Planes, Trains, And Automobiles Part 5
I had to catch the Tube yesterday morning. The London Underground. I hate the Tube. The only good thing about travelling by Tube is that it serves as a useful reminder, if I ever needed one, of why I’m glad I no longer live in London.
Everyone in London moans about the Tube. They moan about the rats. They moan about delays, even though one comes along every five minutes or so. They moan about the over-crowding. They moan about the cleanliness. Moan, moan, moan. Do these people not realise that the Tube is probably one of the most efficient, and affordable (relatively) transport systems in the country!?! You can get anywhere in London by Tube, and at virtually any time that you would want to. Back home, I have a two and half mile hike to the nearest bus stop. There is just one bus a day. And, that bus doesn’t go to anywhere that I would want to. So, London, stop bloody moaning!
That said, it is not the most pleasurable of travel experiences, the Tube. It is invariable full. At least during rush hour it is. At the time you have to travel. You spend your journey either stooped, wedged against the door with someone’s briefcase stuck up your arse and somebody else’s elbow in your ribs. Or, you have to put up with your face in someone’s sweaty armpit or garlic-smelling face, next to an oik playing music too loud through a none-too-personal set of headphones.
On one occasion, in the morning rush hour, I did get into an almost empty carriage at Queen’s Park. It took as long as it took the doors to close behind me to realise why. My sense of smell told me. There was a tramp on board. A street person, I should probably say in these politically correct times. He was challenged in the personal odour department. He stank. It was unbearable. I got out at the next stop and moved to the next carriage, which was full, and stuck my head into the nearest armpit I could find and breathed in what seemed like fresh air by comparison.
If you are ever lucky enough to get a seat, it is invariably damp. I hate to think with what. Everyone avoids eye contact. Well, this is understandable. All of the men are secretly ogling all of the women and don’t want to be seen doing it. All of the women are avoiding eye contact with the men in case they are being ogled, or, in case they aren’t. You can always tell if there is a good-looking woman on the Tube because the men will arrange themselves around her. Strategic sitting and standing. Fortunately, there are always the adverts to stare at while avoiding eye contact. They are usually for cheap phone calls to exotic places, or for insurance, or for the holiday of a lifetime. If you are really lucky there is sometimes a quaint poem or two to pass the time.
There is of course one exception to the eye contact rule these days, unfortunately. If you happen to be male and Asian in appearance, and/or wearing a rucksack, people will stare into your very soul, trying to determine whether you are a suicide bomber. I know that this is borderline racism but it is understandable. The Irish had to put up with the same treatment for years. It must be quite unpleasant for all of the decent Asian males out there. On the bright side, I guess they often get to sit in a less than crowded carriage….
The Tube is even more horrible in the summer. Last summer when it was an unbearable 30 degrees centigrade in the open it was 50 degrees on the Underground. That’s hot! They slowed everything down because of the heat. Great. The only good thing about the Tube in summer is the occasional breeze. Apparently, the human brain begins to boil at 45 degrees. I got a taxi that day.
Also, and trust me on this. Don’t travel by Tube if you’re hung over.