Monday, 22 January 2018

10 things that annoy ALL London commuters

The tube. It's great.

People from other cities will tell you all the time about how lucky you are to have such a great public transport system ('You don't even need a car!' - actually, you'd quite like a car, but you can't afford to park one...but that's another story, never mind), and deep down you are quite proud to be a London commuter. 

But...well, it's awful, isn't it? It's really awful. 

And so on this delightful Monday morning, I have decided to round up the ten things that annoy me most about commuting in London. Please feel free to let me know any I have missed!

1. The people who think it's really fun
The tube being rammed? Doesn't really annoy me.
Obviously it isn't ideal but it's a bit like being annoyed by, say, night time. There is no point in being annoyed about it; it just is. 
The people who think it's absolutely fascinating that the tube is rammed? Who discuss it loudly to each other, debate on why it might be ('Is the district line down? Maybe there's a football game on nearby?') who discuss other options they will never take  ('We could walk to Holborn? We could get an Uber to Clapham Junction?') and who sometimes -  these people are the worst of all - take a photograph, reaching up into the air to take a photo of what is basically just your daily grind?
That annoys me.
Bank in the morning? Always busy. Chancery Lane at 5pm? Always busy. Oxford Circus at any time of the day? Busy. The Northern Line, anywhere, at all times, even the middle of the night? It's ALWAYS BUSY.
And look, I'm really glad for you that you don't know that. I'm glad that instead of spending your morning staring blankly at the back of a man's suit so close up you can see the individual fibres, you are having a lovely relaxing time doing something more worthwhile - eating a hearty breakfast, maybe -  doing some yoga, hugging a puppy.
But please, do not make a spectacle out of my mediocre, painful existence by exclaiming loudly that you COULD NEVER DO THIS EVERY DAY and then proposing you walk the rest of the way 'to get some air.' I thank you.

2. Pole huggers
I'm sorry, is this YOUR pole? My mistake - I didn't see the sign, on my way in, advertising that this morning at 8.12am there would be a pole dance routine performed by one middle aged man who works in IT consisting purely of him hugging the pole as if his life depended on it, but that seems to be the only explanation for this debacle. 

3. The moral dilemma of the move-down lady
The thing is, you just can't decide if you love or hate the move-down lady.
The move-down lady (and it is always a lady, isn't it, usually of a certain age -  blonde and a bit harried-looking, her name is often Maggie, she works as a secretary but everyone is scared of her so never asks her for anything and she spends the entire day tapping away at her keyboard and sighing loudly) is usually and primarily the bane of your existence. You are on the train, she is rapping on the window. You stare fixedly at your Kindle, but you know she's there. MOVE DOWN, she is mouthing. She taps harder. MOVE DOWN. Move down WHERE, you want to know? You are literally standing in somebody's handbag as it is. MOVE DOWN. You glare at her; she glares back. You earned this place on the train, you want to tell her. This is why you moved to Zone 3, so you could contort yourself onto this train without too much extra trouble. This is your god-granted space. The train moves on, leaving her on the platform in another life, and you are glad.
And yet sometimes, when you have waited for five central line trains in a row and it is icily cold and you're breathing whirls of steam and you can see - you can SEE there is space, look, that woman could practically do yoga she has so much space, but your inherit Britishness keeps you locked in speechless inertia - you look around for the move-down lady. You WILL a move-down lady to materialise, and you feel guiltily pleased when she taps on the window and everyone shuffles up reluctantly and you manage to squeeze yourself on.
But once you're on - be honest, you're going to start avoiding her eye, aren't you?

4. The people with two legs who stand on Down escalators
Walking up escalators, now that's different - that's practically a sport, isn't it? I mean, it's dangerous - sometimes you can't see the top of the escalator from the bottom of it, it could be Holborn for all you know, you could be walking up forever and not find a gap to slot into on the right as if you were aiming for it all along. So standing on the Up escalator is fine.
But who are these people - perfectly mobile people,  not carrying suitcases - who stand on the Down escalator? Why are they so relaxed, so content to continue at this leisurely pace? Do they want to be here, in this hot, sweaty tunnel, moving downwards painfully slowly forever  - don't they have anywhere they'd rather be?
Because walking down steps is not difficult, is it? I suppose it's conceivable that a few of these people have mobility issues I just can't see, like sprained ankles or something - or are just so tired they have given up on life. But what about the others? My only conclusion is that they just want to read the moving adverts along the side of the escalator and therefore more people than I imagined have a burning desire to visit unpopular West End theatre productions or take slightly dodgy sounding vitamin supplements.

5. Backpack man
Like a superhero but the only power they have is just getting in everyone's way and muttering 'Sorry, sorry,' as they hit someone in the face every two seconds.

6. The beggars who are playing music instruments but not really
Okay, so this isn't the time to start discussing the moral issues around begging, and to be honest at least they are doing something for their money, not like those people who get on and loudly announce 'Sorry, everyone...' but what really annoys me is how all these would-be tube musicians only know one song.
They get on, usually about five of them, one banging a broken drum much too loudly, one quite evidently playing a tape of somebody playing the trumpet - most often in the middle of the day on a train you can't conceivably imagine anybody else getting, like you're getting a Circle Line train from Farringdon to Kings Cross at 2pm but like, it's just you and one woman with a pushchair, it's hardly peak time - and they are always, ALWAYS playing 'Hit The Road, Jack' by Ray Charles.
They get off somewhere improbable - Blackfriars - still playing it. They will be playing it forever, even though it's LITERALLY A DEMO. Sometimes briefly interspersed with 'When The Saints Go Marching In.' It will never end. They are still singing itnow.

7. People on their way to and from football matches
Also known as the only people who have ever banged on the ceiling of a tube train. Look, I hope you know you're going to end up on a Channel 4 TV show called 'Tube Nightmares', your barely pixelated face all beery and red as you shout incomprehensible and yet still somehow vaguely racist chants. Nobody likes you.

8. Middle managers making important phone calls
'Steve? Rich here. Ya. Ya. No, still on the tube. Did you get those papers Josh sent over? No, I know it's not important, Steve. No, I know I just push paper around really and that I'll be in the office in ten minutes anyway and I could just say this to you in person which would be much easier. I just want these people to think my life is cool and important, not completely meaningless and empty. Ya. Thanks mate. Oh - we're going under a tunnel, Steve, I'm going to lose you. I know, nobody cares. See you in two.'

9. Manspreading
It's not that big. Nobody's buying it. Sorry.

10. When you're reading over somebody's shoulder and they turn the page
Oh, don't pretend like you don't want to know what Kim Kardashian said that made some bloke at the Evening Standard think Kylie might not be pregnant after all. The finance pages?! Are you for real?

11. People, just all people
There's just so many of them. All the time. They're everywhere.

Let me know if you enjoyed this or if there's any I missed!



  1. Haha! Read this on the first leg of my commute. On the train where I'm safe! The tube is next and I'm fearing who or what I'll encounter from your list. Please no man spreading today :)

  2. Number 11 is how I feel in every populated space, everywhere. xxx
    Lucy @ La Lingua | Life, Travel, Italy


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