The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A railway made a 15-year-old boy its Twitter spokesman. It was total chaos, and people loved it.

Southern Rail has been having a rough time, PR-wise: Strikes, delays, hammered by passengers and the British government alike.

It looks grim on the giant railway’s Twitter feed, too. Every day, between an endless string of incident reports, a PR rep gets online to face commuters from the southern coast to London and beyond.

Here’s a representative example of how those interactions tend to go:

Joanna: “What’s happened to the 6:10 London Bridge to Shoreham?”

Southern: “We are currently running a revised timetable due to industrial action.”

Joanna: “Oh joy.”

Southern: “It’s no fun on this end either sadly.”

But that was Monday.

On Tuesday, the railway decided to put a 15-year-old boy in charge of the Twitter feed. Because, why not?

“Hi, Eddie here!” Eddie wrote. “Here on Work Experience and ready to answer your questions!”

Who knows what the railway expected to happen. Certainly not this:

“You’re wise beyond your years Eddie,” replied the satisfied customer. “Keep it up!”

Eddie did keep it up — all afternoon and through dozens of questions, few of which were about trains.

“Hi Eddie,” someone wrote — incidentally just as the 3:38 p.m. train was due at London’s King Cross station. “What is the worst monger? Iron, fish or war?”

“It has to be a war monger,” said Eddie.

Some people asked practical questions, and Eddie proved as knowledgeable about ticket restrictions as he did about pasta.

A few tried to bring back the feed’s pre-Eddie gloom. But the teen was having none of it.

What’s the air velocity of a swallow, Eddie?

Why do English men wear socks and sandals on holiday, Eddie?

“Shall I have chicken fajitas tonight or chicken thai green curry? #AskEddie.”

“It has to be the chicken fajitas,” Eddie replied.

Ask Eddie. Because Eddie would answer just about anything. And by the time he signed off at the end of the day, an embattled railway company’s PR feed had become “the best thing on the Internet,” as HuffPost put it.

Best-of lists were compiled by reporters. When Eddie returned to work for his Wednesday shift, more than 500 comments and questions awaited.

Also waiting: BBC Radio One, which touted an interview with the teenage student like it had just scored an exclusive with the pope.

“You are winning at life right now,” the host told Eddie.

“I try,” Eddie said.

The previous week, Eddie explained, he’d been allowed to answer a few tweets with his supervisor’s guidance.

“Yesterday was the time I, um, put myself out there and said: hello, this is me,” he told the radio station.

Trump’s deputy press secretary tweeted pure gibberish. The world was ready.

But who, exactly, is he? That’s still a bit of a mystery.

In a statement, Southern Rail said Eddie’s older brother works for the company, and Eddie’s work experience had placed him with various assistants and managers — in train service, in fleet control — before he got his hands on the tweets.

“We have been very impressed at his quick wit and positive approach at the age of just 15,” a representative wrote. “Using social media to keep our passengers up-to-date is a key part of our modernization plan.”

Meanwhile, on Twitter:

“Who do you think will win. The shark or Michael Phelps?”

Eddie: “I hope Michael Phelps, but I’m a realist so.”

But the fun can only last so long. There are still trains to run. Strike threats to prepare for.

Eddie signed off what may be his final shift Wednesday with a photo of himself. Then someone named Neil took over the account.

“I’m boring so I only answer train related questions,” Neil warned.

“Boo! Bring back Eddie!”

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