I’ve always enjoyed the feeling of a busy city like London, and the London Underground (also known as the Tube) is the simple but powerful train network that lets you travel through it. I probably know it better than the overground. I’m not a local kid – I grew up far away from London, in a village way up in the West Midlands, but I’ve visited London enough times, and passed through it enough times, to feel at home there too. At home enough, in fact, to complain about it. When lines are down or stations are closed for maintenance (“A train versus an Out-Of-Order sign: I know who’ll win. Why doesn’t the driver?”), or perhaps when trains are held up in a tunnel for five minutes (“Can’t they just, you know, nudge the train in front along for a while until I get to Victoria?”), I get irritated like most people. Rush hour, particularly, is a nightmare, and there are special rules which apply here. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over my limited time there:
20 Tips To Survive Rush Hour On The Tube
1) If there are no signs to the line you want, find signs to the Way Out, because the Way Out is also the Way In and has signs to every line.
2) Treat your fellow commuters as if they were sociopaths. There is no compassion here. This place, at this time, is the very definition of natural selection.
3) When walking through a station at rush hour, it is against the common law to stop moving suddenly. If you need to tie your laces, move to the side and come to a halt, slowly. If you need to check your ticket, move to the side and come to a halt, slowly. If you are having a pulmonary embolism, drag yourself to the side (with your face, if need be) and drop dead, slowly.
4) If you are carrying a small suitcase with wheels which drags behind you, when you get to your station, all you’ll have left is the handle. People will have walked through it enough times to shear the two apart. Either pick it up in your hand, wheel it in front of you, or if you’re lucky enough to have four wheels on it, wheel it out to the side. That way, people see it and don’t stand on it.
5) The big board which shows your train times is always placed so that to see it, you have to be standing still directly in the line where the most people are walking. In other words, it’s designed to make you piss other people off.
6) Always carry a couple of 20 pence and 10 pence coins. You wouldn’t want to deny the government the pleasure of making you pay to empty your excretory system and then push through a metal barrier covered in a day’s worth of people not washing their hands.
7) For the sake of all that is good and proper, when standing still on an escalator, stand on the right. The collapse of Western civilisation begins when you don’t, I promise.
8) If you decide to take the stairs, by law, you must race the people walking on the escalator to the top.
9) The escalator going the opposite way does not exist. Make no eye contact with those upon it. Extreme awkwardness follows otherwise.
10) On approach to the ticket barriers, your life is worth less than their turn to swipe through. Approach from the back of the queue. Any one attempting to break in through the side will be killed. It’s one of those rare instances where peace is truly safeguarded by violence.
11) In the underground, when waiting for a train, listen to the stone-cold, psychopathic, passive-aggressive announcer lady: Let people off the train before you get on. Similar reasoning as number 7).
12) When a train approaches the platform, do not bother trying to align yourself with a door. Inevitably, the door will stop before you or ahead of you. It’s a natural paradigm and a fundamental law of physics.
13) When getting onto a packed Tube train, you must apply the same philosophy as a rat squeezing under the door gap: If you can get your head through, the rest of you will fit.
14) Under no circumstances will you run towards the train doors once they start flashing. Do not underestimate how fast they close. You will hit your head. It will hurt.
15) Londoners will smell your fear. Show none. When making space for yourself on a train as it begins to move away, it is acceptable to stab others who try and take it.
16) When standing awkwardly close to someone whilst on a packed train, to point where it wouldn’t be unreasonable for them to sue you for sexual harrassment, make no eye contact. Make no apologies. They cannot kill you if you do not acknowledge their existence.
17) Do not smile at kids on the Tube. In the eyes of their parents, you have become a paedophile.
18) Not so much for you as for your fellow passengers, hold on to the railings. You will fall when the train moves otherwise, and you will become the proverbial and literal first domino. It’s also the single most embarrassing thing that can happen to you unless you get off at the next stop.
19) When getting off a train at rush hour, start moving immediately with the crowd, even if you don’t know which way you’re going. If you’re going the right way, that’s awesome. If you’re going the wrong way, you’re not going to be able to go the right way until the crowd clears, anyway.
20) Mind the gap.