How to use the Tube

Until I moved to London, I had no real need for public transport. I could walk everywhere. And when I had to go cross-country, I’d either hop in my car and contribute to the congestion of our failing road network or get a train. And everyone knows how to use them; just be as obnoxious as possible and complain wildly about your journey via online mediums.

Now, though, I’m hugely reliant on the Tube. A bit of a novice at first, I’ve been astutely observing customs and behaviour and I reckon I’ve finally got it down. So here’s my idiot’s guide to using the Underground:

1) Upon entering the Tube station, ensure you position yourself in the centre of the entrance, or indeed exit, should you see fit. Ignore the flow of people moving hastily around you. Pause for an indeterminate amount of time while searching for your travel card.

2) If you need to purchase a travel card, choose one of two options:

  1. Wait until a fellow customer approaches a manned booth, wanting to carry out a transaction unavailable at any of the self-service machines. Cut in front of them and shout incomprehensibly at the attendant. If you have children with you, allow them to run amok.
  2. Loiter around the queue at the self service machine, but do not join the queue. As soon as one of the queuers takes their eyes off the back of the head of the person in front, cut in and mash wildly at the screen. If you cannot find the journey you want within two palms of the screen, press ‘cancel’ and start again. Repeat until you find the correct journey. If you have children with you, allow them to run amok.
  • NB: Should you choose to join the queue for the ticket booth or self service machine, be sure to tap your feet and sigh loudly at the person in front of you. If you are waiting for more than 30 seconds, mumble ‘Oh for fuck’s sake’ at no-one in particular.

3) Once you have purchased your ticket, you’re ready to make your way to the train. To do so, you will have to use one of the amply-provided security barriers. Simply jam your ticket into the slot in a haphazard fashion and wait for an error sign to appear on the display. Repeat several times, despite the backlog of other passengers waiting to pass. (Pro tip: Look angrily at your travel card and announce, ‘NICE ONE, LONDON UNDERGROUND’ to no-one in particular). Do not seek assistance. Help will eventually come to you.

4) Once you have passed the security barriers, you must determine which is the correct path to your train. To ascertain this, amble around in a directionless fashion until you cause another passenger to fall over. While they are on the ground, ask them which way you need to go.

5) It is likely you will need to use an escalator to reach the correct platform. Stand in the middle of the escalator with your arms on both sides. Listening to an MP3 player loudly enough to drown out the interruptions of other passengers will help to pass the time.

6) Upon entering the platform, stop suddenly and remain rigidly in that space until the train arrives.

7) When the train arrives, it is customary to allow passengers off before boarding. However, once the doors have opened put one hand and one foot inside the carriage, despite the flow of departing passengers, to ensure other passengers are aware of your intentions to board the train.

8 ) Once you have boarded the train, locate a vacant seat and move quickly towards it, avoiding eye contact with pregnant women and elderly passengers.

9) During your journey, it is customary to play music loudly for the benefit of other passengers. You may also happen upon a free newspaper, which you should open fully, into the laps of other passengers, if necessary. Coughing, sneezing and chewing gum with your mouth open are also traditional Underground activities.

10) Upon reaching your destination, use the above steps to navigate your way out of the Tube station.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “How to use the Tube

  1. Livy

    I agree with almost everything – bloody brilliant and hilarious piece.

    But…

    Putting one hand and foot inside the carriage as doors opens sounds like a really good idea I might start adopting. For a country so obsessed with queues, it is baffling as to why people think that system of politeness and fairness does not apply on the tube. If I’m standing there for 10 minutes and the train comes, stops, and the doors open right in front of me, I am fucking well entitled to be the first person boarding that carriage, and the first person with a shot at getting the spare seat. (Pregnant women and the elderly of course get special dispensation).

    But for some reason people feel that boarding a tube is the one place in this country where it’s acceptable to push in – and women are the guiltiest offenders.

    Rant over.

  2. Have just realised there’s a step missing between points 7 & 8, which is my particular favourite of all tube annoyances (nb this only applies if there are no seats to beat pregnant women out of the way to sit in): once you’ve hoisted yourself through the flow of passengers wanting to get off the train, suddenly lose the ability to walk at a normal pace, standing in the doorway and thus blocking the path of all other people wanting to get on the train. Bumble around, not being able to choose a direction to go in, then settle for holding on to the main central pole in such a way that your bag takes up the same room as a small family. Repeat this process when you get off; are the platform exits to your right, or to your left? Unsure? Simply bimble around in front of the carriage doors until you’ve worked it out. It’s not like everyone else gets off at London Bridge as well, you know.

  3. I am reading this at work, and just spat my tea out of my nose and onto the keyboard.

    Very witty.

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