December 12, 2006

Polite Sardines Squished in a Tube

This is the key ingredient to the London commute. I’ve only been on my job for two weeks and two days but I’ve already hit my limit in the tube situation.

The ancient system operates with all kinds of delays, every day, during both the morning and evening commutes. A mechanical voice comes over the ominous loudspeaker to announce, “Significant delays on all London lines because of a…” and here they make certain to insert the exact cause.
…customer illness
…signalling error
…switching error
…train fire
Thanks for too much information. Just make the trains move, please.

In addition to the delays we are smooshed into the cars. Everyone is very polite so no one says a word while we squish into each other. Yesterday morning we approached a station with a platform filled with commuters all hoping to get onto our train. Franticly people pushed to get off and others to get on. Suddenly we hit max. In a very uncomfortable five minute silence, that was like a stalemate between six hundred commuters, people stood face to face on and off the tube while the doors…didn’t close. No announcement, we just stood there. Finally the driver announced, “the radio is broken and we will be here a few minutes while we wait for a technician. (Oh yes, the technician. Like waiting for the Spanish Inquisition as you know from our British Gas stories.)

The ultimate insult in this situation is when there is a hacking cougher on the train. Being new to the country I am getting every cold and flu. Being too close to someone who is even thinking sick thoughts ensures that I catch their germs. So each time someone coughed I turned to another direction, making sure I gave them the evil eye. The problem is that there is no room to turn and no one makes any facial expressions. I feel like a lone extroverted East Coast American expressing my frustration and no one seems to respond.

Polite sardines. Heck, if no one complains the service will continue to be piss poor.