An Embarrassing Moment of Misdirection
Wednesday evening, 9th January.
Oxford Circus Tube station, London.
Sometimes, it's great to be a part of London.
And then it's even better to get out of the damn place at the end of the day.
Not to mention an achievement.
My job has seen me temporarily transferred to this Sardine can of capital cities. The bustling atmosphere can be infectious, I can't deny that.
But then they say the same thing about herpes.
I know something is up, as soon as I step off the escalator onto the Southbound platform. Even by rush-hour standards, the crush of bodies waiting track-side has a greater density than Jade Goody attempting a Word Search for 7 to 10 year olds.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Victoria line is currently experiencing severe delays in both directions, resulting in a greatly reduced service at this time. Passengers are strongly advised to seek alternative routes for their journey. We are sorry for the incon-blah blah waffle... I always switch off from these announcements once the grovelling apologies begin. Partly because it gets drowned out by the cursing and swearing around me, and partly because I am too busy banging my head against the nearest wall.
Tonight, oddly, nobody is going out of their way to seek these alternative journeys of which we are " strongly advised ".
I put this down to the fact that nobody can actually move now. We are the collective equivalent of a very stupid cat that's climbed into a bread-bin half it's size, and can't climb back out again.
I also put it down to the fact that the buses and taxi's are full, due to thousands of people already seeking alternative forms of transport, and there is no point attempting to walk anywhere because the pavements are so packed there'd be snails overtaking you in the gutter. This is London after all.
So people just kind of sigh in resignation, and stare blankly into the black hole to their left in a vain hope that something might eventually emerge from it.
I'm waiting for the follow up announcement.
Ladies and gentlemen, it seems you're not quite getting the message. You're all still standing there in dumb silence like a Welsh Battalion waiting for a charge over the hill from the Zulus. There is nothing coming out of that tunnel, absolute zilch.... diddly squat.... apart from maybe a small mouse... we get a lot of those down here you know, plenty of cute little mice but unfortunately no trains.....
Instead, the same original message is repeated. But no-one seems ready to give up just yet.
Personally, I'm getting a little restless by this point. ( An extravagantly polite way of putting it, but I see no need for profanities at this point of the story. )
Some guy squashed behind me, quips " probably leaves on the line " over my shoulder.
My response is nothing more than a caveman's grunt. I am tired, I am not in the mood.
" Wouldn't surprise me, " he continues, " even though we're underground.... "
Yes thanks, I did actually get the joke. But please don't let that stop you from spelling it out to me, and maybe after that you could do a juggling act or swallow a sword.
Infront of me, a shaven headed guy clutching a can of Stella is perched precariously close to the edge of the platform. In his other hand is a blue plastic bag containing the other three cans.
This I suspect is just the prawn cocktail as far as he's concerned.
He mutters something resembling " where's this !!!!!!!! train " before breaking into the first verse of " Tottenham, Tottenham ". ( The other verses and chorus also being... um, " Tottenham, Tottenham.... )
I seem to remember they're playing Arsenal tonight in the League cup semis. Someone should do the decent thing and tell him the truth - First of all pal, you're clearly not going to make it to the game, and secondly you know you're going to lose even if you do get there, so why don't you just go home and have a nice cup of cocoa, there's a good boy..
After a moment, the silence is broken again.
........ " Tottenham, Tottenham ".
Oh for christs sake!
I'm wondering to myself, would anyone here really mind that much if I just shoved this moron onto the track? Would the city of London really be the worse for losing one beer guzzling skinhead football nutter?
" Come on you Spurs! "
It's more likely that I'd get a unanimous round of applause.
For a moment I picture the scenario with a wistful smile. " Tottenham, To-urgghh! " He scrabbles around on the track in indignant disbelief, whilst I take a bow, cries of " bravo " and " encore! " and I'm showered with flowers.....
The only problem is there'd be no train shooting out of the tunnel to finish the job for me. Giving Mister Spurs twatface ample time to climb back onto the platform and rearrange my features until I look less like a human being and more like a Picasso masterpiece.
Why is Britain so crap at everything these days?
I reflect on my experiences of European Metro systems. Berlin, Vienna, Prague and Lisbon, all these networks have wide airy spacious stations. Less people, less clutter, entertainment screens while you wait, even TV screens in the carriages!
And then in last place we have London with what we can only describe as, and let's be fair about this, Smartie tubes in a sewer.
Yet more people manage to squeeze onto the platform, drawing me from my reverie and forcing me into a decision.
Time to seek those alternative routes. Clearly I'm wasting my time here, there is no imminent rush of wind from the tunnel that usually signals the approach of a train. Even if one was to turn up, unless it has the properties of a Tardis I'm likely to be sitting on the roof.
Getting to Victoria is now surely out of the question, unless I'm prepared for it to take longer than it takes Jade Goody to complete a Word Search for 7 to 10 year olds.
( Yes, I know I've done that joke twice, but what the hell - I happen to like it. )
After consulting the map, it appears I can get to London Bridge Station, but only if I switch to the Central line, and then after that to the Northern line, followed by stop-offs to Aberdeen, Inverness and Helsinki.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes thinks he has it tough.
So now I'm finally on a Tube and heading East to Bank station, and it feels as if I'm getting further away from home rather than nearer. And this brings me to the main reason for this piece, and the reason for its title.
I will now share with you possibly the most excruciatingly embarrassing moment of my entire life.
True to form, the carriage is packed tighter than a Sumo wrestler's speedos. I am jammed against the right hand set of doors. At Holborn, Chancery Lane and St Pauls, the platforms are over on the opposite side.
As we pull into Bank, my head dipped from weariness, I start to push my way through the throng.
" Excuse me, excuse me please. "
To my annoyance, the other passengers seem reluctant to let me through. One or two even throw a confused expression my way, as if no-one ever gets off at Bank.
To my greater annoyance, when I finally reach the doors they refuse to open for me. I really have had enough of all this now I think to myself, spotting a button on the door that says " Open " and jabbing it impatiently.
Then the voice from next to me.
" Nah mate, other side, other side. "
Irritably I look for a button at the side of the door.
" Other side, " the guy repeats, starting to laugh. And then I see it through the door window. Right up against it is the curved wall of a Tube station. I turn 180 degrees to see the open doors and platform beyond the jam of passengers I'd just pushed my way through.
Ahh.... now that would explain a lot. Not least what a complete and utter prize tosser I am.
This time the others clear a path for me like Moses parting the Red sea. I take it as a sympathy vote.
I can hear a stifled female giggle and one or two other titters, as I exit the train, cheeks burning red and tail dangling between my legs.
You know those rare moments in life when you involuntarily clench your fist before biting violently into your knuckles?...........
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