Monday 17th October
For years now I have been a consummate tube traveller, confident and happy to nip all over the capital on what is the fastest means of transport available. The few times I have, maybe late at night, foolishly gotten into a black cab I have been horrified as the meter spins round faster than a weather vane in a force ten gale. Occasionally friends have insisted that they drive me home from a dinner party, and I sit there tediously counting the minutes as we are held at traffic lights or get lost in one way streets, smiling all the while and thanking them profusely when they deposit me at my door, more often than not half an hour later than I would have arrived had I stood my ground and used the tube.
I admit that it has become increasing expensive of late, but you do have to admire the Oyster card system, tapping in and out is so speedy,(except when you get stuck behind some idiot whose card does not work but who obstinately keeps tapping it again and again). And the policy of closing entire lines on some weekends for so-called improvement works is irritating to say the least, but the most annoying aspect of tube travel is that it has obviously become a victim of its’ own success; it is just too crowded.
Not so long ago you could do as the posters said, and by avoiding the rush hour, at least ensure a seat for part of your journey, but whether through nobody being able to afford to take a holiday, or a sudden influx of people from the suburbs, or just the ever-growing and uncountable population of London, the tube is overcrowded at all hours of the day. I have never known it so busy, even when I used to, for a while, in the mid-seventies travel on the ‘Misery’ (Northern) Line, and politeness seems to have simply gone out of the window too. I always understood that the etiquette was to wait until people had disembarked before trying to board yourself; but now it is just a mad free-for-all, everyone pushing for themselves and England, and devil take the hindmost. And as for anyone under the age of forty having the grace to give up a seat for an older person, forget it; the egalitarianism of the young knows no bounds. But the worst, the very worst are the backpackers; these selfish people, who appear to have their entire possessions slumped between their shoulder-blades and therefore take up the space of at least two people, seem to be totally oblivious of the obstruction they are causing as you try to squeeze past them, or are knocked over as they turn round to talk to their identically burdened friend, or keep rocking back and forth in front of you (on the rare occasion you are lucky enough to have a seat) making their backpack straps swing wildly about make it impossible for you to read a small paperback let alone a broadsheet. Have they no spatial awareness or have they simply packed all their troubles as well as any commonsense in their old kit-bags, though you will not find me smile, smile, smiling at their antics.