I Love Newbie London Tubers…

I can’t help it, they’re fascinating, and often you can pick them out a mile off.

My tube journey home yesterday evening, sandwiched between walking through the grey, sleet strewn streets of London, took me via the London tube hotspots of Victoria, Oxford Circus, Baker Street and Paddington. I usually have my nose burrowed into a book. I tend to feel quite smug actually, being able to read to the end of my paragraph and arise at the very last moment whilst others hurriedly stagger towards the door before the clunking train pulls to an ungainly halt. (London overground has elegance, the underground has not.) They worry that the doors are unreasonably fast at closing and probably fear getting caught in their unforgiving grip. Though I am not a born and bred Londoner, nor a well versed one, I like to think I know the tube-dance fairly well by now.

That’s why, when I do eventually lift my head from whatever book to hop off the tube and walk (walking whilst reading, not advised, seems to work in a tortured, romantic way in movies, but really, it’s a short road towards a fall, a bump and a bloody nose), I love to observe the fellow tube-goers.

After months studying what I believe to be the Newbie London Tuber (ie, those who are not used to the underground system and tube conditions), this is what I have found, and enjoyed finding…

A Newbie London Tuber might…

  • …dust the seat off before sitting down… no dear, the seats are blackened and threadbare, you’re probably doing yourself more harm wiping it with your hand than if you were to just plonk yourself down and not think about it.
  • …get up for their stop way too early (as mentioned) and swing through the carriage like apes, clinging to the poles for dear life.
  • …watch, baffled, as their ticket actually opens the barriers… sometimes is just gets people when it works… as if by magic!
  • …make eye contact, say hello, or attempt momentary inconsequential chit-chat with other tubers. The Londoner is not likely to do this. The tube journey is a kind of Limbo if one is travelling alone. It barely exists in time. It is instead a space in which one travels from A to B in a bubble of suspended inactivity.
  • …wait until the ticket barriers have closed completely before scanning your travel card. I cannot help but tap in prematurely, flinging the gates open and hearing them slap with a deafening scream in protest at my impatience. As I’ve said, the underground is a Limbo. I’m an in-out traveller. The quicker the better.
  • …stare transfixed at the tube map for the entirety of their journey just in case they miss their stop or, just perhaps, the train suddenly jumps onto another track and becomes a different line altogether and they find they must change tubes.
  • …walk flippin’ slowly and suddenly stop right in the middle of an entrance because, I mean, where better!?
  • …look incredibly uncomfortable being that close to complete strangers. Yes, it’s unnatural. Yes, it’s probably closer than you get to your own grandmother. No, there’s nothing you can do about it… it’s peak travel in the London underground baby!
  • …get excited about seeing the underground wildlife… the tiny, charcoal-black, underground mice which scuttle around completely unperturbed by the ton of metal whooshing above their heads. They’re really cute! I still get excited.
  • …somehow manage to bash their suitcase and/or hand bag against the knees of each traveller whilst struggling to get to that seat way over there for what they are unaware will be only a four minute journey. They have not mastered the tube-shuffle… often done delicately on tip-toes so as to not crunch down on someone’s foot. It’s an art.
  • …almost fall over as the train comes to a halt because they did not BRACE themselves and so they clatter into the businessman next to them. They giggle embarrassingly and offer a muffled apology, what else can you do? Well, other than… BRACE!

So, these are just a few of my findings. Nothing conclusive. I’m probably just giving everyone a false back story for my own underground Limbo enjoyment. But I think there’s truth in there too. I must have been just the same once… everyone’s a Newbie for a while. And please, if you know of any other tell-tell signs, add them on, I’d love to hear more Newbie-tales.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Oh, I’m afraid you just described us to a tee……..we did all these things and more……the Underground is a fascinating experience even when you are one of the newbies!!

    1. fayelucinda says:

      Haha, I’m glad my observations were correct! Got to do something during the daily commute. It’s another bubble-like world down there!

  2. Barkersley says:

    Not me. But you would expect that. I was far too interested in the humanity around me to bury myself in a book. All of human life is there, sat next to, opposite, and down the carriage a bit. Big advantage is all that glass, and dark outside – you can stare at the person next to you, and not turn to face them. Loved to test myself against the motion of the train, leaning round corners and leaning back waiting for that final jolt. All done standing within a few inches of the side screen – just in case. Londoners love nothing more than sharing a joke or showing off their knowledge. Ask someone the way to somewhere and your likely to get a conversation started which ignores you completely all suggesting a different way for you to get where you want. Sharing a joke? Londoners luv it! On a crowded tube one the doors closed on a guy who had launched himself through the doors at the last moment to find the door closing in on his protruding exterior – arse if you will. He was wearing a bowler hat. He was carrying an umbrella and a brief case both of which he had thrust forward so as to keep his balance. But the doors just kept on trying to close, and his arse still stuck out. Along the platform strolled the guard, who stopped, then gave the protruding arse a shove with his shoulder allowing the doors to close. The bowler hatted gent, in exactly the kind of voice you would expect shouted his thanks. At which the whole carriage fell about laughing. Somehow everybody knew what had happened and shared the joke. There was much muppet type nodding and smiling before everyone got back into their cocoons and resumed their comfortable isolation. It’s only a mask that gets them from A to B.

    1. fayelucinda says:

      Train surfing is fun… provided there aren’t too many people there to see if you stumble. I’m afraid that my London tube experience is a little changed from yours. It may be because I travel just after peak when people are either thinking of rushing to the pub or home to a good dinner and their favourite program. There is certainly a camaraderie between the London travellers if someone gets stuck… I once caught my elbow and my handbag and was in a very precarious position and two gentlemen kindly heaved the doors open. But I must say that people jamming the doors and causing possible delays seems to raise more scorn than smiles. If someone is stuck or in trouble then it’s different, and as the descent people they mostly are, they’ll of course help. Certainly people are generous enough to help Newbies from their A to B, I love sharing my hard earned knowledge of the system and being asked for it is like, yes! I look like I know what I’m doing. So, yes, Londoners are helpful, checking before they get off that the Newbie is clear of their destination. Now, I’m afraid that there are too many books, free newspapers, free magazines, e-readers, i-Pods, Candy Crush, tablets and whatever else taking peoples attention for much inter-bubble chit-chat.

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