One of the biggest daily issues Londoners face is avoiding acquiantances on their commute.
Much like how planes stay in the sky through the collective will of 300 people, London’s transport system runs on the unspoken agreement that obligatory conversations about whether this week is
b) going really quickly
c) ever going to be over!
belong in the kitchen at work, not a Jubilee line platform pre 9am, the 07:32 Watford to Euston, or the number 38 bus.
This is precisely why Londoners don’t look at each other on public transport.
It’s not strangers we’re trying to avoid, it’s mistakenly locking eyes with someone we know.
Because when that happens, you have to quickly calculate the number of possible conversation topics versus remaining tube stops, and decide whether you’re going to begrudgingly remove your headphones, or stop walking, slowly avert your gaze, turn around, walk to the opposite end of the platform, and research alternative routes to work
Thankfully most Londoners respect the rules.
We’ve perfected looking both directly at and through people at the same time, thus avoiding ever having to acknowledge someone’s presence.
But sometimes people go rogue, and we’ve all felt the impending doom of a cheery ‘oh, hello, do you get this train too?’. We’ve witnessed the too-long gaps between conversations about weekends plans and office tea shortages and ‘where do you live then?’ echoing through an otherwise silent carriage.
We’ve felt the pain of two acquaintances five minutes into their joint journey, inwardly counting down the stops, wondering how they got to this point, what they could have done differently, where did they go wrong?
Commuting is like brushing your teeth.
It’s a personal, twice-daily routine you sort of weirdly look forward to, things only go wrong if you try talking at the same time.
We all have stuff planned for that 45 minute slot: reading books (see below), listening to podcasts, silently judging everyone around us, compiling a particularly banging early noughties playlist on Spotify, or repeatedly refreshing Twitter on our phone.
But commutes are sacred, and rules are rules: without them London doesn’t run. So stand on the right, let people off before you get on, and if you see someone you know getting on your bus, do the right thing: let them travel alone.
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