I understand the practical benefits of the London Underground, or ‘Tube’, it you want to be correct: it allows people to get around the city incredibly easily, leading to London being one of the world’s biggest tourist and economic centres; it helps rationalise this chaotic city the Victorians built into a series of easily-accessible coloured lines on a map; and it creates a crap-ton of jobs in driving trains, cleaning up and selling tickets that, while hardly fulfilling or particularly long-term, are important in society.
However, I hate the losers who get the Tube, and I include myself in this parade of bastards, as they epitomise and exemplify fundamental human selfishness.
Simply put, we all want the seat next to the door, but in the middle of the carriage so we have that nice big space next to us to put our bags in. Even if you’re one of those weird people like me who like standing up on the Tube, the problem remains: there are an infinite number of people fighting for a finite number of good seats and standing space.
This is problematic firstly because of the nature of the Tube, in that the seats are first-come-first-served; if you’ve got to lug a suitcase from one side of London to the other for some nefarious purpose, you won’t get a seat if you don’t get on within the first three stations or so. Often, a traveller with a bunch of massive bags, clearly headed for Heathrow on the Piccadilly Line, will have to stand, draped in bags, next to the door, as all the seats are taken, and new people that get on immediately take these seats before the existing standing population get a change, the heartless pricks.
This is compounded by the fact that said pricks will then get off in two stations’ time, and have to go past the traveller and their bags to get out, muttering under their breath at the inconvenience of these people and their luggage which could easily contain an illegally-imported Vietnamese child; if the prick had been less hasty in grabbing a seat for their own clammy arse, the traveller could have sat down shoved their bags to the side of the seating row next to the door,w here large bags are supposed to be stored.
Although the elderly, disabled or pregnant are usually given seats by those sitting in them, which is objectively the right thing to do, other people who find standing harder, such as bag-laded travellers, get no such luck.
Secondly, we end up moshing with everyone on the Tube as we go around corners, or even on particularly uneven bits of track. I love dancing with strangers at a Rise Against gig to songs like Prayer Of The Refugee, but the random leaning and elbowing of the Tube, with the monotonous backing track of the outside of the train, makes riding the Tube feel like dancing at a GWAR concert.
This is even more annoying if I’m wearing my headphones, which are very nice Sennheiser ones, as they’ll hit people and either annoy them, or worse, ruin a guitar solo I’m listening to. This may be a fault of my own, and a lack of understanding of the changes to one’s bodily dimensions a pair of headphones brings, but the problem still wouldn’t exist without other people being on the Tube.
These problems are all worsened by the inherent Britishness of most people on the Tube. Apart from drunken idiots at three in the morning and the insane influx of tourists in August, the vast majority of Tube users respond to unsatisfactory or annoying things with a lowering of the eyes, a twitch of the hand and, if they’re really angry, a low tutting under their breath. As a result, any act of daft Tube behaviour only generates a slight murmur from the other Tubers, throwing you into a state of confusion: were they coughing? Do they not like me? Was that not the right thing to do?
After a while, this uncertainty gets terrifying, and you start to assume things about people, just to satisfy your basic human desire for knowledge and explanation, a desire that has created everything from documentaries to religion. You think that they must hate you for nudging them as you got on the train, leaving you hating everyone else on the Tube.
Simultaneously, they’re doing the same thing: they didn’t apologise of brushing me, how dare they! Should I speak to them about it? No they’ll just give me a false apology and move on, I’ll just silently plot their demise.
The quietness and uncommunicative nature of Britishness contrast directly with the ease of communication in today’s society, often resulting in people having unnecessarily strong opinions about what happens on the Tube, but feeling unable to express them. As with all problems, they become worse if they’re not discussed openly, so on the Tube, a slight nudging can grow into an outright hatred in mere stations.
However, this is why I love the Tube; it combines the practicality we’ve come to expect in our society and unconditional hate that I superimpose onto all of society because I’m cool like that. My ideal world is one where our basic needs of food, shelter, power and transportation are taken care of, leaving us free to focus on emotional and ideological discussion, which the TUbe offers. It’s just that I take these emotions and turn them into hatred, and I imagine many others do too.
– The London Underground Song (it has gotten better since 2007)
– Rise Against – Prayer Of The Refugee (been in my top five songs for the last three years)
– GWAR – Let Us Slay (I was probably wrong in using GWAR gigs as the epitome of bad gigs, as they’re live performances are actually pretty cool; I was just using them as an example of a band whose music I really dislike)