Thursday, September 22, 2011

How to be a good mole, or, minding the gap

Rules for surviving the Underground:
1. Never look your fellow traveler in the eye. Look at his knees, check out her funky shoes, read the back page of her newspaper, or focus intently on the station map above his head. If you happen to inadvertently catch his eye, quickly slide your eyes to the left or right and pretend you were casually glancing at the person next to him.

2. Put your walking shoes on. The English are hardy souls who love to run up and down massive flights of stairs. Most stations don't have escalators. Even when there are escalators, the commuters employ a dainty, tripping little step as they dash past you. Stand on the right, please.

3. Accepted activities whilst on the train are: listening to music on a headset (don't hum or bounce to the beat) ; texting on your smartphone (no talking); reading the free evening paper (no laughing aloud); and snoozing (no leaning on the guy next to you).

4. Carry an underground map with you at all times. Use phrases like "Jubilee Line" and "Euston Station" frequently so that people will think you're an old hand at this tube thing.
5. Carry a pocketful of change for the buskers. Some of the best music you will ever hear will be at the entrances to the tube. This guy, from Trinidad, was playing a steel drum that had twenty-nine tones, three octaves worth. He was supremely talented and I wish we had listened longer.

6. Buy a day pass. It will save you lots of money. Riding the train is an expensive proposition. I don't know how Londoners can afford it.
7. Above all, mind the gap. 


  1. That is a lot of rules to remember. I have never ridden on a train or subway before. At some point I supposed I should give it a whirl. Hope you are enjoying your trip.

  2. Fun! Now I feel completely ready to ride the tube.