I have recently been doing some work for a London based charity and during the week I had to go to London Bridge to attend a meeting with them and a potential software supplier. More on that later.
My trips to the big city seem to be diminishing. There was a time when I was commuting there every day, and when that stopped I would go there fairly regularly to watch a show, but of late I seem to be making the journey only about once a year!
A train journey is a great excuse to indulge myself in the people watching department. I can stick the earphones in and put on a favourite musical and just sit back and watch the regulars. And it’s great when you realise you have taken the seat they would normally occupy. They become disorientated and wander round looking for some where else to sit.
These commuters are creatures of habit. They all stand in the same place on the platform waiting for the train. They know exactly where to stand so that they are closest to the door when the train stops. It’s great! A novice like me steps onto the platform and straight into a space, but then realises the other passengers are in little groups; little huddles dotted along the platform.
What does one do?
Should one go and join the group? Would they allow a non-commuter in their ranks?
Or should one just stand there and hope the train driver doesn’t stop exactly where they are all expecting?
Standing firm, the train pulls up and of course stops exactly in the right place. There wouldn’t have been any point in joining their groups, because they still would have made you wait until they had all boarded before allowing you on the train. And of course, you are not going to mess up there seating arrangements. Unless they are keeping a seat for someone who boards the train at a later stop. Then you can sit with them and watch their morning routine broken. 🙂
Mid journey, the conductor trundles along the train checking tickets. As he enters each carriage, he makes his request at the top of his voice for the assembled throng to have their tickets ready for inspection. And as he checks each ticket he lazily thanks each commuter with a word which sounds like ‘fancoop’. It’s more of an extended ‘fan’ followed by a quick ‘coop’. When he first started checking tickets, he probably used the full words ‘thank you’, but over time it has deteriorated to become a slurred and automatic response – ‘fancoop’!
As the train approaches its destination, the regular commuters all pack away their laptops, fold up their newspapers and start to head for the very first carriage. This is so they can get to the underground before anyone else. You never know, they might save a few valuable seconds by doing this!
Or it may be so that they are once again at the head of the little huddle on the platform this time waiting for the underground train.
And the head of the little huddle is where you would want to be. How is it that public buildings have a limit on the number of people allowed in it at any one time, and buses have a limit on the number of people allowed to stand when all seats are taken, but the underground escapes such regulations?
It seems to me there must be some sort of competition being played by the London Underground staff. A competition to see how many people they can squeeze into the long thin metal tube, or are they just playing sardines? A competition to see how many heads get thumped by the closing doors as the passenger tries to keep their balance in a space someone half their size couldn’t occupy.
This is one game I didn’t join in. I was happy to stand back on the platform and wait for the next train which, let’s face it, is only ever a couple of minutes later!
To be continued…