The Fun of the Commute

(This is a re-post of the second post that I wrote, and one of the main reasons I started blogging!)

If all the world’s a stage, then London public transport is scriptwriter’s paradise. And absolute bliss for a new blogger like me.

From overhearing an animated conversation among a group of priests – yes, as you guessed, they were talking at length and with passion about “Alice in Wonderland in 3D” – to watching a group of overweight, under-talented and slightly less than sober commuters pole dance on the Jubilee line, I’ve observed enough dramas, soap operas, musicals and scary movies on the tubes, trains and buses, to write a library-full of books. And I’m still watching.

A while back I was sat on the tube, waiting to go home at the end of a busy work day (yes, I did have a job then!), when the crowded carriage of Friday commuters was interrupted by the arrival of a young, fresh-faced woman, who ran on the tube in a fashion reminiscent of Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music”.

She literally ran into the tube, her face filled with awe and wonder and amazement; she ran this way, she ran that way, she looked up, she looked down, and then, when all foreign eyes were upon her (local commuters generally don’t look up), she slinked over to the end of the carriage and stood at the window, facing the next compartment.

She opened the window, put her iPod earphones in place, and began to sing at full volume. I thought she was serenading a friend in the next door carriage, but it seemed she was singing for whoever would listen. Occasionally she sounded like someone singing through headphones, at other times like someone auditioning for a reality TV show, but mostly she was singing for the amusement of the commuters in both carriages.

The tube stopped at the next station, and who should walk into our carriage but a busker! Complete with guitar, and skirt made from a Union Jack flag … which wouldn’t be so bad if the busker were female. However, he introduced himself and said he wanted to entertain the evening commuters, asking for 10p per song, and promising he wouldn’t use the money for drink or drugs,
“Although,” he added, “it is Friday, so who knows?”

As he began to sing “Satisfaction”, a song he told us he wrote with Mick Jagger, the giggles of my fellow commuters could no longer be stifled. One person asked where the cameras were, and if the guitarist and “Julie Andrews” were taking the mick. Our in-carriage drama queen said,
“Oh, no. He’s a professional singer. I’m just annoying.”
No kidding?

The busker sang a few songs, walked down the carriage and, while he attracted very little funding to feed his habit, he did attract much mobile phone video attention. He walked down the carriage, singing enthusiastically and occasionally in tune. Miss Sound of Music watched in melodramatic anticipation of his next song, as he jumped off the tube at the next stop.

As the tube moved on, Miss Musical discovered, to her hair-grabbing horror, that she was travelling in the “wrong direction”. Thinking and agonizing out loud, she walked this way and that as she decided what to do about this increasingly tragic situation. After many dramatic utterances of  “OMG!” she alighted at the next tube station, amid flutters of giggles and chatter on the tube, and cynical echoes of her words. It was the first time I saw unity among commuters, albeit at the expense of a would-be dramatic actress and a drug-fuelled singer/songwriter.

And then there was the time I was waiting for my tube at my local station, when I noticed a fairly mousy, innocuous-looking middle-aged woman a little way down the platform from me. When the crammed tube arrived, the doors opened in front of her, and there was not one centimetre to spare; there was literally no way she could possibly consider climbing into that tube. Not even a hardened London commuter would have braved it.

But she was different. She launched herself headfirst on to the tube, only – after some jostling by the heaving mass of in-train commuters – to be spat out on to the platform like a mango pip. Undeterred, she gathered herself on the platform, turned around and forced her way backwards into the tube. She leant back at an acute angle to ensure the doors wouldn’t close on her, and off she went, leaving commuters on the platform open-mouthed, amazed and perplexed at her dogged and surprising determination.

Another time, I noticed on my crowded tube that one of the commuters was travelling on a different tube from everyone else. His tube was much bouncier than the one the rest of us were travelling on, and every so often his went over a particularly bumpy patch. No-one around him noticed, especially not the city suit next to him, who was moving and swaying to the rhythm of his personal entertainment centre, nor the chap nearby launching battle in a deadly game of snooker on his mobile phone.

It’s all there, folks – and I’ll keep telling you about it!

Sunshine signing off for today!

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40 thoughts on “The Fun of the Commute

  1. The tube is a lot like the New York subway. There used to be a guy who had little lights, presumably connected to a battery pack, strung through his hair who would get on the train, announce he was from another planet, and play saxophone — badly — and pass the hat for donations to make him stop. Yesterday, as two young women passed me on the train platform, I overheard one say to the other, “Like, turtle, fox — they’re two different things. They wouldn’t be going to school together. I hate it!” Hmmm ….

    1. That’s hilarious, jevcat! If he plays badly enough, I’m sure he gets plenty of donations to make him stop. I wonder what on earth those two women were talking about? It’s so funny overhearing those random snatches of conversation.

  2. How fun Sunshine. I hope you have that book started about life in London. One tube ride at a time could provide a chapter’s worth of characters. Fun post.

  3. I hadn’t read this one from before, Sunshine, and I found it fascinating! Being a people-watcher myself, I’m always amazed at the variety of personalities out there. You’ve captured a wonderful slice of London life. Thanks for bringing us along for the ride!

    1. Thanks, Debbie. I wrote this back in the day, when I had about two readers! Now I have about a dozen! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the post and can relate to my passion for people-watching.

  4. You know I love a good subway story, Sunshine! No matter in NYC or London, we have very similar tales to tell 🙂

  5. Sunshine–
    what fun to go back to the beginning of your blogging days!
    I had some giggles, too…like Wendy.
    Always enjoy your posts.
    blessings
    jane

  6. No wonder you were driven to blogging, Sunshine: who could contain a tube ride like that?
    Wonderful, exuberant post. I’m so glad you put it up again – thanks.

    1. Thank you so much, Kate! I used to regale my colleagues with these stories (which you just couldn’t make up) and they urged me to write a blog! Quite fun to go back, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the post!

  7. All I can say is, I wish scenes like this happened in Columbus. Maybe they do and I just need to get out more.

    Friend, you certainly know how to tell a story! So glad you gave this blogging thing a try and stuck with it!

    1. Thanks, Maura – I certainly see more scenes like this here than I ever have done anywhere before! I’m glad I started blogging too – it’s really been wonderful and such fun.

  8. Quite entertaining hey?
    I always found that you shoudln’t look at anyone, especially in the eyes! Haha. I grew up in JHB, and was 18….. i was trained to trust no one.
    Met a guy once on a tube- stunt actor. That was entertaining. I told me he was 26 initially…. turned out to be 36 (a few dates later.)!!!!
    The tube will always be a place for fond memories.
    xx

  9. We lived outside of London for 2 years, and my husband commuted into London on the train. He found it interesting that at our train station, the same commuters always stood on the exact same spot on the platform every morning. One morning he arrived a bit early, and stood on someone elses spot on purpose. The displaced person looked startled, then sidled up next to him and stood as close as he possibly could to my husband without actually pushing him out of the way. There were only about 5 other people catching that train, but each and every one of them had a routine that just couldn’t be interrupted!

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