London Transport

So, my mate Helen visited last weekend, and as we always do when we get together, we spent most of the time just chatting about random stuff. She pointed out that I like to talk about London. A lot. So I thought that maybe I’d write a blog post on it. This has not been edited, or thought out in any way. This is just how my brain spewed it out… so, apologies.

To a Londoner (or a blow-in like me), there is one thing that just gets in your head and makes you mutter to yourself on a daily basis. And that is public transport. It’s been said many times, by far more talented commentators than I, that Londoners are obsessed by transport.

It’s so true. We are singularly obsessed with getting from A-B in the shortest possible time, and, this is the best bit, EVEN WHEN WE’RE NOT IN A RUSH TO BE ANYWHERE. We just like to keep the head down and motor through – its all about the destination; lets spend as little time on the journey as possible.

Now I appreciate that most London-dwellers do not always bring this mentality to their lives outside of the day-to-day commute. In fact, I abhor the concept – once I’m outside the M25, I am ALL about the journey, and if the destination happens to be nice too, then great. But from Monday – Friday, 8am until 8pm, Operation Destination is all pervading.

I once wrote about the determined IGNORE, unique to Londoners. The fact that, despite the presence of someone’s armpit mere millimetres from your face, or the proximity of someone’s groin to your hand, you pretend that you’re all alone, and that there is something very interesting off in the middle distance.

A very good friend of mine (who we’ll call R) recently told me a story that summarised this beautifully. R was once on a busy, early evening District Line train. Sitting right beside him was a man with a rather interesting “look” (read: weirdo).  Anyway, the dude also had a sketchbook and was drawing in it fiercely. Now, no-one on the train gave any indication that (1) they had even noticed the man with his sketchbook or (2) that they cared what he was doing. So, curious Kiwi that he is, R had a little look over the edge of the sketchbook, maybe expecting to see some drawings of the people sitting opposite, or maybe a dreamy pastoral scene. What he saw was a rather life-like portrayal of a lesbian orgy. Yes really. This guy was confident enough that the IGNORE would come into play, that he could sit there happily drawing some x-rated girl-on-girl action. On a busy tube.

It must be one of my favourite Tube stories ever. Its sheer naughtiness and simplicity makes me squirm with commuter-happiness 🙂

Of course, transport in London also brings out the worst in people. I turn into a CRAZY person when people don’t follow The Rules:

  1. Stand on the right. It’s very simple. You should all know the difference between your left and right hand (hint: holding your left hand up produces an “L” shape), so JUST STAND ON THE RIGHT.
  2. By the time you get to the ticket barrier, you should have your ticket / oystercard IN YOUR HAND. That is not the time to start rummaging in your pockets. If you do, a queue of much more efficient and very grumpy Londoners (EGLs) will have formed behind you, and may become life threatening. This is true for buses too. You flagged it down, you should expect to have to show a ticket soon afterwards.
  3. When buying tickets at a machine, you are only allowed to faff if the station is empty. Get in the way of the EGL who knows EXACTLY what they want and you may get hurt.
  4. When getting on the tube, WAIT UNTIL EVERYONE GETS OFF. Assuming you get on the train ASAP after this, it WILL NOT leave without you / crush you in the doors. So no need to be rude and slam your way into a crowd of de-tubers.
  5. When getting off the train / tube, do not IMMEDIATELY STOP in front of the door, thus blocking others behind you. Despite you being the centre of your own Universe, you are unlikely to feature that highly in the Universe of anyone else, so just get out of the way
  6. If a pregnant lady (sometimes difficult to tell) or someone elderly gets on, unless you have a very obvious physical disability, just OFFER YOUR SEAT. It’s likely that you too will fit into one of those categories one day. One word: Karma.
  7. If there is a bit of room on the train or tube, don’t just stand on top of other passengers / in any way blocking the exit. In-keeping with Operation Destination, by considering other, it’ll keep the flow of people as smooth as possible, and is less likely to piss people off.
  8. Know and accept that you can’t do anything with assholes or idiots. Even if WE all follow the rules, there will be others who cannot / don’t (idiots) or chose not to (arseholes). But you do reserve the right to laugh wholeheartedly if and when karma bites them in the ass.

I thought I had 10 rules, but I can’t remember the other two, so that will have to do. I think the fact that I even HAVE rules on transport shows the obsession theory is an accurate one.

Many, many more ramblings on the topic to come. Including the time I pushed someone off the tube, and the time an angry mother told me off for asking their (able-bodied) child to give up their seat for an elderly man (I’d already given mine up for an elderly lady). Ah, my life is SO rock n’ roll 🙂