“A 100 years ago, when I decided to work in London, taking the tube at rush hour made me feel like I was a part of something really big getting into a packed train every single day”, my colleague laughingly exclaimed. The very same evening as I walked into St.Paul’s station after a long day of work, carrying Berry over my shoulders, I thought about what my colleague had said earlier and strangely, I felt the same as I hung at the door crushed between a bunch of bankers in the train (see pic above, that’s what I got into). But to be honest, I am just a regular person getting home in the evening and there is no other grand scheme around that. But making it seem more complex than it is makes for a fun commute.
I have learnt a few things about the tube in the last couple of months and this knowledge is in no way exhaustive as I only take one train straight from home to work and back everyday, with no changes, etc. When I get into the Ealing Broadway station in the morning, I make sure I quickly scan the entry gates before I approach them to find the least crowded one. I thoroughly enjoy the cheap thrills I get when I pass through the gates fairly quickly bypassing a long queue.
When I am with Berry, I don’t mind what compartment I get into since I am offered a seat anyway, but unfortunately I can’t accept the offer since Berry prefers that I stand (ok, I prefer to stand simply because Berry won’t scream her lungs out!). If I am alone, I usually going into the second compartment from the last with school kids in it so I can get a seat in the first couple of stops. The important thing is to stand in the middle of the compartment, strategically, making sure that I am equidistant from all usual suspects who are expected to get out of the train soon enough. You don’t want to be sitting near someone who is extra formally dressed because they won’t get off till Bond Street.
When I get out at St.Paul’s, I usually take climb up the escalator since that’s the fastest path out, even with a baby. If you wait to stand on one side of the escalator, just getting onto the escalator can take ages, especially if both east and west bound trains arrive at the same time. Once you have gotten ahead of the crowd, getting out of the exit gate is a piece of cake.
On my way back is usually crazy, with or without a baby. Its peak hour with most people getting out of offices and desperately trying to get home soon. If the frequency of the train is pretty high, then I usually go stand at the head of the platform near the beginning of the train since it tends to be less crowded with more people getting off than on. If frequency is low, then the platform gets very crowded all the way and it doesn’t matter where you stand. All trains to Ealing Broadway, tend to be more crowded than other destinations and so its okay to let them pass if its impossible to get in.
But if I find myself letting more than 1 or 2 trains pass, I immediately gear up to board the 3rd train irrespective of how crowded it is. Remember, there is always place for one more person on the tube and as long as you believe that, you have a chance to get home sooner than later. Its like the Hilbert’s hotel problem. You just get in and even if every person around you in the train moves 1 mm, you will have enough space to let the door close behind you. The moment you are at Tottenham Court Road or Oxford Circus, the change over helps empty the tube a little bit and if you once again, go stand in the middle of the compartment, placed strategically equidistant from people who might get off soon, then you have a seat.
It’s not like I am the only one doing all this. When you do the same thing over and over again, you device all these silly little games to give you cheap thrills, to make your commute seem grander than it really is.