Tuesday, November 23, 2004

A short delay on the Piccadilly Line

- Or, what to do when nothing happens

It's a classic dilemma. The train halts in the middle of nowhere*. A long lingering silence settles slowly (good alliteration there, what?). At first everyone continues reading, staring out of the window, fingering mobiles etc. Then after about two minutes someone looks up uneasily. No-one else seems bothered so they resume their previous activity. Then someone else looks about. After about five minutes several heads move as one and the atmosphere in the carriage changes- we all now are wondering what the delay is and how long we are to be stuck here, and we each know that everyone else is thinking the same.

This makes us all feel much happier because we are not alone in our belief that really the train should be in motion. So there is a lessening of the tension. Or there would be except that about this time we start to wonder why the driver has said nothing over the intercom. I always ponder what would happen if he had lost consciousness - maybe even died. The train would stay halted due to the safety system but how long before someone would check? The radios are faulty often enough for a period of radio silence not necessarily to cause any alarm bells at the Line Controller's office.

Mobiles are a great comfort. At least you can listen to people calling their offices to explain that they are a) stuck on a train and b) they don't know how long it will be.

Today's delay was only a few minutes but it was fairly typical.
*actually it was near Ealing Common but in a cutting with anonymous houses on both sides. Could have been almost anywhere in London.


  1. If I was you, I'd try livening things up by swearing inappropriately in a situation like that. For instance, pick an old lady, smile at her, and say, "It's always like this, isn't?"

    "O yes dear," she'll inevitably say, followed by some anecdote about how the tube even worked better during the war. To which you should sedately reply, "O, I can just imagine. What a motherfucker."

  2. Yes this might well liven things up. But I wouldn't have the guts, or the discourtesy, to do it. And this little old lady might have a dirty great son just looking for an excuse to thump someone.