Travelling around London (England, not Ontario). Lots of choices….Buses (including the tourist ones), Underground (subway), Overground, National Rail, DLR (Docklands Light Railway), Black Cab, Mini Cab, Rickshaw, Bicycle and foot. There are other methods, but that’s enough for now. Many ways to get around. All of them offer something different and the prices vary according to the mode chosen. I didn’t mention personal transport, cars. Too messy and I don’t own one. My best friend chauffeurs me when needed. That is seldom. And gone are the days of the horse and buggy, you know, the Hansom Cabs of yore. You can take a horse-drawn tour around London to see the sights, but it ain’t cheap.
Feet are the most reliable vehicle in the city as in any city. Unless you happen to be disabled. I’m talking about the majority who can get around on foot. But then, even a wheelchair is more reliable than any other transport. I’ve done a lot of walking in the city. I find it the best way to see things without getting held up in traffic or taking the Underground (The Tube) and seeing nothing except posters advertising everything from West End shows to life insurance. By foot can also save you from other commuters. They are a funny lot.
You know the types I mean. The ones who insist on getting the same seat every time they get on their morning or evening train. If you happen to get to that seat first, a non commuting, occasional traveller at rush hour, you can hear and see the fuming from those whose seats have been usurped. We are creatures of habit. Commuters like the routine. The same time each day, the same train carriage, the same seat. It makes sense of the rest of the day that never makes sense. A little bit of control over one’s life. Essential.
Commuters come in all shapes and sizes and ages. I have names for some of them. I walk my best friend to the station every morning mainly for the exercise and so I won’t sleep in (I work from home). You see the same crowd every morning and get to know their habits. Their commuting habits anyway. My favourite is Running Man. When I am returning from the station, Running Man is on his way there. He’s a thin pencil of a man with glasses, a long nose and wisps of hair like Alistair Sim in A Christmas Carol. He wears a backpack that bends him over. You’re getting the picture. Every morning I see Running Man begin with a long stride, leading up to a trot and finally a full run. You’d think he would clock on and leave a little earlier in the morning. But then there’d be no humour in it.
Some commuters come by bus. They ‘alight’, as they say here, and race each other to the station, fast walking mind you. There has to be some decorum. On mornings when a bus arrives as we do, my best friend and I get out-of-the-way, usually hiding in the doorway of a shop until they all pass. Down to the station they go, each seeking out his or her usual spot on the platform. Everything is precision for the commuter. Sometimes it can go just a little too far.
My best friend takes the train into the city for work. She (yes, finally had to give it away) gets on the same carriage, the last one, and meets her sister two stations down the line. They work at the same place. She has worked out where the door to her carriage comes to a stop at the station. She gets there just as the train before hers leaves and she stands in the spot waiting for her train. Same spot every time. Never fails. Every so often some inconsiderate jerk gets on at the stop before hers and takes her seat. A slight quandary, but the unflappable best friend takes it in stride and sits on another two-seater section of the carriage. Nothing phases her. Not much anyway.
It seems my best friend was being observed by a male commuter for some time. Nothing sexual about it for those looking for titillation They travelled the same time and he got on the same carriage. He always came about 5 minutes after my best friend got there. The wily bugger must have sussed out the reason my best friend stood where she did. One morning as she arrived at her usual time, there he was….standing in her spot, legs spread apart and arms folded. Belligerence plus. It stayed that way every day for a couple of weeks and suddenly he disappeared. Maybe he caught another train or moved or….commuter beware.