Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Underground

For those of you who don't know it, in the UK, London has a Metro/Subway system called the Underground. Remember the movie “Sliding doors”? That was a lovely movie.

The Underground is ancient. The oldest in the world. All others are (often improved in different ways) more modern copies. I would bet it is the most complicated too. There is something.. Magnificent about it for all its faults.

One thing the Underground used to do is make the odd announcement over the pa systems.

You always listened up to these because they mostly told you something useful, important. Like the line you hoped to switch to at the next station was suspended, or there was a fire alert or something. You knew it would be important and therefore worth listening to.

Not now though, and it is my personal suspicion that this has led to the rise of the iPod. Sounds like something from a bad “B” movie. THE RISE OF THE IPOD!!! Doesn't it? Yes, mea culpa, I have one now, sobs, breaks down confessing... “I have joined the pod people!”

Well anyway, that was then and this is now. Now the poor users of the Underground system are constantly pestered, bombarded, by pointless recorded, or computerised, messages that the important stuff gets lost in. Messages telling you not to smoke, or to stand behind the yellow line, or not to abandon your luggage, or really annoyingly (and this is my personal favourite grr) that there is a good service, especially when you have just had a diabolical journey, being turned off trains, delayed and the like.

They have an opposite one also, when they tell you about delays on the line... and the service seems perfectly normal too. I guess you just can't trust them...

So now instead of listening I figure we all just mentally tune them out, or go mad, or block them out with an iPod and those noise suppressing in ear buds you get for plane journeys.

I wonder if anyone else gets this? I don't remember it being that bad on any other Subway systems, and I have used a few.

One thing they do get right on the Underground though, there are usually lots of staff about, at least in central London. That makes you feel nice and safe.

They are not so obvious in some of the lonely outer stations later on at night though. Maybe they could fix that?

So Metro Gnomes, if you are listening... Way less announcements please. None about so-called good service, they just make you look like you are trying to con us. And more visible staff late at night in small stations pleeease.

For some weird reason I quite like the odd random “Mind the gap” announcement, they somehow seem friendly.

Am I being cranky with this post, or do I have a point?


jmb said...

I spent almost two years travelling on the Underground in London. Obviously pre-iPod days, 1960-1 in fact.

Everyone hid behind the newspaper in those days which took up so much more space although I suppose people do both nowadays. Often you saw the same people every day but you never acknowledged each other, not even with a smile. Such a change for me, coming from train travel in Australia where you always seemed to have conversations with total strangers and soon you became "friends" with people you saw on the same train every day. The Brits seemed such unfriendly people to me.

The Canadians seem to be half way between the two, but maybe it is me who still reaches out to exchange at least a few pleasantries, or just a smile, with someone I sit next to on the bus.

jmb said...

PS, I love the new photo Miss Moggs. Very professional.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Thanks JMB. This one is a 'studio' pic from one of those free to use studios.

They still have papers, mostly a free tabloid one called the Metro.

Sean Jeating said...

Hm, somehow I did always enjoy riding on your Tube; well, before the era of youtube.

Dr.John said...

WE had a car when we were in England so never got to try the Metro.

Crushed said...

There is one escalator at one of the stations, I forget which which scares the shit out of me. I have this kind of fear of going up slopes. Hills, etc. Especially if they're tall.
This one proper freaks me. I forget which station it is.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Dr John, For this particular Subway/Metro the proper terms are "The Underground" or less formally "The Tube". No way would I even think about driving in London!

Crushed, I guess that must be one with a really long escalator, Maybe at the Angel on the Northern Line? That is really long.

I figure the Tune is probably the easiest way to get about London Sean

Anonymous said...

There used to be a man of magnificently proper pronunciation on a recorded loop at Embankment saying "Mind the Gap" over and over again, as the platform was on a bend and there was a big space between the train and the platform!!

Sue said...

Hi! Thanks for visiting me on my blog!

I spent years travelling on the tube to go from Plaistow Station to Oxford Circus to work, when I was a dot of a girl!

Long before the days of the Ipod! We had personal transistors back then you see (I'm pretty ancient).

They were cute little boxes with one crappy headphone that you stuck in your ear but you could only listen to the radio (normally Radio One) which meant the reception was terrible.

These days most of the stations have those electronic noticeboards so the need to listen for important announcements is not so vital.

Ipod's are wonderful if you find yourself trapped somewhere wishing for a distraction rather than staring at your fellow passengers who are at the best of times not appreciative of your attention!

I like talking books on mine it's a great escape.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

You certainly have a point about the lack of staff in suburban stations.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Mutley, I got a book entitled "Mind the gap". Maybe I should do a review?

Sue, Welcome to our blog on both JMB's and my behalf.

I bet you couldn't get reception on the tube with a transistor radio anyway. They are talking about getting handys/mobiles to be able to work down there somehow, but they don't yet.

As for age? Well the more time passes... the older I start figuring "Old" starts at ^_^

Welshcakes, Absolutely.

Ellee Seymour said...

The London underground is very dirty and smelly and often so heaving with commuters that it has to close its staircase and divert passengers. It is not a pleasant experience. It is also very expensive. We are long overdue some improvements.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Ellee, You are right.

But to be fair, I have got to point out, that in my experience, it is smelly because of the personal habits of some of the passengers more than anything else, more often male passengers.

The crowding is because so many of us try to squeeze in at the same time.

You are absolutely right that it can be pretty hellish. At least they seem to be fixing stuff now. Did you get a look at what they did to King's Cross?

lady macleod said...

Can't say - but I do always love the "mind the gap"...