I have to say, the public transportation system is one of my favorite things about London. Is that strange? I love that each tube stop is different, from the colorful mosaic tiles in the Tottenham Court Road station to the thousands of tiny Sherlocks in the Baker Street station to the sleek grey simplicity of the Westminster station. I love that you can find the stylish business types sitting next to the goths, or the hipsters, or the ever-present tourists. I don't always love them individually, but collectively they really are fascinating; they remind me that no matter who you are–rich, poor, whatever–you still need to get around somehow. And the overwhelming number of people who choose the tube to get from point A to point B makes the ride interesting.
Of course, when you have that many people coming together, there are bound to be tiffs. Take today, for example, when Ari and I were coming home from Southampton, and at the very last leg of our hourandahalf journey back to London, a disturbance threw a wrench in the typically eventless tube ride. We were technically in the London overground, not the underground, but it's pretty much the same thing. Anyway, allow me to relate the experience:
Our train was at a routine stop, and a large crowd was still trying to get in when the doors started closing. Enter The Jerk. The Jerk was a tall man in a business suit, with a scarf wrapped tightly around his neck. He was probably around 6'3", with pale skin, almost-black hair, high cheekbones, and a sardonic smile. He entered the train, narrowly missing the closing doors, and yelled at the Tired Train Operator to not close the doors so quickly, as there was still a number of people coming on board. Tired Train Operator was a black man, medium build, probably 5'10", his hair braided into cornrows. He looked worn out. After The Jerk yelled at him, the two men had some sort of heated verbal exchange that I only heard bits of. It ended with The Jerk accusing TTO of abusive behavior and TTO demanding that TJ leave the train so they could sort the problem out so the train could proceed on its journey. They were at a standstill: TJ refusing to get off the train, and TTO refusing to start the train until he did. Enter Level-Headed Man. I didn't get a good look at LHM, but I remember that he was also in a business suit and had a neatly-trimmed beard. He started talking to TJ, calmly saying that everyone was tired and anxious after a long day's work, and that everyone should let the matter drop so the train could move on its way. The standstill continued for a while, as TJ continued to argue with TTO, and TTO stubbornly but calmly waiting for the man to get off the train. LHM finally got out of the train and spoke to TTO, and I heard nothing of their exchange. By this time, the other passengers onboard started to murmur and a few called out to TJ to get off the train already. Enter Autistic Child, who was in the train and starting to get angry with his mother, nervously and anxiously proclaiming that they should NOT have taken the tube. AC's mother called out to the men, saying that she had an autistic child who didn't handle waiting very well. He was getting really upset, and everyone around TJ started to urge him off the train, and he finally stepped off, spoke with TTO for a brief moment, got back on the train, and in less than a minute, the doors closed and the train squealed as it picked up speed, and we moved away from the platform. No one in our car said a word, and silence hung awkwardly, heavily, and oppressively in the air, until the next stop, when Ari and I exited the train, wide-eyed and relieved.