Saturday, 23 February 2008
What is it with some people?
I was on the tube recently when the train I was on started to develop a problem. There were already severe delays, so the carriage was absolutely stuffed to the gills. A group of elderly people got on at Covent Garden, fresh from an Alan Ayckbourn matinee, heading back out to their suburban bolt-hole, somewhere beyond even Cockfosters. One of the ladies in the group had a panic-stricken look about her as she clutched on to one of the poles. Mercifully for her, a kindly person, noticing the state she was in, stood up and offered her his seat. She accepted with some haste and gritted her teeth as the train continued its tortuous way north.
As we pulled out of Holborn, the train stuttered several times in the way it does when someone is leaning on the doors, making that loud electrical bang each time it did so. This only served to deepen the poor woman's panic even further, and I began to fear that she would either faint or freak out. Ludicrously, given the sardine conditions, the driver tetchily told everyone off for leaning against the doors. We really had no choice, and he must have known that. Behind me, another man had recently boarded and he tutted and sighed every time the bang went off and the train shuddered to a standstill, becoming increasingly agitated.
At last, we came into Russell Square - a station where relatively few people alight, but where, due to the delays, a large crowd was waiting on the platform - and almost no further passengers could squeeze in. I thanked my lucky stars that I had secured a safe, if squashed, berth and waited for the train to move off. One more stop and all would be well. The door alarms sounded and the doors closed. But the train did not move. Again they opened. Exasperated man muttered "Jesus!" under his breath and frightened lady clutched her knees whilst looking skyward. Beep beep beep. Doors close. No movement. Doors open. Man sighs and tuts. Beep beep beep. Doors close. No movement. Driver warns passengers not to lean against doors. Doors open. Man says "God!" and tuts again. And so on.
Finally, the driver tells us that the train has developed a fault with its doors and will need to be taken out of service. The man becomes almost incandescent, picks up his bag and forces his way off the train onto the packed platform. I followed close behind and, realising the futility of waiting for another train, decide to fight my way to the exit, into the rain and onto the buses. In the lift, three young women on a shopping trip were discussing their options.
"I was forced to go on a bus once," said one.
"Was it hellish?" I asked ironically. A balding man who was standing by the door laughed at my little quip and I immediately felt guilty.