An absolutely essential aspect of my London experience has been the Underground (or ‘Tube’) which is a complicated rail network which functions as the arteries of this great city. London’s public transport system, including buses and trains, is totally superior to any other one I’ve encountered – but then, it would have to be, given the amount of commuters living in and around London. It also has a really cool map which is a modern design icon that has inspired transport maps all over the world; the original designer realised that an underground map doesn’t need to to resemble the actual geographical locations above ground.
Since arriving in November, there have been very few days where I haven’t had to catch the Tube, so I’ve been all geared up to do this post for months, to have a big whinge about how horrible the Tube is in true Londoner style. I mean, I’ll definitely be glad to leave behind the overcrowding, the rude people, the loud buskers, the incessant advertising, the obnoxious evangelists, the heat and dust, and days where the paranoid clamour of ‘Packt like sardines in a crushd tin box’ by Radiohead runs through my mind like a soundtrack. And it’s horrible when you start feeling like a bit of a vulture – greedily eyeing occupied seats, waiting for a telltale movement to indicate that someone is getting up – the rustle of shopping bags, the folding of a newspaper – and leaping into an empty seat before your less savvy carriage-mates realise what has just occurred.
But you know what? All these minor gripes are completely ephemeral; by the time I leave I will have only been a Londoner for a short while so my bad feelings about the Tube will easily fade away – and I won’t have been a commuter in summer when the tube becomes an over-heated cesspool of irritations. Hopefully, what will remain with me are much more pleasant associations of events and places and people. Like the quirky tube drivers and the funny way words are enunciated by the automated announcements and the kind people who readily help those who are blind (I saw this happen so many times that it really made an impression). And those little exchanges with fellow commuters can also be pretty validating; where an unexpected smile or the giving up a seat is an indication that, for a short space of time, our disparate lives reached an intersection.
A lovely cameo thingy at Victoria station.