the unofficial rules of london underground

So somehow we’ve reached mid-December, although I swear last week it was the beginning of October. Alas, it seems to be true that the older you get, the faster time goes (and I’m only 23 so it must be a blur to anyone over 30). So far this month, we’ve gotten excited by the war of the Christmas adverts (I’m team Sainsbury’s), we’ve marvelled at all the festive lights flying up around the country, and we’ve drank copious amounts of mulled alcohol (it’s Christmas after all, rude not to really). What I’m trying to say is that the festive spirit is in full swing; Santa Claus is coming to town in less than two weeks!

I love Crimbo. Even though it’s fucking freezing people everywhere are getting merry, boozing heavily and sharing the love (not just on Bebo). However, the jolly old spirit of togetherness that can be found on almost every corner over crimbo has its limitations, and if there’s one place that is entirely devoid of any Christmas spirit, it’s London Underground.

I’m sure you’ve heard it all before; people complain about the Underground all day every day. When I first moved to London six months ago, I actually loved the tube, and found any excuse to go roaming the underworld all day, passing off the haters as a load of miserable bastards. I didn’t care if I had my face in someone’s armpit, crushed against the door, or under a load of sweaty humans who were blessed enough to be taller than I am, I loved it.

Things changed around a month into my new job. A marvel though the Underground may be, it really is impossible to enjoy yourself on there for very long, just ‘cause it seems to be against the rules. Tutting, sighing and pushing seem to be in, while smiling, looking anywhere but at the floor and speaking out loud are most definitely out.

Here are the revised rules of London Underground that TFL won’t tell you about:

  1. Do not under any circumstance look anyone in the eye. In fact, looking at people all together is a no-no. Just to be safe, keep your eyes to the ground for the whole journey, or pretend to be really really interested in the tube map, to the point where you look lost. Don’t worry, noone will offer you any help even if you are lost.
  2. Avoid displaying any emotion whatsoever. Remember: London Underground is a place devoid of all feelings both happy and sad. If you’re looking happy on the tube, you can guarantee you’re pissing someone off. If you’re looking sad on there, you’re pissing them off even more. Anger is OK, but only when directed at other passengers for no reason whatsoever; being passive aggressive is totally OK at sub-zero level.
  3. Waiting for more than three minutes for a train is entirely unacceptable. Make sure if you have to wait for three minutes or more that you tap your foot impatiently, sigh heavily and look as grumpy as possible, that’s sure to make the train hurry its slow ass up. If you have to wait for more than five minutes, give the train driver the finger as he or she drives into the platform – that’ll show ‘em.
  4. Always tut loudly when someone gets on your train with a suitcase, regardless of whether or not the tube is busy or empty (who do they think they are, taking up all that space?!). In fact, it’s worth getting some good tutting practise in before you ride the tube, you’ll need it for inadvertently showing the world of the Underground that you’re just as pissed off as everyone else.
  5. Begrudge anybody and everybody with a seat; they definitely haven’t had a day as hard as yours, even if you spend your day sat on your arse like I do. For good measure, it’s worth looking in the direction of the seats with a look of distaste, and you could even throw a tut in there if you feel like someone’s really taking the piss. Should you see a seat being taken up by a bag, don’t bother to ask politely for the person to move it so you can sit down, hover near it sighing and tutting until the seat becomes free.
  6. Leave your manners at the turnstyle. The only genuine TFL rule that seems to be abided by is letting others off the train before you get on yourself, but that is also accompanied by tutting, sighing and sometimes cries of “Get off the fucking train!”. Being the rudest version of yourself is the name of the game on the Underground, and that includes pushing people, plenty of the aforementioned tutting, and under no circumstances saying your please’s or thank you’s.

Merry Christmas, and happy travelling!

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