Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mind the closing doors please. . .

"Please mind the closing doors..." (The doors close... The doors reopen.) "Passengers are reminded that the big red slidey things on the side of the train are called the doors. Let's try it again, Please stand clear of the doors." (The doors close...) "Thank you."

 - The announcement on a recent tube journey in London. 

If I have learnt anything while traversing London using the Tube, it's that humour really is the only option if you intend to get home with a smile on your face and some semblance of a healthy blood pressure.

To illustrate my point, I'd like to take you on a journey of a fairly typical day out sight-seeing in London culminating in the tube ride home. Now, close your eyes and read this:  haha, just kidding. Keep your eyes open, read on and try your best to imagine it as you go: 

Now, it's getting on in the afternoon, the sun is a happily burning ball in the sky above you, and you've just spent a fabulous day in London walking around like the seasoned tourist-turned-local that you are. You've discovered new streets, eclectic stores, that amazing bakery in the dodgy side alley; you are either slightly sun burnt or possibly just flushed from all the walking; your jacket that you didn't need but wore just in case is now a lead weight over your left arm, while your handbag which is apparently full of bricks is creating a permanent dent in your right. You lost feeling in your feet somewhere around lunch time; your back is warning you that if you so much as think about walking up those stairs you're a dead woman; your bladder is nagging you like a child starved of attention, and what started off as polite hints from your head at afternoon tea time (which you ignored) have since become sincere threats that what you now need as a matter of urgency is some pain killers and a pint of cider.  

You catch sight of yourself in a shop window and wonder at what point during the day you turned into a bulldog, and it briefly occurs to you perhaps it was while you were on Oxford Street attempting to plough your way through the thronging crowd.  

You decide with questionable wisdom that it's time to make like a drummer and beat it, and it crosses your mind that it is going to be hell on the tube; but your head and feet join forces and warn, "you think the tube is going to be hell, give us half an hour and we'll double it," so you concede the point and head for the Underground. 
It is now about 6.15pm and you walk through the station entrance to join the teeming crowd and jostle your way through the gates, to be caught up by the masses and deposited on the escalator. As you descend to the depths of the tube station, a blast of slightly stale warm air greets you, signalling your arrival and that it's time to move fast or be moved. You clutch your bag and jacket in front of you like a shield, adopt a facial expression that says you know exactly where you're going and no you won't walk around them, and march on. 

Escalators at rush hour - courtesy of Google images

Having successfully found the platform you want, you stand confidently with the other commuters while running through your very simple plan: get off at Bank, take the Waterloo & City line to Waterloo. 

The train arrives, preceded by the tell-tale whoosh of hot air, and you start to politely make your way to the door, letting those next to you and with children on first. You then notice with no small amount of alarm that you are in fact further away from the door than when you started, so you throw courtesy out the proverbial window and force yourself on that baby. You spend the next few stops contemplating the interesting weave of the jacket on the elbow in front of your nose, and also wonder who is wearing that strange Kenzo perfume you tested today, while being vaguely aware that someone else's head is more or less resting on your shoulder and there might be a child hanging on to your pony tail. 

I can totally fit... - courtesy of Google images

The train arrives at Bank, the doors slide open, you manoeuvre yourself this way and that and don't so much calmly exit as are abruptly ejected from the sardine can. 
You head away from the tunnel to check which direction you need to go in for the Waterloo & City line and with a groan see signs announcing that this line is closed for maintenance. It occurs to you that this was quite possibly what the voice on the last train was announcing that you couldn't make out because the person with their head more-or-less on your shoulder was taking your hearing implements on a journey of heavy-metal discovery. 
You take a deep breath, instantly regret it, resolve to take shallow breaths from now on, and recalculate your route. 
Standing on the platform waiting to cram yourself back on a Central line to Oxford Circus so you can get the Bakerloo line, you say a quiet prayer for patience as the mother of two who is even more tired than you are parks her stroller of screaming toddlers beside you. Fleetingly, you wonder if employing the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" analogy would be any use, but your head says the pressure up there is already dangerously high, so you ditch the idea.  

Another picture just for fun - courtesy of Google images

Rousing you from your brief reverie the familiar gust of hot air signals the arrival of your train, and this time, boy are you ready. Everyone's on, the announcement to stand clear of the closing doors comes over the tannoy a few times, the warning beeps sound, the doors close... aaand then the sound of doors encountering an obstacle, followed by a grunt, is heard.  An impressive display of eye-rolls ensues, coupled with muttering and shaking heads. Just when everyone looks like they're about to take out their entire day's frustrations on the fool inserting himself between the closing doors, the guards voice comes back over the tube tannoy: 

"To the gentleman wearing the long grey coat trying to get on the second carriage, what part of 'stand clear of the doors' don't you understand?"

Followed by "Thank you," as several pairs of arms extend to tug the man in question onto the train. Since the guard has voiced everyone's frustration and suitably embarrassed the perpetrator, everyone has a chuckle at Grey-Coat's expense and the tension in the second carriage is abated. 

You hear the announcement "the next station is Waterloo" and you gratefully fall off the train and make your way out of the Underground to begin the next phase of your journey home. 

Now, tell me - wasn't that fun?!

Man I love London.