25 June, 2009

Shut Up, Just Shut Up, Shut Up!

With an hour's travel every morning, and another on the way home each evening, I tend to get a lot of reading done while on the move. I also listen to podcasts and documentaries (partly work-related). All this means that when I'm on the tube and the train driver or platform staff make an announcement, I have to unplug my earphones to make sure it's not something important. And when it isn't, my frustration levels begin to rise.

It might not sound much to people who live outside of London and have to wait for trains for up to half an hour at a time, but London's a busy, angry city. The tube trains should run at regular intervals of a minute or two apart, or else the platforms become dangerously congested. It's a situation that isn't helped by stupid people with no spacial awareness, who stop dead in the middle of a platform and then glare at anyone who tries to pass them to stand further up the platform where there's room and where they won't be blocking the entrance. Or people with prams. At rush hour.

See - congestion makes people intolerant. Anyone who stops you getting to somewhere where there's enough room for you to be more than six inches away from someone else's armpit is preferable. People don't talk on the tube, unless they have mental health issues, are drunk or are annoying. We're an anti-social breed in London, and we like it that way. So, when we've got a book so we can avoid eye contact, and earphones so we can block out needless communications, or the screech of the train as it speeds along the tunnels, the last thing we really want is to hear announcements, because they invariably mean our uncomfortable journey is likely to take a) twice as long as it should and b) about three times as long as we can bare. Speak to a Londoner after they've had a long journey on the tube and count the facial ticks.

Which is why I greeted this piece from BBC News with dismay. Any announcement that isn't essential to the decisions I make while travelling are a needless distraction. It's audio spam - noise for the sake of trying to convince me they're doing a better job than I'm willing to accept. If they're doing a good job, I'll know. If they're doing a bad job, I'll know - and the only things I might want to hear are explanations, apologies and alternative routes.

I don't want some platitude from Gandhi!