Tuesday, December 9, 2008

6 tips on how to survive London Underground

It was a tight squeeze in the Tube this morning on my way to work. Scratch that. It's was horrendously crowded in the Tube today. Managed to get up the train only after pulling an old lady and a kid off the train with my left hand while shoving through woollen and thick cotton clad bodies with my right elbow.

You get the picture. It is a tough fight for space - day after day. Here's 6 ways on how you can survive the London Underground.


1. Be late for work

You heard it. I realized that the Tube is really crowded at times leading up to the you being able to get to work at 9am. Unless you get a rush in being sardine packed into the trains, you would probably want to go into work 15min later. What about going into work earlier? Are you kidding me? Definitely not an option.

2. Board at the end cabins

"Move right down the platform" hollered the platform controller into the public announcement system. Heed the advice, move along. You'll be surprised how people tend to congregate near stairwells leading to the Underground platform. Head towards the two ends of the train and it'll definitely be less crowded over there.

3. Wear strong perfume/deodorant

Travelling during peak hours would get you up close and personal with complete strangers who seemed to relish the idea of showering just once per week. More than once, I've had my face plastered beside the armpits (uh-oh, there goes my lunch…) of burly guys whose plumbing at home weren't working.

If you can't stop your nose from taking in the aroma, you might as well douse yourself with scents that you agree with. When it comes to either them or you, the choice is clear.
Read also...
London Underground - Why you shouldn't stay late at work
5 Quirks of London Underground

4. Move down into the cabin

The Tube train cabins are meant for slim Victorians. Due to the size of the century old tunnels, the width of the trains is severely limited. For the same reason, passengers tend not to make their way to the middle of each cabin to avoid treading on the toes of fellow passengers.

There are three reasons why you should. Firstly, you are as slim as a Victorian. Secondly, our feet are not much bigger than the Victorians. Finally, you'll be well-positioned to grab any seat once it is vacated by a passenger alighting the train.

5. Behave strangely

London is not short of strange people who seem to live in their own world. If you have saliva dribbling down your chin while muttering gibberish, people will give you a wide berth - enough for you to unfold your Metro and start reading.

Two things to note here. Don't clean away the saliva thus keeping others at bay. If the person next to you starts to speak in gibberish as well, get off the train.

6. Position yourself

If your face is going to come within inches of anyone else's, that person might as well be someone pleasant looking. So squeeze into the cabin, position yourself in front of a good looker, let go of the rails, line your feet together, close your eyes and hope for the best.

Any other tips that you'll like to share with us?

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Fëanor said...

You forgot the most obvious one! The Brits are genetically conditioned to queue. Take advantage of it and shove them out of your way; cut in; ignore the muttering. Never fails! Heheh.

SheR. said...

Hey CK...
How about losing weight?
Cycle to work?
Catch a bus?
Walk to work?
Get a car/motorcycle?

If all else fail, change a job! :P

C K said...

With my slight built, I wouldn't have the mass required to push past the crowd.

Now, where's the chin-up bar when I need it....

Hey, this is about survival in London Underground, those don't count, do they? :)

Talking about changing jobs, a number of Singaporeans whom I know are leaving the UK... victims of the financial turmoil.

Cashmere said...

Haha! That's funny.. I hate to be stuck in a crowd too... =\

lina said...

Brilliant tips! I of course would choose option #1. :D

Dutchie said...

CK, just had a good laugh reading this article. Sporty of u to see the humour in it tho u might be gnashing ur teeth while in the midst of a large crowd rushing for the same train.

To avoid having to stand 1hr 20 mins in a bone-shaking train, I did opt for the earliest train at 0640 (arriving at office 0845). I clocked out at 1615 to avoid the evening crowd. Thank goodness I dont hv to commute to the city anymore. It was a very hectic n stressful life then.

Btw, how do u feel abt the sardine clipper (air travel) ?

C K said...

Hey, I grew up in a crowd (just check out the high population density in S'pore). Thought that I'll get used to it but noooo....

Speaking of which, I should make an attempt to be on time tomorrow morning... not a good time to be 'consistently' late nowadays.

Finding humour in the maddening crowd is one way to survive the crush. If you have not noticed already, my posting frequency has dropped quite a bit... got more than I could handle at work, which is supposedly a good sign, I suppose.

Sardine clipper? What's that about?

*lynne* said...

Ugh, I can only imagine the crush in the Tube during rush hour... I've experienced the KL LRT in the morning and evenings a few times, and it was enough for me to swear that as long as I could afford it, I'd avoid using it to get to work... not worth the hassle!

btw - congrats, you certainly meet my vague criteria, and I've added you to my blogroll :) Link exchange, activate! :D

*lynne* said...

oops - I forgot to use the URl/Name choice :p it's for the a malaysian abroad blog, just in case you forgot, LoL!

Martin in Bulgaria said...

This brings back horrible memories of the many years I had to travel by tube in London.

The best tip of all is to walk or cycle, I've been mugged a couple of times (and beaten up once) on the underground.

If you have to use the underground don't go alone unless it is during rush hours and busy, especially as a woman.

SheR. said...

Oh Martin...
I lived 3 years in London (travelling alone most of the time in the wee hours of the morning after work) and stayed in notorious neighbourhoods (worked in one as well). Never been mugged in the Tube. Only on the London bus once.

Fëanor said...

@Martin: did you mean you were travelling as a woman and got beaten up? :-)

C K said...

LOL! Wife had to slapped me a couple of times to stop me laughing...

That reminds me, a couple of guys dressed as super heroes turned up at Holborn Tube station and ran up the (very long) escalator the other day. Batman and Superman ran out of breath halfway though...

I recalled you mentioned about being mugged on the bus once. Were you on the top level? As far as possible, I tried to avoid heading upstairs unless it's peak hours.

Gosh, sorry to hear that. Hope that you weren't too badly injured. What happened?

Glad that I met your 'vague' criteria. Your link is up and running!

I thought that KL LRT was not too bad when I was in KL some time back. Maybe its off peak hours... but the buses were really crowded...

Dutchie said...

Well CK, a clipper(boat with sails) has the same shape as a boeing n it's max'ed out with passengers. Being a marine nation, we tend to use terms like that to illustrate overcrowding (like sardines in an oval tin)in an airplane. Kinda apt dont u think ? Does it ever bother u when the flight is fully occupied for the long haul ?

One more thought .. Lynne has brought up the KL LRT, I wonder if our MRT is also heading towards overcrowding bec folks r saving on cabs or their own cars these days ?

Oh, I did noticed ur reduced blog frequencies .. dont worry abt it tho .. write only when u hv the time to spare .. we r understands how it is leh !

C K said...

Thanks for the enlightening explanation!

The MRT was my salvation under the sweltering heat back in S'pore. Although it's much larger than London's Tube trains, the frequency is reduced and the network is less extensive as well.

If S'pore ever hit its targeted population of 6.5million, you'll be looking at sardine cabins.

Dutchie said...

Btw, do u hv 1st n 2nd class cabins in the trains in the UK ?

It's quite a waste of space bec most of the commuters r in the 2nd class, standing most of the way while the 1st class compartments r nearly empty.

Our Traffic Minister once suggested surcharges at peak hours to root out the daytrippers who could otherwise travel at off-peak. It's just crazy to think people pay for a ticket n travel without a purpose ... Besides, public transport is to serve the public n the minister shouldnt starts making a point abt class segregation ! I was glad that she was voted out in the new govt.

Anonymous said...

I'm really enjoying your articles, thank you very much. BTW, I think the phrase you're looking for is "madding crowd"...

London Chow said...

Thanks again! "Madding" it is :)