Friday, September 11, 2009

the tube

The tube is what Londoners call their main form of transportation1.

They call it a tube because it reminds you that every time you go in it you've got to squeeze the ever-loving crap out of yourself to make it on a train. Getting on a train is purely based on how much you want it. If you want it enough, you'll jump between those double doors, push, and hope your rear protrusion doesn't get caught up in the doors. I had a woman in red pants slink in front of me today, somehow disappearing into a solid mass of people. She wanted it.

Actually, that's only when I need to go to work. For the most part it's easy to get on a train. The hard part is determining if you should sit down once you're on a train. There's a huge awkward moment just waiting to happen when all of the seats are taken and a woman enters the train. You have to make a split-second decision: is she a feminist, and will she shut down your offer of a seat? I saw a man get shut down yesterday, and it wasn't pretty.

Therefore, the first tube rule is this: never sit down ever. Even if the entire train is empty and you're on your way to Tooting Broadway2 you never take that seat.

However, the second tube rule is this: if you do sit down, you keep your seat. Like the parking place that my roommates and I coveted in college, once you have taken possession of such a valuable item, you don't let it go3. I once rode all the way to Cockfosters4 just because I found a seat on a train (in breaking rule #1, I was obviously taking a huge risk). Never mind that everyone had exited long prior to the end of the line. Other people follow this rule as well--I rode thirty minutes today without seeing a single soul move from a seat. This while I sweat above them, hoping that my upset stomach was not a harbinger of food to come.

Tube rule number three just states that if there is an annoying American who is so devoid of personal space that she will plop her entire heft of a self into my person, and maintain her leaning position from Westminster to South Kensington, much to my personal chagrin, said American will be located on my train. And she will attempt to follow me every time I reposition myself.

There are also rules for the tube station, which I've taken some trouble to document below:

  • If there is an individual anywhere in the vicinity who will, without warning, suddenly stop, slow down, or veer off in another direction, that individual will be located directly in front of me.

  • If there is a way to navigate a station in the wrong way, thus perpetually swimming upstream through hordes of experienced brits, I will walk that way.

  • If there exists in the station an individual whose payment card doesn't work, that individual will attempt to enter or exit the gates directly in front of me.

  • If you ever have the time to eat at Nincomsoup, located in the Old Street station, you should, just because of the name, and the fact that you can call people in there Nincomsoupers.

I should also mention here that the most efficient aspect of British society is the escalator system, whereby you stand right and walk left. They are the only people on the planet to consistently understand and implement said concept.

1. Actually, that's a bit of a fib, as they might say. The main form of transportation around London is walking in confused wavy patterns, fighting to determine on which side of the walkway you're supposed to walk. There are violent schools of thought for both sides.
2. The existence of that name alone is proof that the British are ridiculously more mature than any American.
3. On average, if we ever did get the blessed parking place, we'd stay in it for a week. We'd walk, take the bus, or get the other roommates to drive places. Seriously. If we ever went anywhere and there was some question as to who was driving, whoever had the spot had a clean bill of health. You just don't give up good parking spots. Or train seats.
4. Yeah, um, see footnote two above. Seriously, who names these places?


jeremiah said...

Clearly, Perrys and Brits have two different ideas of what Tooting is.

I was on the L a month ago. The train was crowded and a woman got on. Naturally, I was already standing due to rule #1. But another gentleman in the car stood up, walked over to the door, and offered his seat to the woman, who refused it flatly. The seat remained unoccupied for several stops while the awkwardnicity that permeated the air slowly dispersed.

Katie said...

I miss riding the Tube.