August 11, 2003
Fantastic journey

What a fantastic journey home from work tonight! Given the oppressive heat - I thought I’d wait for the rush hour to subside before going home - and I was justly rewarded: when I wandered out of the office down to the tube station I was greeted by a few hundred other people anxiously watching the dot matrix indicator for news about the next train. What joy when I found out that the dot matrix indicator was completely blank! This was a sure sign that tonight’s journey home was going to be a good one. You see I am different - I am the exception that proves the rule. I like to be different. I really like it.

Was I frustrated by the the lack of any information about when or whether the next train would arrive? Absolutely not! To me - waiting around in the sweltering heat with a few hundred other sweaty people is a pleasure indeed. I love it. I really love it. In fact I loved it so much I was willing the dot matrix indicator to stay blank for longer - and indeed it did. And furthermore - when the next train did arrive 20 minutes later with absolutely no space to get on - I felt really good. Bring on more trains like that I thought to myself! Bring more! The only slight disappointment was the fact that the train was a Heathrow train - which I wouldn’t have gotten on anyway - but no matter - the very sight of a severely delayed and packed train is sheer heaven - especially when that divine smell of searing stale sweat wafts out of the carriage and envelopes the platform as the doors open. I just cannot get enough of that.

Half an hour or so later I reluctantly boarded an Uxbridge train - and just could not anticipate the sheer delight at the news that this train was actually a Heathrow train - and that people heading towards Uxbridge should get off and wait for another train at Acton Town. This I did - along with a few hundred other really frustrated other people. I really fail to understand why people get so upset by sudden changes of plan - I guess I must be different to most other people. But that’s fine - I am the exception that proves the rule. I like being the exception guy remember?

What happened over the next hour or so was an experience that I just could not thank the Piccadilly Line controllers enough for. Train after train after train that passed through Acton Town were Heathrow ones - or else they were Uxbridge ones that decided to change their mind and become Heathrow ones. Thank you London Underground! What a fantastic experience it was being a part of a massive crowd of people waiting for the Uxbridge train at Acton Town. One thing that really puzzled me though was the number of angry people though - I just don’t understand why people were boiling over. They just don’t “get it” do they? No they don’t - they have no idea how insightful and mind-expanding such an experience can be. The sight of all these frustrated people simply confirms that I am the exception that proves the rule: as everyone else is getting really pissed off at the incompetence of the line controllers to run a train system - I am standing there smiling and cheering and waving at the train drivers and any other London Underground staff at making what should be a 10 minute journey - last over 2 hours. What more could I ask for? It really is a pity that others couldn’t share my joy at it all - but then again - I suppose if they did - I wouldn’t be the exception that proves the rule would I?

When I (and a few thousand other people) finally got onto an Uxbridge train at Acton Town - the smell that hit me was simply out of this world: think mature stilton cheese, anchovies, and rotting yoghurt all mixed up with that uniquely sharp twang of Waterloo-station-mens-urinals and you might just begin to appreciate how wonderful the intensity of it all was. I soaked it all in and tried to put the idea of having to get off the train at my usual stop (Alperton) off my mind altogether. When the station arrived I literally had to force myself off the train in order to proceed to my usual Route 79 bus stop. I guess that all good things have to come to an end. I finally got home at 9:30pm (having set off from the office at 7:10pm) and I sit here now reflecting and sharing with you all what makes the London transport system undeniably the very best in the world.

Posted by jag at August 11, 2003 11:28 PM

Are you alright Jag?

Yes - I’m fine. Really - I am. I’m just F*CKING FINE - OK?

Posted by: Jag on August 11, 2003 11:36 PM

Jeez, and on a Monday too, of all days (a very hot and sticky Monday, I might add). Sigh. What is it with the Piccadilly Line? My journey was delayed too, although not as badly as yours. I left a little earlier, only to get to Leicester Square to find the eastbound train would be staying put for “five minutes”. The train was packed, and in 5 minutes the platform would be too. Sod this, I told myself, and walked up to the Northern line to get a head start on that eastbound train. I got as far as Finsbury Park via the Northern and Victoria lines, where I joined the sweaty throng on the crowded platform waiting for the eastbound train to Cockfosters. What fun!

Posted by: Stu on August 12, 2003 12:18 AM

It seems that we were not alone suffering probs on the Picc last night:

Posted by: Jag on August 12, 2003 08:32 AM

Well the smells and crowds are exactly like teh Mumbai rail which transports a million people a day and isn’t one bit as comfortable as the London underground. I loved your sarcastic style! It’s the best way to take something in your stride rather than your temper getting to it. Hope the “mind the gap” people do end up improving their services.

I just read the Ice wine article you linked to in your last post and it sounded heavenly…when and if I do start drinking I’m definitely going to try it out.


Posted by: Amrita on August 12, 2003 11:02 AM

I loved your sarcasm Jag.

In the two years of my stay at (Hounslow) London, I used to feel glad to find a Picadilly tube heading towards Heathrow only to be asked to get down at Northfields and wait for the next train.

Long live London Underground!! :)

Posted by: Chakra on August 12, 2003 11:14 AM

Why get upset when things get out of control ? There is nothing you can do really, just swallow your daily annoyance towards public transport and use the time to reflect, read or else. As for the smells, don’t even think about getting a sit. NO, thank you, probably too many bacterias right now under your ass and crawling up your back. It takes me an hour in the morning and 20 min in the evening. I still don’t get as why it takes 1 hour in the morning. I consider myself lucky as I surely don’t mind being late for work and go quickly home. That is when public transports works of course, which is not the case right now. The tracks might be over heating but surely not their brains on how to improve public transport. Love you sarcasm

Posted by: Olaf on August 12, 2003 01:08 PM

Amrita: I can only imagine what Mumbai rail must be like - especially given that you guys must experience even greater temperature extremes. I guess we should consider ourselves lucky here in London! Over 1 billion journeys are made on the tube every year - that’s around 3 million journeys per day. For more interesting tube facts go to:

Chakra: your comment made me smile - because although I wrote that nearly all the trains passing through Acton Town were Heathrow trains - many were actually terminating at Northfields! :o

Olaf: Agree completely - there’s really nothing anyone can do - people should just chill out and do something creative instead of “boiling over”. And by the way - I always stand as well - even if there are seats available. I always stand near the end-carriage doors - at least I get some “fresh” air through the window! (Thanks for stopping here Olaf.)

All: Thx for the feedback - glad you enjoyed the sarcasm. I have passed on the story to London Underground Customer Services - and will post their response right here.

Posted by: Jag on August 12, 2003 02:28 PM

That was excellent (not the journey, of course). I was almost convinced you were serious for a while. Then slowly, I could picture the clenched jaw and grimace. You held out to the end though!

I’ll bet customer services are loving that letter. Really. I can picture them laughing right now. :-)

Posted by: Lisa on August 12, 2003 05:59 PM

hehe :). Well…i used to enjoy this the same way in bombay…i bet u the trains were messier than ur place but the people were really hilarious…it was great to see them fret and fume while i jusssst sat back and soaked in all the action :) great observation.…

Posted by: Yogustus on August 12, 2003 11:31 PM

Lise: Cheers - yes I held out - but only just! I am convinced that the customer services folks at London Underground and TFL (Transport for London) have had many laughs in the past on my account - so this will keep them entertained I am sure.

Yogustus - your “bee in your trousers” story was hilarious! It reminds me of my “London Bus Fly” story ( ) - but yours appears to have involved much more pain than mine. For the benefit of others - I am linking to your story here:

Posted by: Jag on August 12, 2003 11:44 PM

My first time here. I like the look of your blog. Nice colour.

Posted by: Babita on August 13, 2003 03:07 PM

Thanks Babita! It took me a LONG time to get the colour scheme looking right! Yours is great too! I like the “postal” system concept.

Posted by: Jag on August 13, 2003 04:53 PM

Caught this route via Avi’s blog. Here’s a little vignette to lighten the moment:

on the train back home
two little boys play a card game:
slowly a face beams

By the way, nothing compares to travelling in IInd Class for 42 hours or more ( if the train is delayed ) from Purani Dilli to Guwahati, through the sun scorched plains of India, on the Tinsukia Mail. Been there, done that many times!!!

Wish you smooth journeys, always :)

Posted by: Ritu on August 14, 2003 03:47 AM
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