London Underground is a bloody nightmare, the confusion and busyness of it is overwhelming for many. When I first moved to London I found it equally frightening and exciting.
Straight out of university, wide eyed and naïve (not much has changed), I asked my then boyfriend to show me the way from the house in Fulham to my office in Southwark. Shyly I help his hand, timing the journey and admiring his knowledge of the connections and different lines.
Parsons Green – Earls Court – Westminster – Southwark.
This was the only route I knew to anywhere without the help of ‘citimapper’ – once my bible but now referred to as ‘shittymapper’.
I wasn’t brave enough to get a bit lost – to explore and experiment. I was too scared of being late for work.
But as time went on I experienced more of the tube than my 8am journey to my desk and the 6pm tube home to the sofa.
Underneath the buzzing city there’s the possibility of polite and awkward silence, loud drunken rudeness and eerie weirdness. In this setting there are many people, going their own ways, being there own protagonists. Here I will describe a few regular characters whom I’ve observed on the tube.
- The racer
You know the type – always darting through the crowd like a bike moving in-between white vans. The racer is often seen sporting a FjallRäven Kanken backpack, adidas gazzelles, skinny jeans and one headphone dangling out from their ear to complete that devil-may-care style.
We don’t know if this chap is late, rude, socially unaware, thinks he’s in an action movie or perhaps he’s being chased by ‘The Machines’ and only she/he can save the whole world from total destruction.
Either way – I quite like this person.
My favourite game after sitting at a bloody desk all day was dodging through the crowds, getting on the tube at Southwark, off at Westminster and running up the three flights of escalators to either make or miss the first district line train home.
Being one of the most dyspraxic people in London eans that this didn’t often/ ever go smoothly.
My sincerest apologies to all the people I’ve run into/ knocked over/ fallen on.
- The grump
Often found in a Barbour wax jacket, (*side note, you’re in the fucking city mate and the wax on that old thing is insulting my nostrils and triggering my gag reflex), blue suit and a signet ring.
The ‘Grump’ has been commuting from Southwest to Bank for 30 odd years now and he does not like you.
Don’t feel bad.
He doesn’t like anything.
He doesn’t like his whiny wife, spoilt kids, small yet expensive house or his stressful job.
Next time you see the grump don’t be intimidated by him, feel bad for him.
Ass he ever wanted was to be an officer at Sandhurst but his girlfriend made him take that job at Pwc so now he spends all his spare time (ten minutes in the morning) wanking in the shower and crying about how he’s become a walking, talking parody of himself.
If anything you should give the guy a hug – he’s probably starved of human contact.
- The Builder
Covered in paint splatters, rocking a pair of caterpillar workers boots, eating a TESCO ‘All Day Breakfast’ sandwich with a chin covered in 5o’clock shadow.
The builder is an elusive sort – often found on the 7am or earlier tube, looking bloody exhausted because he actually does real work unlike you.
You lazy bum.
Whilst the rest of us are complaining about how ‘heavy our workload is’ Antoni over there actually had to lift a heavy load. Tina from HR’s passive aggressive email last Thursday may have damaged your ever so precious ego but that chap spends most of his working hours balancing on some scaffolding several stories up.
Still he’ll probably reek from all the physical labour so it’s best to give him a wide berth.
And from personal experience most scaffolders live up to their reputation of being woman hecklers and an all-round annoyance to the female race – probably due to small penis size.
- The Holy man
There are people everywhere trying to save your soul.
Whether it’s the:
- Armish couple standing in London Bridge station handing out cheap pamphlets.
- Passionate preacher who performs outside Oxford Circus tune, warning us that the end is nigh.
- Or the ever – so alternative who lives in Brixton tube telling tales of our alien overlords.
These people are all obviously clinically insane and should be avoided at all costs. They may be armed and are most definitely dangerous.
Hecklers aren’t just religious, whether it’s a holy man, political activist, charity representative, homeless person, or one-man band, everyone’s got an opinion.
And they are not shy about sharing it.
- The Tourist
The tourist… a funny creature.
They’ll take selfies in front of the station signs, move in packs, as for directions and nervously stare at the map and then out the train window at every stop.
I know it’s bad – but Jesus Christ they annoy me.
I swear it’s like they feel the need to live up to the stereotype?
But if you ever find yourself becoming frustrated with the tourist – remember that whenever you can be a tourist too.
But we can all learn from their mistakes. Please don’t:
- Speak in our native tongue to the locals.
- Move in a herd.
- Shout and scream.
- Assume the rules don’t apply to you because your ‘not from around here’.
Like come on, you’re in Britain now, use the left hand side!
Also – to anyone going on the underground with a suitcase please don’t use it as a battering ram.
- The Drunk
One of the few times you’ll actually see somebody cheery on the underground – unless their northern.
Drunk’s often move in groups – this heightens their confidence even more than a solo drunk. This means that they think their hilarious so will tell their shit jokes at an elevated sound level and will look around at the general confidence for validation of their wit.
It’s a universally known truth that if you’re sober drunk people are the most annoying thing in the world.
You’d think that you’d be able to avoid dealing with drunk people depending on what time of the day you access the tube but in reality the whole of London has a substance problem so there is zero guarantee of being able to avoid them.
- The Hangover
With the substance abuse problem that burdens London comes the inevitable aftermath – the hangover.
Most Fridays after the cities ‘Thirsty Thursday’s’ everyone is looking hella ropy on the tube.
Auditors, accountants, salesmen and marketers are all trying to avoid eye contact, squeezed in the train like sardines, stinking of last nights alcohol and swallowing the need to vomit.
Hopefully you wont be on the same carriage at a chunderer but these things happen.
- The Cryer
As people battle to find meaning in their 9-5 lives, there is a lot self-loathing, desperation and low energy about the morning commute.
London can suffocate you if you’re not ready.
It’s not exactly an ideal place to have a mental breakdown.
Whether its people silently sobbing on the platform of hysterically howling on the carriage whilst furiously tapping on their phones.
You’ll probably never know why their crying but we can sure guess…
- Fuckwit partner cheated?
- Dead dog?
- Stubbed their toe?
- Read a Westworld spoiler?
- Realised that the universe is eternally expanding and as it does so the chances of a piece of space rock colliding with this space rock forever increase and therefore the fact that they spent 40 minutes last week deciding whether to buy their new Nikes in green or black was an entire waste of time and their whole existence is pathetic and meaningless.
- The wide-eyed piece of freshmeat
Welcome young graduate… the fun has just begun.