Dr Plokta (drplokta) wrote,
Dr Plokta

How To Use Public Transport

Rush hour may be crowded, but at least most people know where they're going and what they're doing. Having just spent a three-day weekend (in tourist season) travelling around in central London every day, I have a few things to get off my chest.

How To Use Public Transport in London

Note 1: These rules apply to London. There are different rules in other places.
Note 2: Many of these rules do not apply to the disabled and their companions, including those disabled by their extreme youth. Rather than insert multiple exceptions, here is a blanket exception.
  1. Stand on the right on the escalators. This does not mean that you stand in the middle and reach across to the right-hand hand-rail -- if you're not getting friction burns on your right hip, you're too far to the left. Your luggage, shopping bags and other chattels have to stand on the right, too. If you want to stand next to your friend and talk, take a cab. You should aim to acquire a severe phobia of standing on the left of any vaguely staircase-shaped object.
  2. The Theory of Relativity tells us that there's no such thing as a privileged inertial frame of reference. This means that people walking slowly have to look out for faster people coming up from behind just as much as people walking fast have to look out for slower people in front. Fit wing mirrors to your glasses. Or walk faster.
  3. They're called slam-door trains, not push-the-door-shut-lackadaisacally-with-your-little-finger-trains. There is a reason for this. And if you don't shut the door properly, try again, don't leave it for someone else to do.
  4. Master the Way of the Ticket Barrier. Aim for the finely-tuned mental state and subtle wrist action that let you insert your ticket, walk through the barrier and pick up your ticket without breaking step. Using an Oystercard is cheating, and is thus highly recommended.
  5. The magnetic strip on the ticket goes at the bottom. If you try to put your ticket through the barrier with the magnetic strip at the top , it will be automatically incinerated. Meanwhile, several large men with baseball bats will drag you into a back room, beat you up, ban you from London Transport services for life and then throw you out into the street. Well, probably not -- but I can dream.
  6. Look at the platform you're standing on. Do you see the dense throngs of people around the entrance stopping anyone else from getting onto the platform, and the acres of empty space further along? Does this strike you as a good use of space? Is there anything you could be doing about it?
  7. Stopping is bad. Even I will concede that it's sometimes necessary, but before you stop, take a good look around, identify the patterns of traffic flow and find somewhere to stop that's out of the way. London Underground don't help matters by situating all of their maps in locations carefully chosen to maximise the blockage caused by people stopping to read the map. So carry a pocket map. Or if that's too much trouble, just memorise the entire Underground map. Tomorrow, you can do the London Connections map.
  8. The social contract calls for people trying to get onto the train/tram/bus to let people get off first. But the other part of the social contract calls for the people who want to get off to be standing by the door when it opens, so that they can jump off with indecent haste. If you're still sitting down when the people start to get on, then you've missed your stop, and you're going to have to wait for the next one.
  9. The seats aren't there for your comfort and convenience, they're there to get you out of the goddamn way. Sit down if there are any free seats. If you don't like sitting next to strangers, take a cab. A limited exception may be made for people going one or (at most) two stops who can find a good place to stand that's not in anyone's way (even if the platform is on the other side at the next stop).
  10. If you can't drag all your luggage with one hand, you have too much luggage. If you can't carry your luggage up a flight of steps, you have too much luggage. If you can't put your luggage into an overhead rack, you have too much luggage. If you're American, you have too much luggage.
  11. Keep your knees together when you sit down. If your gonads get crushed when your knees are together, you should probably be wearing briefs instead of boxers. Or if female, you should see your doctor immediately.
  12. The one place where stopping is not acceptable, under any circumstances, is anywhere within ten metres of a ticket barrier. Get your ticket ready before you enter the exclusion zone radius. Assemble your party somewhere else.
  13. There may well be a queue at the bottom of an escalator, waiting to go up. You will notice that the right-hand side of the queue moves rather slowly while the left-hand side is much shorter. This is because if you join the left-hand side, you will have to walk up the escalator. If you join the left-hand queue, then squeeze over to the right to stand rather than walk, then it is socially and legally acceptable for the person standing behind you to slit your throat with their pocket-knife.

Shit. 3½ years living in London, and I appear to have gone native.

Edit: After another morning on the Tube, I added a couple more rules that I had unaccountably forgotten.

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