Wednesday, 6 June 2012

In which, ahead of the London Olympics, I pen a short guide for tourists wishing to use the tube

 - Don’t even think about approaching the ticket barrier until you’re sure you know what you’re doing. We do not look kindly upon those who are unable to operate an Oyster. If that sentence doesn’t make sense to you, you are as-yet unqualified to use the tube. Do some more research; come back later.

- Yes, “mind the gap” is a real announcement, but no, it’s not played everywhere. If you’d like to hear it, and get excited and screechy, you’ll need to scurry along to the Central Line at Bank, Northern Line northbound at Embankment and Bakerloo Line at Piccadilly Circus. You’re welcome.

- Stand on the right of the escalators. For Pete’s sake, don’t stand on the left: the left is for walking up or down. At best, you’ll piss off someone who’ll tut loudly and continuously, rolling their eyes until you get the message. At worst, the barrage of harassed commuters behind you won’t take into account that you’ve stopped, and will blindly continue on their course, jogging down the stairs at speed, hurtling you face-first towards a horribly disfiguring accident.

- If you must pause anywhere in the network of the Underground to take an inexplicable photo, blow your nose or consult a map, stand well clear of all oncoming foot traffic. See above.

- If you have rubbish, kindly take it with you. Londoners have places to be, and bomb scares that turn out to be half a flappy Pret wrapper make us really cross.

- Respect a queue wherever you see it: always join at the back, and don’t even think about pushing in ahead – it’s the one remaining offence for which you can be hanged at the Tower. Queues are to Brits what cows are to Hindus.

- When the dude tells you to let passengers off the train before getting on, he’s talking to you. Yes, you. Do us all a favour and listen to him, would you? Again, that means you, European teenager with backpack.

- Ref. point 4, above: When you do get off the train, keep moving. It doesn’t matter where, just move -  preferably with the flow of pedestrian traffic. Do not stop just outside the door and ponder your next move from here. You’ll be trampled, and there’ll be very little sympathy.

- The buttons on the tube doors don’t work. Don’t press them.

- Don’t make eye contact. With anyone. Unless you’re in the middle of a heart attack, in which case: play it down, wave off any rare instance of concern from strangers and get off at the next stop. Don’t be the guy who pulls the emergency alarm and screws up the entire line in both directions for the next 20 minutes. No one likes that guy.

- Bugger the woman and children: in matters of seats on the tube, it’s every soul for themselves. There’s no point in fighting a Londoner for a seat – you won’t win. If by some miracle you do, expect Gorgonesque stares of unimaginable hatred until you reach your destination.

- On which note: you’ll notice there are fewer seats than people who wish to sit in them. Reserving one for a backpack is the preserve of the very, very brave. Or cretinous.

- The following are not suitable for use on the Underground (not an exhaustive list): smelly foods; anything that might spill; anyone who’s left the house without a generous application of deodorant; small rodents or dogs that panic in crowds; terrible earphones that leak tinny Euro-pop; large groups of teenagers incapable of using the indoor voice.

- It’s pronounced Les-ter.

- Yes, it’s always this crowded. No, the tourist numbers aren’t helping. No, we don’t know how we do it every day either.


Amy said...

Oo-er. I always, always catch people's eye on the tube. I can't help it, it's natural. And then, worse, I automatically smile. I know, I know.

So far I've only had people smile back, but I'm just waiting for the day someone takes offence.

Celine said...

It's like you're inside my head between 8-9am and 6-7pm, 5 days a week .

Is it possible to mandate tourists to sign up to some form of charter, listing and accepting all of the above, before they are allowed to travel any further in than Zone 3? Actually, make that Zone 4.

elcaxide said...

Add: you're crushing me into the window with your unnecessarily gigantic backpack and/or protruding purse corners. I mean, really.

Foodycat said...

The buttons on the door do work on the new Metropolitan line trains. Sort of. They don't let you off before the train has stopped, but because the doors shut automatically to hang on to the air conditioning, you can use the buttons to open the doors if the train is standing in the platform.

Gosh. That's quite the most fascinating thing I have said all day. I bet you are SO PLEASED I shared.

Blonde said...

Amy: Ah, bless you. You'll learn soon enough, and be snarling with the best of us.

Celine: If we can get that drawn up, I promise I will be the first signatory. (Zone 5??)

Elcaxide: Excellent addition.

Foodycat: I consider myself thusly corrected. And now you have an anecdote for parties. ;)

Catherine Lux said...

Every word in this post is so true! And I'm so glad others feel the same! I wish tourists would just walk everywhere or get the bus - they're really not qualified to use the tube! I mean, who stops right in front of the exit!! And what idiot refuses to move to let you off the tube! I also hate tourists in the theatre, I may have to do a post on that one, as its a serious issue for me. I think its even more annoying than tourists on the tube ( at least its acceptable to shout at them and push them with their backpacks on the tube - doesn't go down so well in a theatre).


Anonymous said...

This should be posted outside every single Tube station in London, in gold-plated capital letters.

In fact, this should be compulsory reading at every nursery, schoold, citizenship test, and passport control.

Ben said...

This list of instructions for the Olympics (or any visitor) to London should be mandatory, given out like the US landing cards saying 'are you going to overthrow the government'. Have you understood how to use the tube? No? Well you can stay in Heathrow then...

Redbookish said...

Brilliant! as usual. But you forgot to add, as a further sub-clause for Point 4: when you get to the end of the escalator keep going. Do not stop at the top/bottom. Step away!

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...


Jas said...

I'd like to add that you do not, I repeat, DO NOT, need to wait for the barriers to close behind the last person in front of you before you put your ticket/Oyster card through. When will people learn.

Redbookish said...

ooo Jas, I have had trouble with that one. I do wait for the gates to at least start closing, as my Oyster card seems to go bonkers otherwise. I suppose the machines can tell I'm an out-of-towner coming to London for the day each week, not a bona fide Season ticket holder!

Crazykites said...

Great post! Very witty.

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