Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Notes from the Underground

Old-timey looking sign that is probably actually old-timey
When we lived in Washington, I considered the Metro a necessary evil, with a somewhat greater emphasis on the latter part of that sentiment.  Oh, I felt fortunate to be able to get from home to work and back without getting in a car.  And Metro is convenient so long as you don't want to get to Georgetown, Adams Morgan, or anywhere near the National Cathedral (who ever goes to those places, though, right?).  And so long as you have 20 minutes to wait for a train.

But it's so clean, the DC tourist says.  Metro has all the cleanliness of a shag carpet-covered toilet seat.  Sure, the stench of steaming urine doesn't pervade the stations quite like in New York, but carpet?  Really?  On a train?  Genius.  Give me the New York subway's hard surfaces any day.  A vat of disinfectant and a fire hose: clean car.  But I digress.

This post is probably long overdue given how iconic the Underground is.  It's the oldest subway in the world (1863), and the second-longest by track length.  More importantly for the purposes of this post, I ride it every day.

Two blocks from our flat

This is our station: Clapham North.  Clapham North lies on the Northern Line, six stops from London Bridge station, near my office.

Clapham North is a particularly pleasant subway station.  All of the people working there (yes, Metro riders, more than one person works at the station, and they don't sit in that box all day) are really nice, they have classical or opera playing at all hours, and there's wisdom on offer via the "thought of the day" dry-erase board.

Not actually taken at Clapham North, but it looks the same

Waiting for a train on the platform is usually only a brief experience.  In the morning, trains arrive every 60 seconds or so.  Unfortunately, the Northern Line is a "deep tube" line, and in consequence of its depth, the cars are designed to carry hobbits, and very few of them at that.

Pictures don't do justice...

Here are some shots from my morning commute.  In such tight quarters, hazards include pickpockets, fake-tanned women pressed against your jacket, and getting your whiskers caught in the gabardine suit of the man your face is smashed into.  If the pictures don't paint the picture well enough, there's this: the Northern Line alone carries almost 207 million people per year; the entire DC Metro system carries just over 215 million.

...to the lack of space...
...and potential for uncomfortable rubbing up-againsts.

The Northern Line can be a bit confusing.  Going north, there are three destinations your train can reach (Edgware, High Barnet, and Mill Hill East), but that really only matters if you are going to north London.  The confusing part is that there are two different ways you can get to those three destinations (via Bank or via Charing Cross), and the two different ways take you through very different parts of the city. 

Hey, that's me in the reflection!

Other than the cramped quarters and potential to get very lost, riding the Tube on a daily basis is not a bad experience.  People are generally considerate, which I attribute less to the courteous nature of Londoners than to the stylish design of the posters telling riders how to behave.  (Really, Transport for London do have some lovely things for the home if you can't get enough of subway chic.)

People not tempted by the siren song of subway food
Here's another difference between the DC Metro and the Tube: you can eat and drink in the Tube.  In fact, they sell food and drink in some of the stations.  For years, I made lukewarm efforts to conceal my coffee, lunch, whole roast chicken, or whatever on the Metro, and now I don't have to.  The odd thing is this: you rarely will see someone eating or drinking on the Tube.  Maybe it's true that we only want what we can't have.
In the words of a dear departed Deacon, "you say so."
Before we moved here, some of our British friends in London warned us about the Northern Line, which is one of two lines that run to London Bridge station (the other is the Jubilee).  They said that it was regularly broken down.  Far be it from me to disagree after only living here for a few months, so I'll just say that I've been lucky so far.  Then again, even when there are delays, the signs seem to always proclaim that the line is running "good service."

After my day at work ends, it's off to this place.  There's a Krispy Kreme stand here that I never go to (they have some interesting-looking flavors...but I can get a heart attack for less than £1.50, thank you very much).  There's also an old man who hands out copies of the Evening Standard, saying, "thanks!" with each paper he hands out.

My iPhone had been at the pub before taking this photo
And down this chute.

And a safe trip back home to Clapham.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...