A quick rush of air pushes the crowd forward.
All heading the same direction, the group frantically shoves one another towards the loud noise. “Hurry up that’s it, we can’t afford to miss this one,” cries a middle aged woman to her teenage daughter, who begins to quicken her pace as her eyes lift from her glaring phone screen. She fumbles about in her pocket taking out a small plastic card and replacing it carefully with her phone – each item equally important to her. I look on trying not to get distracted by the commotion engulfing me as I set my mind on where I need to get to. A loud thumping noise followed by a series of bangs throws the crowd into frenzy. As we make our way toward the gates everyone takes a second to breath, closing their eyes as they pray to hear the beep, which should be followed by the opening of the gates. The stairs, thin and wet, cause problems for a tall, slender woman, whose heels slip, causing her to reach for the bannister as far as her tailored pant suit will allow. As the rush of air forces the crowd to step back, I look up slowly…
This is the tube at rush hour.
Glaring back at me are hundreds of glassy eyes refusing to move their gaze as the doors peel open. In the moments before the doors open the people on the platform prepare themselves for what they will have to endure. Guided forward into the wall of statues, no one inside the carriage moves, as they grip onto the bold yellow pole. “When will people understand there’s no more room?” A middle aged man looks towards his stocky friend, who is taking up a large amount of space in the carriage that is growing ever smaller. Speaking louder, unsubtly hinting to those trying to enter, he raises his bearded chin and says, “There is a limit!” As he speaks, crumbs from his upper lip (presumably from a rushed breakfast) fall onto the cord jacket of his shorter friend, who looks down but does nothing – even if he wanted to he couldn’t – his hand are pressed to his sides as he becomes surrounded by suit wearing individuals.
The train jerks along, jostling the uneasy passengers into the small amount of available space left. Amongst the straight faces and glazed over eyes one older woman’s toothy smile stands out. She is heavily laden in layers of polyester that scream “I’m a tourist,” and flicks her eyes back and forth observing behind rounded spectacles. Curious, I inquire with a hint of sarcasm, “You’re enjoying this journey then?” She looks at me, as do a significant few other passengers – who are not used to this level of human interaction on their regular tube rides – “People watching, it’s my favourite thing to do.” I nod in acknowledgement but quietly mutter to myself “you’re just happy you have a seat.”
As the crowd pours out, I slide into a seat, trying to hide my smirk as I look up at a less lucky middle aged man who comes to a halt in front of me. The current passengers take advantage of the empty seeming carriage. One older gentleman stretches his legs out into the space; a red lipped woman takes the time to re-adjust her skirt; and a small child runs down the carriage flying his battleship in the air.
An unseasonably tanned lady juggles her shopping bags as the leather lead in her hand pulls her forward. The black and white husky ignores her and proceeds to throw himself down onto the grey speckled floor. His gazelle like limbs flop down onto the older man’s leather shoe, at which point she tries to pull him away apologising and commanding, “Trevor no, sit.” The man smiles and looks down stroking the dogs head. The lady tries to control the excitable dog “Trevor! Please!” The passengers on their feet begin to lean down and open their mouths forming words to the dog like it’s a baby. Two girls look to each other commenting on “how cute” the dog is, as it looks up at the many reaching hands.
The dog and owner leave at the next station and the temporary joy fades. The dog is replaced by a block of frustrated shoppers. “There will be significant delays try and find alternate routes.” The automated voice doesn’t seem to be heard by the mob and once again the carriage is filled with dead faces covered by heavy coats.
The man sitting across from me looks up from his book as his elbow is jolted by an overweight woman who causes him to lose his page. He sighs and says dryly, “I wish Trevor would come back. Dogs are better than people.”