Train delays go hand in hand with disappointment, impatience and flared tempers. Organisation fizzes into chaos as waiting passengers are suddenly pitted against the clock. The imminent presence of the next train becomes the agonising wait for the starting gun. As the waiting increases, so do the crowds and the chances of finding seats, even boarding the trains themselves, are both slim and fat.
The frenzy between the announcement of a delay and alighting a late arrival is, what I’ve coined, The London Tube Olympics.
Standing up for your country – the National Anthems
Everyone enjoys a good sing-song to spur on their respective homeland before a sporting event. A couple of minutes is all it takes to stand and belt out the lyrics. Not at the Tube Olympics. Boarding a train whose every seat is filled, you have no choice but to grab the nearest handrail and endure the doddery shuffles of the train until someone gets up. This could take a while. Singing at this point is optional – it might be a way of securing you the entire carriage!
Making good time – the 100m sprint
As soon as your front door slams, the race is on – unless, of course, you forget something, in which case it’s a false start. Unfortunately, the Tube Olympic 100m comes with its own unique obstacles; corners, for example. Stairs and escalators make themselves known, as well.
They blithely amble across your path as you try and sprint for glory arms flailing, cheeks bulging. Finishing the race only comes when the train turns up. You stand there, jigging with anticipation like a chick waiting to be fed, only to claw and clamber aboard to be the first across the line.
Watching your step – hurdles
For me, there’s always a wave of apprehension when boarding a train whose aisle is but a zigzag thanks to the abundance of baggage in the way – time to make like a prancing pony and tip-toe your way to the nearest available seat. Taking the jittery movement of the train into account, this is never an easy task, and will always encourage a sweeping glare from whomever’s bag you accidently brush with a glancing foot. Beware also of the somewhat elusive but highly irritating double hurdle where two peoples’ luggage is bunched back-to-back on the floor. Pull your trousers right up for this one, but don’t pull a hamstring when you ‘big step’ like a gymnast at the start of the routine over the cumbersome complication. Allow yourself a brief moment of self-congratulation if and when you achieve such a feat.
Leaving your mark – javelin
A post rush-hour tube train is like a graveyard for newspapers. Discarded, scrunched and torn, cut down in their prime they lie in wasted heaps on every other seat; dead and silent with no purpose. Wind the clock back a couple of hours, however, and they serve as ideal homing missile or, in the spirit of things, javelins. Landing a newspaper on a recently vacated seat is an indirect way of saying, “Get lost, this seat’s mine.” Such a process can be achieved in a number of ways; you can be stealthy about it and have the newspaper plop silently onto the chair from up your sleeve, or be completely rambunctious and lob it the length of the carriage. A good run-up and a blistering scream of power upon release could be encouraged for maximum effect.
Taking the plunge – diving
During the course of the London Olympics, and as rare as it might sound, someone might leave the train before it arrives at the Olympic Park. Upon such an occasion the Tube Olympics once again commence. Unlike the triple-salcos, tucks and pikes you’ll see on the telly, chair-diving involves as much grace as a three-legged giraffe. People might shuffle backwards, posteriors pointing firmly at their target, while others in a more fortunate position could simply vanish from proceedings as if falling through the floor. It’s a seamless transition of taken-empty-taken, and it all appears to happen automatically. Note: entry is key. Spend more than five seconds tripping and fumbling in the tangle of legs and you’ll be glanced and sniffed at for the remainder of your journey.
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Category: London Calling