5 Tips For Tourists To Avoid Death and Injury On London Underground

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London commuters know all too well about the perils of using the tube during rush hour. There is the aggression and searing temperatures they have to deal with on a daily basis, but even if most of them dislike using this method of transport very much, it is something they got accustomed to. Living in a city of such magnitude they have no other choice, and over time all will adapt to the tough world underground.
 
There is no denying however that many tourists have returned home with tales of horror and despair about the tube – scaring a lot of potential visitors in the process. A tourist on its maiden voyage in London can understandably be terrified of using this ingenious yet dangerous system but they do not need to worry as here are some guidelines on surviving the tube and as such avoiding injury or even death.  
                                                                   
Image1. Read, Play With Your Phone, Do Something – Avoid Eye Contact
 
You must pick up a free paper or magazine, which are available in most stations. There are lots of them. In the morning you can get your hands on the Metro, the City Am – though nobody has ever been spotted reading this paper- and there are various magazines distributed during the week: Shortlist, Stylist, ES Magazine, and Time Out, to name only a few. And after 4 pm you can pick up the Evening Standard. 
 
What may well surprise you is the enthusiasm – bordering on aggression – of the staff helping to shift these papers and magazines. If it’s free, why do they then insist so much for you to take one? And why do they barricade your way and shove a newspaper in  your bag, is it just so that they can go home early or have they been given a quota to reach due to the costly advertisement inside? 
It is none of these reasons above actually. Their motive for being there and forcing a paper on to you is with the sole purpose of saving your life. Please bear with us whilst we explain. 
 
You see, as you board the train your vision will be filled with people engrossed in their papers, phones, e-books, and some will pretend to sleep. Nobody will look at each other, people are aware of the dangers when doing so. Aside from leaking earphones and a 55-year old Financial director playing Candy Crush at maximum volume, there will be nothing but an eerie silenece. We would request that you respect this silence, it helps the commuter prepare for his/her day.
 
And you may notice a collective of women juggling with mascara brushes and lipsticks whilst looking intensely into their pocket mirrors. We hope to re-assure you that these public make-up sessions are not a direct result of female commuters requiring an extra 10 minutes in bed. Moreover, if you see commuters discarding their newspapers nonchalantly on the back of the seat, don’t get upset with them. If they could, they would of course take their papers with them to throw these in the nearest bin available. Instead consider that all these occurrences are no coincidence during rush hour. It is all done with the eye on survival.
 
The unfortunate truth is that on London Underground, people must avoid staring at each other at all cost as the person who’s been caught staring may die instantly. As it is, London commuters have been programmed not to look at anyone during rush hour – unless strictly necessary. And as the commuter has the ability to sense when someone is looking at them, your life will be at stake if you attempt to do so. We would therefore ask you to:
 
AVOID EYE CONTACT WHILST TRAVELLING ON THE TUBE IN RUSH HOUR.
 
Should you fail to do so, the commuter will then automatically retaliate by shooting off an invisible, intravenous laser, one that instantly penetrates the left eye – causing all organs to shut down. The laser is active between 7 am and 7 pm, Monday to Friday. Though caution is recommended at all times.
 
We must stress that you do not take any risk as this will result in sudden death. Always ensure that you have something to read or play with. Carrying a fully charged phone is desirable should you not be proficient in reading English. We also recommend you bring a pen along in case you wish to fill in the Sudoku in the Metro. 
 
 
Image2. Stand On The Right Side Of The Escalator
 
Commuters want to get on that tube even if it is packed, and they don’t care if the next one is due in one minute only. London commuters do not like to wait. Luckily and in order not to waste any precious time, along with the lethal eye-laser, commuters are also programmed to storm down escalators at extraordinary speed. Whilst doing so they will show no regard for people, whether they are carrying bags, holding children or are walking on crutches. It is what the commuter has been programmed to do. He or she will be on auto-pilot as soon as they’ve left their properties. 
 
One of the benefits of such hazardous moments on escalators is that you may get to witness someone breaking through the sound barrier by rushing down to the platform at high speed. Statistics have demonstrated that there is a greater possibility of seeing a commuter break through the sound barrier than it is to spot a Humpback Whale in New Zealand.
 
Relish the moment, and feel free to applaud and cheer the commuter on. But please do not attempt to do the same, commuters will sniff out your weakness right away and you may regret your actions.  
 
The only way to keep you and your travel companions safe is to stand on the right-hand side of the escalator.  Failing to do so may have fatal consequences. Please understand that commuters are amicable people in their private lives but during office hours, they morph into soulless machines who bear nothing but contempt for tourists. Please don’t endanger your life by following their example. It is therefore important that you leave the left side of the escalator free for the commuter.
 
Should you nevertheless feel the urge to rush down the escalator yourself, be prepared to get abuse shouted at you. This may scare you and you may lose your balance as a result.  
Recent surveys also indicated that 7 out of 10 commuters would happily push a tourist to the side if they believe they are blocking their way. As you may appreciate, tumbling down a metal escalator will inevitably result in serious injury or death.
 
Please take into consideration that an accident will ruin your and your travel companions’ holiday but most of all it will ruin the commuters day. Because of your careless action, the station may have to be shut down for at least half an hour – whilst they attend your emergency – and naturally, this will inflict a lot of unnecessary distress to the always stressed commuter. Past experience has demonstrated that a combination of impatient, angry commuters and a station closure, lessens the chances to survive London Underground considerably. As such remember, staying right means staying alive. 
 
 
Image3. Protect Yourself From Germs – Use The Tube During Rush Hour
 
London Underground is full of sick people, it’s a dirty place. It is easy to be tempted to use the tube solely outside rush hour but please consider that this may increase your chances of getting sick. 
In an emptier carriage, germs expelled from a sneezing person can hit you in a second and you may end up getting terribly ll. In a hot, packed tube, germs will understandingly brew quicker than in an empty train. That said, the chances for the germ to hit you when you are on a packed tube becomes a lot slimmer. You may come to this conclusion when you’re trying to balance on one leg whilst holding on to an arm you realise is not your friends’ – and your head will probably be twisted in a curious angle whilst trying to avoid eye contact.
 
Also, on a crowded tube, the temperature inside can raise to 50 degrees Celsius, and the carriage will as such convert itself into a natural sauna. Before you know it, you will sweat bullets and any germs which managed to slip through eyeball, nose or pore, will drip out of you in no time. 
 
We would also ask you not to get irritated by someone hogging the pole by leaning their whole body against it. As a tube pole is covered in germs and dirt, holding one increases the risk of getting sick significantly.
Should you get the opportunity, thank the person for being so committed to protect us from diseases. 
 
If you believe you are in real danger of catching someones cold, a final option would be to get close to someone you have identified as having consumed a lot of garlic and alcohol. The success rate of finding such person in London is great. Remember, garlic and alcohol are known to protect against germs. Like you, your chosen commuter will be grasping for air because of the sweltering heat but don’t shy away from holding your face right in front of theirs – you must avoid eye contact at all cost –  and let their breath do the work. This technique should be used sparsely, and only in clear emergencies. A small token of appreciation towards to the commuter would be to thank them for saving your life- but do not look them in the eyes whilst doing so.
 
Finally, you must avoid sitting down on a tube seat at all cost. The materials are swarming with millions of germs. It is therefore recommended that you leave any vacant seat at the disposal of the commuter – who is already infested with these germs and as such needs it more than you do. 
 
 
Image4. Enjoy The Free Buffet & Drinks
 
London is terribly expensive, we all know that. Particularly London transport will set you so much back that you may end up with little money for food and beverages. In fact, you may find that all your money is going towards topping up your Oyster card and you risk dying from hunger on your trip. But don’t despair, help is at hand.
 
I realise that by now you have made up your mind about commuters. In your eyes they are booted and suited barbarians who’ve cashed in their hearts a long time ago but rest assured nothing could be further from the truth.
 
After-hours, commuters become very charitable people and will feed the hungry and needy whenever they can. Therefore, we would strongly suggest that you use the tube In the evening as you will be treated to a splendid free buffet of food and drink. From 10 pm onwards most commuters getting on the tube will be inebriated – this weakens their build-in defense mechanism which is highly recommended in order to avoid fatalaties after working hours – and the alcohol will make them very hungry. 
 
So please, we would kindly ask you not to act surprised if you see many people boarding the tube carrying polystyrene boxes and big paper bags which release a strong smell that can be pretty much brutal underground. The beautiful thing is, these bags and boxes contain culinary delights such as kebabs, KFC and McDonald’s. You will see the commuters chomping away on their food but as ravenous as they are, you can always count on them for leaving something behind for the hungry tourists. Commuters are good samaritans like that. Feel free to grab anything you want, it has been laid out especially for you. We don’t want you to die, and more so, we don’t want the tube to get held up. 
 
If you fancy a drink, look out for the plastic containers and cans but always shake it first as some commuters have been known to drop the remains of chicken wings in there. But – if you are in need for something stronger, make sure you go and sing along with the guy standing in between the seats who tries to do a rendition of ‘Up There Where We Belong’ whilst swigging from a Jägermeister bottle. He will offer you a drink in no time.
 
Once finished with your meal and drinks, please remember to take all your rubbish with you and to dispose of it in the nearest bin. As always, show your gratitude –  in this instance write a little thank you note. 
 
 
Image5. Mind The Gap – MIIIIND THEEE GAAAAAP 
 
For the final tip, you are helping us commuters not to die. There are several stations in London where the gap between the platform and the tube door  is considerably wide – and as such implies a health and safety risk. Several signs will point to this danger. They are painted on the edge of the platform and you can also find them on walls – there is even a ‘Mind The Gap sign made out of mosaic in Victoria station. If you are not pressed for time, you could visit this station to see the artwork for yourself.
 
Recorded messages can also be heard upon boarding or leaving the train but by now London commuters have become immune to these – as such imposing a big danger on themselves. We would therefore ask you to repeat the message out loud as soon as you hear it. In quick succession, and preferably in varying, funny tones for effect. It has been reported that tourists tend to have a preference for baritones and cartoon voices when mimicking the ‘Mind The Gap’ recording. Feel free to be creative.  Yes, you will notice some rolling eyeballs and raised eyebrows but you must remember: by doing this, you will have saved many lives. Without your input most commuters would have fallen through the gap. Please accept that commuters will not thank you for your kindness. 
 
Should you wish to find out for yourself, you can visit the following stations where the Mind the Gap recording can be heard: 
 
  • Bank – Central Line
  • Piccadilly – Bakerloo Line
  • Embankent – Northern Line, northbound
For health and safety purposes we recommend using this phrase when getting off at any station regardless of whether there being a gap or not. Ultimately, the commuter will realise you are doing this with your best intentions. However, please refrain from repeating the warning message on the escalator as this may result in serious injury.
 
 
We wish you a great and happy time in London. Stay safe and remember, you do not need to die whilst using the London underground. 
 
 
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Rude London Or The Big Post Olympic Depression

Just this morning, when I was wondering whether I should write a piece about how my beloved London has become quite rude in recent times, my thinking process got halted abruptly when I heard a loud thumping on the tube window. It was so loud, the noise went right through the rubber of my earphones and it silenced the great Johnny Cash.

We were at Bank station and some guy, wanting to get on the packed tube, thought it was the right approach to get into the carriage, by knocking like a lunatic on the windows. His eyes nearly popped out of his red face. He then exposed his teeth and exploded in front of the glass:

‘You f*cking C**ts,’ he shouted. ‘For f*cks sake, move, you f*ckers!’

Literally, his exquisite choice of words. He was a man in pinstripes and looked like a thousand other professionals working around Bank. So, he wasn’t your typical ‘chav’, dressed in the latest market edition of Burberry.

This man’s rude manner summed up my thinking of late: London has become rude. It all seemed to have changed so rapidly as well.

Of course, I am not claiming that London was once made out of the same cloth as the Disney town Celebration (FL) which is the idealised version of small town America. And, it wasn’t exactly like people would release 100 peace doves to then burst into happy chanting upon greeting each other at the pub. London, being the robust place it is, has always had a bit of an edge to it and is definitely a city you don’t mess with. That said, since I have arrived here nearly 15 years ago, things have taken a turn for the worse.

London, was, not so long ago, a cool and pleasant city where people minded their own business and were respecting more or less to the unwritten rules you somehow discover when settling here. These are the transport rules; let people off before boarding, to name just one. The society rules: don’t stop at the entrance/exit of shops or any point of interests, do not jump any queues and move about in robot-fashion but have the charm on standby when it is required to switch it on. Also, you never stare.

Now, it appears that some of us living here, have transformed themselves into self-centered individuals who will stand wherever we want if it serves us better, we don’t mind pushing someone to the side to get that last vacant seat, we have become queue jumpers or will give you lip when you bump into them by accident. And more than ever people stare and even if I do that little twirl of the head and glance backwards as if to say: ‘surely you can’t be looking at ME?’ they keep staring. It feels like London has gotten eyes. And teeth.

There are so many instances of boorish behaviour I can recall since the euphoria of the Olympics last summer. I don’t know why I consider the post Olympics time to be the ground zero of this current brutish wave. But everything has a starting point and for me, it looks like it all kicked off after the best time in London ever.

Still, it shouldn’t be the case that, post euphoria. we have to act so rudely. It is a real shame that such great city has become that miserable.

What is it exactly, that causes London to have become so angry and act upon the cliché that this city is rude, as observed by the rest of the world long before London was actually rude for real?

I wonder if this is due to the recession; people being laid off, jobs are now much harder to get and the cost of city life appears to be increasing with every hour passing. Then again, there could be many other factors at hand, I think.

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Could one of the reasons be the current trend of Internet Trolling; the contemporary pass-time of being nasty to strangers whilst hiding, sad and lonely behind a screen? Is this form of bullying now flowing over in real life – no longer content these trolls are with destroying one’s person day by posting cruel comments on one’s Twitter, they now feel tempted to ruin people’s day in real life? And talking about online activities; maybe some of us believe we have become mini-celebrities because we’ve after all got 500 followers and 2300 friends on Facebook? Which makes us Madonna right?

Or is it because the drugs have changed in recent years? I can see things around me when I’m out, the vibe in some places has changed. As where Ecstasy would make everyone love each other and scream out things like: ‘I want to personally thank your mum and dad for making love in the seventies as otherwise I wouldn’t be talking to you, you totally amazing stranger ‘, the drugs now available on the market, such as horse-tranquilizers, plant food and paint stripper causes them to act like Urban Barbarians.

Maybe it is simply due to the fact that London is bursting at its seams; with so many more people having entered this city in recent years hoping to exploit the gold rush but what they usually find is bits of tin foil – flown away from a stray kebab wrapping. But who knows, it may just be a Post Olympics Depression we all suffer. A bit like we’ve spent the night with the best lover ever who promised us sunshine days and croissants in bed but then left first thing in the morning, never to be seen again. No wonder we all got a bit miserable.

Yet more reasons spring to mind as I also think that the incessant flow of cold callers/texters wanting to flock you insurance, a credit card or kitchen, are driving us even further up the wall of discontentment. Talking about that phone, I am also sure that all of us being so engrossed in our mobile of late, has made us more introvert than before and as such, we may not interact with people so well as we used to be able to.

Oh of course, I am just guessing here but what I know (and others I’ve consulted) is, that London has changed. It just seems less friendly than it was but having gone through all of the reasons I could think of, I am wondering whether this city has transformed into a grump because of a mixture of all things suggested?

But who knows, it might just be all due to the bad weather we had in the last year. And goodness me, does the weather effect people’s mood here or what!

It would be amazing though if we could go back to the wonderful days of the Olympics or even the times before, where we used to all dance around a camp fire on the grounds of the Tower of London and make each other necklaces out of daisies. Okay, this picture is far-fetched but I miss the ‘old’ days, where we all seem to just flow past without so much aggression, more smiles and definitely less staring, fuming eyes. I love London very much and at present, I love it like a mother would love a very naughty child. You will never give up the love but you will get exasperated at times. Disappointed even.

I am however sure that London is not the only place where the level of rudeness has increased in recent months, years. But the good thing about this city is still that it’s a bloody amazing place, with so much to do and once you get past the sour faces and the pushing and shoving, you’ll have an absolute great time.

The vicious man in the pinstripes’ suit, I saw this morning, I wonder whether at some moment today, he slapped his head and said: ‘god, I just acted like a proper idiot, earlier on’.

But I am afraid that he still thinks it is absolutely acceptable to call people the worst names under the sun, just because he wanted to board the train. Unfortunately, it seems others thought so too as nobody batted an eyelid. Though, that could just be a London thing. We don’t care, we used to not stare ( even if there is more staring going on, we won’t do so if someone acts like a total twit). As, deep inside, we are still these robust London robots – but with a Colgate smile and cute dimples when the situation applies itself to it.

Go on London, smile. We’re on camera!