Going Underground


At first, travelling on the underground in London was a novelty, crammed in with all the other commuters. But it soon wore thin as I watched the people who inhabit this environment. The elbower fidgets, turns the pages of a newspaper or fumbles in a bag while repeatedly digging you in the ribs. The take-up-too-much-roomer leaves their neighbour sitting at the edge of a seat with one cheek in mid-air. This sometimes extends to the double-seater, who sits on one seat and places their bag on the other.

The foot-kicker ranges from the nudger, to the toe punter and the more extravagant cross-legged swinger. The ear or nose picker (one of whom is sitting next to me as I write this) is oblivious they have been spotted and wipe or eat the result of their efforts. In the case of the man next to me, it is on the edge of his seat. The have-a-goer often begins with loud tuts and sometimes moves on to tell you where to stand, presumably because they are so important.

The barger is a basic operator with the tactics of shoving and hitting whenever possible. One stupid twat struck me in the face while clumsily walking past and he did not even have the courtesy to apologise. Another woman pushed into me on her way into a carriage and then did the same on her way out while I tried to lean out of her way. She paused and dug a sharp elbow into my ribs. I snapped “Fuck off” at her. She looked startled and said “You are very rude.” I took it as a compliment. Lack of spatial awareness is one thing, but intent is quite another.

The mobile-phoner usually gives a running commentary of the stations they are at. The standers may push you in the back, shove an armpit near your head, breathe over you, cough in your face or create a sneeze blast zone. Your senses are attacked in this fermenting pit of rammed togetherness with body smells wafting through the stale air.

It is usual to be standing with several people leaning on you at the same time to get into your space. They think nothing of touching your shoulder, back, arm, elbow, leg, arse and foot at the same time. Inappropriate, even in a cattle-truck existence. Accepted rules of the game are try not to speak to anyone, do not look at anyone, never help anyone and never ever apologise for anything. Out-of-towners are immediately obvious because they are often polite and oblivious to the rules. It is an awful experience. This is a train line where everyone looks sad.

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