face of the underground’.”
“Feedback from passengers about the whiteboard ‘thoughts’ has been very good,” said Ken. “Many of them stop to thank us for brightening up their day, and we now get presents at Christmas. What I think it has done is to make us more human, not just uniformed, faceless staff they rush past every day. I’m really glad I started with the quotes. It’s so nice to be able to put a smile on people’s faces.”
Text and photographs by Stephen Barry, Museum Friend