Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Danger Underground

It will take death by asphyxiation or dydration before they decide something is worth doing. Even then the process will involve recriminations and the obligatory enquiry held back from the public. And to be honest the acturists holed up in a public relations war room will fob off any calamity. Was it a minister? A judge? A senior UK figure? Celebrity? What price human lives away from any combat zone.

So we waited, and waited. That stale putrid recyclable air making me more nauseous as the minutes became clusters of five, ten, twenty, an hour...

Straddled between Kennigton and Oval on the Northern Line our carriage whirled deafeningly at a standstill. We Brits (odd, how would I know) can be a stoic bunch. No agitation, no unrest, a flapping of papers as the free tabloids were combed through for the umpteenth time - that's it.

Any news that was forthcoming was eviscerated through a decrepit comms way fighting to be heard above the recyclable air din. Brits don't do public information well. Presumably, that rests with the discretion of the train's driver. So finally after 40 minutes a figure came bounding through our carriage.

" Sorry, the train in front of us is broken down. I don't know how long it's going to take. I have no idea when we're going to move". If you stared hard enough wincing you'd swear this was said said with a pinch of alacrity. Probably his three scores and something hold up this year. I'm being unfair. But when you've unwanted time on your hands, going no where, having reread David Beckam's success at Real Madrid and columnist Gary Bushell standing for Mayor, your mind begins to race filling its wake with all sorts.

The man to my right, a young looking Amitav Bachan in Burning Train is besuited and calm. The man in front of me whose gaping akimbo legs intrude on the space of the next passenger shifts ocassionally. The woman to his right is flying through her crossword. That's a lot of crosswords; she's pulled out what appears to be a book resplendent with checkered black and white squares waiting to be defaced. The man seated next to me swears once underneath his breath once and that was that.

A group of people gesture to the driver, twirling their fingers and pointing to the tannoy: "we can't hear you". "Uh" was his reply. You can bet tomorrow he'll soldier on pillow talking into the system. I'm just the train driver guv.

But then we did start to move. That tannoy message woman who announces in that courteous voice as if she wears pearls to bed says the train will start to move then stop suddenly. Hold the **** onto something. No she didn't say **** .

The crossword woman looks up catching my eyes and opposite passenger and smiles one of those knowing smiles like its all over. Not quite.

More waiting, more juddering. By now I'm parched. I can see a bottle of water in Crossword woman's bag, but I daren't ask. Civility reigns. This must happen a lot because no one's kicking up a fuss; it's been an hour so far enough time to make the aquaintance of the person next to you, share in what you have in common that moment - angst.

Not a bit of it, at least in our carriage. Finally, finally we're moving at speed. It is 7.40, 8.10 I can't remember now. My brain's turned to mush.

When the doors fly open at oval attracting a sudden gush of wind the relief etched on faces is visible. Fire fighters and police bound on speaking, fighting the whirl again. I still can't hear you and neither can all the passengers to my left who've all lurched forward.

"Been a fire in one of the trains three down. Sorry we've had to evacuate...." I caught that much from him. They're handing out bottles of water. I take a sip. Now bottles are dancing through the air, being hurled across space. I still have 30 mins of my journey to go so I dare not down the lot - no bathrooms!

Another besuited man who placed his bag on the grimey floor before seating down is off. His enquiring about alternative routes. Mostly everyone stays put. Lighting... twice... Nah!

As we whizz by one stop after another commuters united by their experience clutching the day's branded object which might have said: "I'm a commuter get me out a here" ( it's a British programme) peel off.

My stop next. The man to my right has caught up with a friend, boyfriend, in the same carriage as we funnel up the escalator. I'm not home yet. Another 40 minutes. Yep mines an hour an half to two hour journey to work. Small beer compared to others I know.

Another day, another scene which you could quite easily dismiss on reflection; far more calamitous things going on you see. You get stuck in the tube for an hour and you're whinging. Get a grip!

Today I'll take the same route. The government has announed new train stock but it won't appear for at least another 5, 7, 10 years. If Wembley Stadium's anything to go by, 20 years. Minister dont take the tube or at least haven't been beached ( now there's an oxymoron) in one, so ma nana ma nana. When it gets done, it gets down. Those poor wretched commuters.

So I guess statistically speaking they'll be some injury of sort. The Mayor of London organised a competition to see how they could make the tube's cool. Apparently the entries were all rubbish. So we're left to traverse the Danger Underground.

Oh c'mon. It can't be that bad.

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