The 09:59 to Waterloo

(A slightly updated version of the list at the bottom of this rant appears at The Rules of Moving Around London)

The 0959 from Lewisham to Waterloo and Charing Cross seems to attract more weird people than other trains

I don’t mean the usual assortment of nutters and loonies you’d see on the Circle Line, these folk are superficially normal. Staid and conservative even.

I got to Waterloo East as normal , and lots of people got off the train, very much as they would have if this had been the 0955 that I had just missed by a few minutes or the 1002.

Maybe I should say that the 0959 is a sort of protected train, as there is another one closely on each side of it. So I rarely catch it. I had got to the station a few minutes earlier I’d have been on the 0955. If I’d got there a few minutes later – or even if I hadn’t but my knees had been feeling bad – I’d have got the 1002 which goes from the more convenient Platform 3 instead of the inaccessible Platform 1.

Anyway the people got off and suddenly it was difficult to walk in the crowd. Everyone was getting in each others way. I realised that these people DON’T KNOW HOW TO MOVE IN LONDON.

Maybe its because the train doesn’t stop at London Bridge and so most of the real commuters miss it and its full of grannies and mothers with kids and luggage on a stick. Maybe it comes from somewhere particularly yokelish out in Sheppey. But whatever the reason, they bumbled around getting in my way and in each others way. They walked two or even three abreast along the narrow corridors and ramps.
When they passed the gang of ticket inspectors who hang around on the corner where the ramps from the Waterloo East platforms reach the bridge to the main part of the station they STOPPED WALKING as they showed them their tickets! Can you believe it? And worst of all Some of them even stood on the left on the escalator!!!!

Let me tall you the truth about commuting. You have a a DUTY to your fellow human beings when you are walking in a big commuter crowd in a place where acts of public transport are committed. It is to get out of the way of the people behind you as quickly as possible . And that usually involves getting to wherever you are going as quickly as possible. So the right thing to so is to move as fast as is compatible with health and safety. To move opportunistically, to fill gaps, to pass slower people,, and to keep on going past the bloke in the expensive coat bellowing at his staff down the phone, and to keep on going past the busker even if the music is good, and to keep on going past the clinic advertising well-person herbal stress check-up massages before work, and to keep on going past the clump of trainspotters on the end of Platform Four, and to keep on going past the drunk Scotswoman yelling incoherently at her rough-sleeping boyfriend who is paying attention to his little frog-mouthed dog and pretending not to notice, and to keep on going past the film crew making a particularly violent episode of The Bill (unless of course they are real police making home videos of themselves stalking Brazilians), and to keep on going past the grumpy women in high heels going on and on into their mobiles about how they hate London and hate public transport , and to keep on going past the idiot pretending to play a broken saxophone, and to keep on going past the idiot who just threatened you for walking on the wrong side of the corridor, and to keep on going past the information desk with the bored but very attractive young woman sitting at it trying to trick you into talking to her with some inane question, and to keep on going past the lift that doesn’t actually go anywhere interesting so there is no point in waiting for it, and to keep on going past the lost grannies, and to keep on going past the loudmouthed football fans, and to keep on going past the miniskirted French fifteen-year-olds on their first visit to London smoking cigarettes and trying to look very grown-up, and to keep on going past the piles of free Antipodean newspapers, and to keep on going past the rats gambolling in the suicide pit, and to keep on going past the staff, and to keep on going past the strangely fey young people trying to sell you plastic tubs of pink yoghurt with porridge, and to keep on going past the ticket collectors in their mock-police uniforms, and to keep on going past the vaguely familiar model or filmstar or minor TV actress that the other blokes are pretending not to stare at, and to keep on going past the vicious old Yorkshiremen in cloth caps who like in wait for unsuspecting travellers they can pounce on you from the shadows and drag you down to the nethermost slaughter-pits of Basildon, and generally to keep on going, and heaving kept on going, to go.

This is not selfishness, that is being public spirited. It gets you out of the way. It gets you out of MY way for a start.

There are RULES about this. Let me share a few with you. And we don’t wan to hear any more of this “nobody told me the rules before I came to London…” Big Boy’s games – Big Boy’s Rules. (*) These are the rules. You HAVE been warned!

  • Be nice to bus and train drivers. It gets you where you are going quicker. And the driver DOES have a direct radio link to the police. And these days they come armed. You have been warned.
  • Buy your ticket or pass before you get on the bus or train. Don’t offer the driver money. That’s so twentieth century.
  • Do not argue with the driver. Even if you are in the right. You really do not want the karmic burden that is being laid upon you by the eight-seven angry commuters who want to get a move on.
  • Do not bang on the door of a bus trying to get in. The driver will think you are a looney.
  • Do not stand in the folding doorway of a bus pathetically groping around inside your clothing in the hope that you have mysteriously grown a season ticket. Get off, let the bus go. There will be another one. You might even find your ticket once you don’t have the stress of fending off delay-maddened passengers
  • Don’t try to talk. Everyone will think you are mad.
  • Drop your newspaper on the seat when you get off the train. This is NOT littering.
  • Drop not your paper cup on the seat when you get off the train. That IS littering.
  • Hold very tight please! And I mean the handrail, not the woman in front of you.
  • If you ask people which train to get from Embankment to Charing Cross you deserve to get laughed at.
  • It is always open season for hunters of luggage on a stick
  • Let passengers off the bus or train before you try to get on. If you don’t we probably won’t kill you – but I have seen a busdriver refuse to move until someone who pushed on got off the bus.
  • Mind the Gap!
  • Move to the back of the train
  • No eye-contact
  • Read your *own* book
  • Stand clear of the doors please!
  • Stand on the Right, Walk in the Left
  • The back seats on the ground floor of a double-decker bus are to hot for human beings
  • The sign that says “walk on the left” does NOT mean that you don’t go on your right if it is quicker or safer to go on the right. Its a corridor, not the bloody motorway. You have a duty to get where you are going for the sake of the other two million people using the system and if walking on the right makes it quicker, do it
  • The sign that says “walk on the left” does NOT mean that you religiously stick to the left if someone is running the other way on their right, playing a sort of commuter chicken. Get out of their way.
  • The sign that says babies must be carried and not left in their pushchair does NOT mean that you stop the buggy right at the top of the escalator and spend a minute and a half trying to persuade the little one to get out and walk (**)
  • There are nice maps on every bus stop and station that show you exactly how to get where you are going. Use them.
  • When the machine at the barrier rejects your ticket or pass you do NOT stand there like a drunken Dover sole in a warm puddle wondering what to do. You do NOT try it again and again. You get out of the way as quickly as possible and sort it out with the nice person at the big gate where they let the luggage through.
  • When you get off the bus look both ways as if you were stepping of a kerb into a road. Because that is what you are doing. And yes, much as I love cyclists, and much as I know that most cyclists are far safer road-users than most car-drivers, I have seen one or two suicidal idiots try to ride between a bus and the kerb. Just. Don’t. Do. That.
  • Yes, you do get up off your seat for someone who is pregnant, aged, carrying small children, or visibly more crippled than you are. Even in London. Even on a delayed Northern Line train creakingly approaching Bank from London Bridge at 0850 on a wet Monday in a recession. Yes, this means YOU!
  • On the other hand the sign telling you to stand on the right walk on the left of the escalator DOES mean stand on the right, Not on the left. Like everyone else does. It only takes one bad apple to spoil the pie and if you stand on the left – or even sort of lean a little over to the left – then YOU ARE THAT BAD APPLE. There is a special place in the FOURTH CIRCLE OF HELL being prepared for those who stand on the left on the escalator and I can tell you that those escalators go a LONG WAY DOWN

(*) That works better in a Gene Hunt accent.

(**) And frankly, I think having a kid strapped in to a pushchair on the escalator is a damn sight safer than trying to go on it with child in one arm, folded buggy in another hand, and all your luggage in your third hand while holding on the rail with a fourth hand. That needs two more hands than most passengers have. I have yet to see Kali dragging her sprogs through the tube system. Of course there are some parts of the lower levels of Victoria that she would do best to avoid.

5 thoughts on “The 09:59 to Waterloo

  1. Brilliant stuff that should be printed up on big posters with the TfL logo and placed around transport and stations. Except we wouldn’t want anyone to think Boris came up with them.

  2. Ah! The joys of commuting in London’s rush hour….

    And if the ticket machine flashes up “Child Ticket” and won’t let you through, it’s probably because it recognises that at least 15 years have passed since you were legally a child. Don’t try putting the card through again because you are now a few seconds even further away from your childhood, not nearer. Everyone behind you saw that you have the wrong kind of ticket. Go and see the wo/man at the gate!

    And if you are in a crowded carriage, don’t feel, young man, that this is a good opportunity to get some kicks by leaning inappropriately on the woman next to you. Lean on your own breakfast.

    And if you haven’t bought a ticket, don’t push me roughly through the gates to ensure you get through at the same time and avoid having to buy one. I can barely afford my own, let alone subsidise non-paying passengers.

    And…. I have even walked with people from Charing X to Embankment to demonstrate that I am right when I say it is not worth getting the Tube; it’s only a minute’s walk away – and they haven’t believed me.

  3. Thanks for that – best laugh I’ve had for ages because all of it is TRUE!! It also reminds me why I’m so pleased not to be a commuter any more!

    In the not too distant past when some buses still had conductors, it was amusing to watch the out-of-town strangers try to pay the conductor as they got on the bus, while holding up everyone behind them. They would look totally bemused when waved on by the conductor (to the relief of those still trying to get on the bus) and then even more bemused when said conductor approached them in their seat a few seconds later to collect their fare!

  4. I will admit, I do religiously walk on the left when the sign says so. But I’m also usually wearing a fluor orange jacket and carrying heavy equipemt that will hurt you* more than anything you’re* carrying will hurt me. It says “walk on the left” and if the stand-on-the-right sign on the escalator has to be obeyed so should the walk-on-the-left sign.

    * – by you I don’t mean you personally, just those that walk on the right when it says – WALK ON THE LEFT… I mean, which parts of LEFT don’t you get??

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