London Underground An entertaining journey

23 October 2008

As any user of the London Underground can attest, the tube and ‘entertainment’ sound oxymoronic. A tube ride is rarely stress-free or enjoyable. The experience usually makes you grumpier not happier. Therefore the ‘entertainment’ I received today on my journey was a mixture of something disturbing, cringeworthy, and oddly endearing (in its own particular way).

It is common knowledge that only nutters, muggers and drunkards talk to strangers on the tube. The only exceptions: to check you are on the correct train ("Does this train go to Victoria / Marble Arch / Mornington Crescent etc.") or to ask someone to pass you a newspaper ("Could you pass me that Metro / London Paper / London Lite? Cheers."), but otherwise, you are told to give up your mobile phones or end up in hell unless you believe in their deity.

So when someone talks to you, and that someone being the tube driver using the PA system, you don’t have much choice but it feels equally odd and somewhat out-of-place. The following is not the exact transcript but the gist of it.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, this train is for Edgware Road. I respectfully ask you not to forget your luggage, litter and loved ones, and, oh, laptops. Don’t forget those. This train has been cleaned in Wimbledon so there should be no newspaper on the train. Please take your paper and recycle it. Recycling is good. Yes, please recycle.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we are now approaching Earl’s Court. Here is a bit of history for you. It was on 14 October 1911 that the first escalator was introduced in the London Underground, and it was at Earl’s Court connecting platform to the Piccadilly Line, and the people of the day were scared of these newfangled things. They were made of wood and moved, you see. These newfangled things moved and steps moved and then disappeared. Imagine that! Steps disappearing. OK, we are almost there, don’t forget to take your valuables and personal belongings and change here for other District Line destinations and the Piccadilly Line.

Oh, and smile. See, smiling is infectious. Come on smile! Look around, smile, make your day happier!

The tube driver was certainly cheerful. I suppose he wasn’t out trying to mug passengers, and he wasn’t drunk either (well, I’d hope so). Perhaps he was a nutter, in a friendly but slightly annoying way.