Breath Is In, Breath Is Out
Does anyone remember Blackfriars Station? Even for the most ardent commuter it must be little more than a dull, sensory memory, rekindled by a smell or the announcement of its continuing closure. We inch past it as the District Line trundles eastbound. Delays on the way into work today (faulty Jubilee Line train near Canning Town) and on the way home (signal failure at West Ham). I had left early in the hope of getting a hair cut. That is looking unlikely. The frustration and resentment have nowhere to go. We just get angrier and angrier as we inch onwards, as the platform fills up.
Delays on the Tube share a lot with late buses, less so with delayed trains. With a train, you have a reservation, and you sit there, abject, glum, but aware that your train is still your train. With the Tube, more and more people arrive, and the platform is ever more full. People eye each other, suspiciously. Eventually, there such little available space that people begin to bump into other people like a smoke or a fog that is thickening. And the train arrives from wherever, going wherever, and it is, fundamentally, already full. The room on this delayed train is at a premium – who will triumph in finding a place? And, even more fundamentally, is it worth it? There will be another train along shortly, also delayed, but with less people. You are, at the basic level, already late.
Should you ‘seek alternate routes’? I remain convinced this is a placatory ruse. I sit, I read, I might pop up to street level for a pint, and then come back when, like a bad hangover easing, the trains have somewhat sorted themselves out. You can breathe, eat, concentrate again: you aren’t going to pass out at your desk. The trains are nicely stacked, two minutes apart. The anger can subside, if you let it. But of course, this doesn’t take into account the frantic paper flipper beside you, or the idiot with the Apple own brand headphones turned up to maximum. These things remain human and ubiqitous, inescapable, death and taxes. There it is, in mono and too loud, the bored voice of your unrepentant driver. Mind the closing doors.