Don’t put your papers on Tube train air vents

Free newspapers block the air conditioning on the Central Line

It’s that time of year again when air conditioning on underground trains begins to make its presence or absence felt. It’s the time of year when people start to pass out on a regular basis.

Further to this from InSpite, I’m standing on a Central Line train in the evening rush hour and it’s a cauldron of stale, steaming humanity. A careless, clueless, seated passenger reaches behind him and drops his finished-with free paper on top of the air conditioning. A few minutes later, the passenger next-door-but-one does the same. I observe this with feeling. I’m hot and my patience is evaporating. In crowded places, being unobservant and unthinking is inconsiderate. Sometimes it’s negligent. Sometimes it’s fatal. I have difficulty accepting that people who drop their papers on air conditioning vents aren’t, to some extent, tossers.

I get a seat at Liverpool Street. The woman next to me puts her paper on the airvent behind me. I reach round and take it off, along with three others. There are no racks, no shelves, no bins on the Central Line, so I put them on the floor in the middle of the aisle. Not at the end of the aisle where there is transit and shuffling and people may, if they are exceptionally unlucky, trip. Not in the spaces near the doors, for similar reasons. In the middle, where people may stand but rarely walk. And I really have difficulty figuring what else to do with this daily plague of pulped bark.

We get to Leytonstone. Another woman, another covered airvent. I take the paper and drop it on the floor.  And the man sitting to my right comes to life. He bends and starts fussing with the pile of papers near my feet. He picks them up and puts them on the seat next to him, turns to me and says, with a tight, slightly menacing smile, “We don’t throw things on the floor”.

“We?” I queried belligerently. He repeated like an automaton “We don’t throw things on the floor”.

I could have picked him up on the terrible hygiene of moving papers from a tube train floor (bathed in the filth of your London street) onto upholstery, but he struck me as a man who’d experienced a Pavlovian response and might not be amenable to reason. Perhaps when he used to drop things on the floor his mother rapped his knuckles. Perhaps this was an ongoing thing for him. So I returned to my book on social statistics and ignored the strange man.

Yeah, I’m a designer, of sorts, and I realise this is a design problem for Central Line trains which doesn’t affect, say, Victoria Line trains. But we are where we are, and I wish this stupid behaviour would stop.

InSpite is a Central Line user – maybe he has better ideas?


3 thoughts on “Don’t put your papers on Tube train air vents

  1. There’s something deeply painful about Londoners being smothered under a pulpy layer of Metros and London Lites. You may suffocate, but at least the rest of the commuters got their hit of rejigged press releases and shit from the internet.

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