The London Underground – or ‘The Tube’ – the oldest underground system in the world, and still going strong. Love it or hate it, there are some activities or frustrations that starts your blood boiling when they happen. In my fourth year on this system, here are some I’ve seen and heard:
Stand on the right
Before I moved to London, I did what any self-respecting geek does – I read it up on Wikipedia and Wikitravel. One of the first amusing points I noted was that everyone stands on the right on escalators. “Like that would ever work, ” I thought to myself.
Turns out that yes, it’s very, very true, and you fast find yourself becoming frustrated as you speed down or jog up the left side, only to find some tourist or couple standing nattering while blocking the left lane. “Excuse me,” you say, indignantly, and wait for the look of confusion or mumbled apology. It’s funny how simple a rule has become so standard that you even start noticing that it doesn’t happen in other countries, and become frustrated at the mess of people you have to navigate charging up the escalators in Barcelona or Budapest.
I personally don’t use a music player when travelling – I prefer to be able to hear what’s going on around me. The downside of course, is that you get to listen to other peoples’ music. The irony here is that most often, when someone is playing their music so loudly you can hear it down the other end of the carriage on the noisy Picadilly line, is that all you can usually pick up from it is some electronic beat, or just the bass – and it certainly doesn’t pass as ‘music’.
Can you Hear Me Now?
One of the great excuses for missing a call in London is ‘I was underground’. Sadly this is going to change next year if Boris the mayor has his way, as they install mobile phone reception on the Tube. Now at first this would seem to be a good thing – after all, many other cities around the world – even in Siberia (Novosibirsk) or South America (Santiago, Buenos Aires) they have reception on the tube. However with the noise of the underground, the screeching of the tracks and the constant announcements – as anyone on the partially-overground District Line can tell you – you don’t want to add phone calls to the noise of the Tube.
When the door opens, wait for the people onboard to get off first. THEN you can get on. Try and get on first, and you may find an accidental elbow in your ribs, or worse. I’ve seen this happen!
You need your ticket
You’re on the Tube, going up the escalators or stairs towards the barriers. This means you got in through the barriers at some point, and therefore have a ticket. Get. It. Out. Now. Those barriers can handle up to forty people through a minute on Oyster. This system breaks down fast, however, when you stand there fumbling through your pockets or bag for your card you probably only put away ten minutes ago when you came in. 10 seconds of fumbling = 6 people behind you. Think about it.
Addendum: This also applies when waiting to buy tickets – get your wallet out before you get to the front.
The Freeze of Success
There are small challenges on the tube system. These include going up escalators. Walking through ticket barriers. Walking through a tunnel. Not big problems, to be sure, yet upon successful completion of these many people seem too taken by their success, and freeze on the spot, unsure as to what to do next. This then causes a challenge for the people behind them – how do you get off an escalator when there’s a frozen person blocking your exit? Do you jump the wheelie-bag sitting in your way having its handle extended? Step to the side, then think!
The Toothpaste Tube
The doors open. Simultaneously, passenger behind your left shoulder pushes past, and passenger behind your right shoulder shoves harder past. Result? You get horribly squashed in the middle like a tube of toothpaste, and probably get a rude word for your troubles as one of them thinks you weren’t moving out of their way for them.
Hold my train!
Rush hour, fifty extra people have pushed their way into an already over-full carriage. The beeps start, the doors close and … wait a minute, they’ve opened again. Someone has managed to dive at the train, put their hand inside and force it open. Thanks man, you’ve saved yourself two minutes, but delayed and angered several hundred people in the process.
On a lighter note I’ll include this video by Amateur Transplants (WARNING: language may offend!), first played for me ironically in Ireland (hat tip to Dave and Katie):
On the upside, the Tube has provided me with many lighter moments over the years, especially the great quotes from some of the drivers / platform announcers:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I do apologise for the delay to your service. I know you’re all dying to get home, unless, of course, you happen to be married to my ex-wife, in which case you’ll want to cross over to the Westbound and go in the opposite direction”.
“Do you want the good news first or the bad news? The good news is that last Friday was my birthday and I hit the town and had a great time. The bad news is that there is a points failure somewhere between Stratford and East Ham, which means we probably won’t reach our destination.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, we apologise for the delay, but there is a security alert at Victoria station and we are therefore stuck here for the foreseeable future, so let’s take our minds off it and pass some time together. All together now….’Ten green bottles, hanging on a wall…..'”.
During an extremely hot rush hour on the Central Line, the driver announced in a West Indian drawl: “step right this way for the sauna, ladies and gentleman… unfortunately towels are not provided”.
“Let the passengers off the train FIRST!” (Pause …) “Oh go on then, stuff yourselves in like sardines, see if I care – I’m going home….”
“Please allow the doors to close.Try not to confuse this with ‘Please hold the doors open’. The two are distinct and separate instructions.”
“Please note that the beeping noise coming from the doors means that the doors are about to close. It does not mean throw yourself or your bags into the doors.”
“We can’t move off because some idiot has their f****ng hand stuck in the door”
“Please move all baggage away from the doors (Pause..) Please move ALL belongings away from the doors (Pause…) This is a personal message to the man in the brown suit wearing glasses at the rear of the train – put the pie down, four-eyes, and move your bloody golf clubs away from the door before I come down there and shove them up your a**e sideways”
“May I remind all passengers that there is strictly no smoking allowed on any part of the Underground. However, if you are smoking a joint, it’s only fair that you pass it round the rest of the carriage”.
For more quotes, see http://www.funny.co.uk/real-life/newspaper-tube-driver-quotes/.
What’s your biggest frustration or annoyance when using the London Underground?
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