Sunday, 28 August 2011

HOW DO YOU DO… tubes

The humble rumble, zippy & bungle.
Under your feet, if your feet are in London, and if you stand in a specific place. Under your feet, rumbling hot and fast are 1500 humans hurtling to wherever.  That’s if it's rush hour, if the trains are not held or out of service and it isn't the minute or two between one departing and its brother arriving, oh and you’re not at Blackfriers before 2012. Under is a whole system echoing and shortcutting the sloppy twisted tarmac.  You are sandwiched between sky planes and tube trains, under, above and attempting to flatten your feet are fast moving metal stuff with people in it, welcome to mass transport, though it looks a lot like messy transport with a bit of lippy.

Day __
“Doors closing, Beep, beep, beep, beep.  The next stop will be, Cockfosters.”
Where does Cockfosters come from, a place that foster’s Australian-penis birds?
Mind the doors, mind the gap, and mind your face.
Hey her hair!
"Grab that bar."  
"Oh sorry I didn’t notice your hand."
“Sorry, bit unstable.”
“The next stop will be…”
“I know I know,”
“Orr hillo, you Engwish?”
“Huh, oh yes.”
“I go cockafosta, this?”
“Yes, this goes to Cockfosters.”
“Yes cockafosta.”
“Ok ok.”
“This train will not be stopping at Cockfosters, please, mind the gap.”
“Erm this stop is…”
“Oh dis Cockfosta, ok ok bye.”

Bloody Brilliant?
It's strange that the tube is an example of the best of what Britain does (seriously New York paid for us to teach them how to make their underground better). Yet most of it's closed on weekends, and some of the newest lines are the slowest most hypochondriac ever. Price increases are generally accepted, over-charging just a normal hazard combined with that the almost constant threat of strikes by some Crow and cuts to the staff so that in future you don’t have to tap out just hand everything over to the local freelance mugger equates to it basically dildoing itself into a dirty overused hole.

But it’s just too important to go bust or close. If it went, London would be unable to function. That is unless everyone dropped the oyster for the hi-vis jacket and decided to cycle. As a sometime cyclist I would not want that to happen.  There is not a day I would wish I could wake up to a city ringing with bikes merrily going about with flowers in their baskets and clean air in their lungs.  The fact that I’m not imagining Londoners on these bikes and that if I did, I would have to include, the site of city slicks on carbon fibre cock tubes cutting up and shouting down everyone while five seater taxi bikes turn into teenage thugs causing scenes akin to duck hunt.  Means that gladly it can’t and rightly it will never work, ever, ever.

Having never witnessed a bomb in any way other than through a TV on a sofa with some guy talking all over what initially seemed like a very promising action movie, sometime in September, the date escapes me. Real life bombs on anything would scare me, bombs underground in a pitch black tunnel on a speeding train would probably make me poo my pantyhose if they weren’t already blown off which depending on where I sat could be academic, having no body in which to hold poo. 

I would hope something like what happened on 7 of the 7 never occurred again, but it blatantly could.  The fact that everyone has to get to work fast makes the unfortunate chance of being blown up a necessary risk, which people put to the back of their minds, that are instead predominated with Angry Birds Tits Edition, getting that nice next to the door corner space and overting your eyes from a disturbing welt on that woman’s face.

Tragedy is both ghastly and also something you’d rather think of in movies than on the next carriage but 500,000 to 1 says it won’t happen so, don’t worry, be angry.

Zeng, Zeng, ping, pang, bang, boom, tune.
But it's calm under the concrete mantel, well, other than the screeching metal from the curved tracks, and the EXTEMELY LOUD REPEATING ANNOUNCER, oh, the door beeps, the tinny trance tunes emanating from earplugs, other than that it’s rather peaceful, almost a release from the noise and intensity of walking down a London street.  Almost, that's if we weren't pushing and squeezing. Oh there’s a gap, can everyone move down, a giant needs to rest in this thimble of an air pocket that I was previously breathing into.  Packed in like cattle, sardines, matches, poking each other’s parts, pointy briefcases in soft thighs, flappy itchy newspapers tickling your neck, sweaty smelly stinks sucked into your nose, while you watch the weary world awake without the company of coffee or compassion just more and more and more workers each trying to forget this memory before it's understood.

I don't want to be looked at and I don't want to look but that is the unavoidable realism. There are no blackout curtains for them or I. Headphones merely blow sound into the drum that would rather hear the ruffle of a slightly over starched duvet as its gathered into a cloud to dream on.

Nuzzling noses deep into newspaper spines and magazines top 5s, playing kids games on phones that need their own insurance policies. Balancing facts against figures of meetings past for meetings to be, is the commute of commuter, the shared isolation. If you join us, if not already, you will assimilate, there is no way out, honestly, I've tried. Close your eyes on a tube and unless you’re sleepy drunk it makes everything worse. You can hear more intrusively than ever, the man scratching his crotch, that girl slurp. It’s magnified and terrifying. Some noises you hear you now need to look to tell if they're human, mineral or other.

Beautifully awful
But it isn't just for the commuters; it's for everyone, who can afford it.  The casual daytime flow of the tube gives a person quite a comfort, especially if you get on the one's with the bouncy seats.  There you can watch the world go by, if your world is blackness punctuated by adverts, which isn’t wholly inaccurate.  Witness the sights of bad weaves and dirty drunks, loud mothers with louder kids, poor and relatively rich share stale happy meal air while overweight builders create familiar new fragrances.  Get off and view the tiled variants of Bond Street and Holloway.   Imagine the previous generations using it, then see the previous generations still using it.  Look at the old stations like the Strand or the Northern Heights that were never opened and imagine the fear of your train wrong turning into there.  Think about if you got the last train, the tube closed then the last train stopped and you'd have to get out and walk maybe miles to the exit, with mice and rats and ghosts in your path.  That horror film about a serial killer stalking the stations, in the shadows, lurking just past the tunnel rim ready for ignorance to turn your flesh grim.

Tunnel it
No you tube for you tubers, sharing loneliness millimetres from contact, inches separate injury.  The circulating heat and hot arid commuters, perverse and sneer, gawp while averting as much of their body they can.  He smells, she's fat, they look like twats.  Workers despise tourists, tourists don't get workers.  Everyone's in the way of everyone else to everywhere and that's just that.


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