If I die prematurely it’s as likely to be on the Central Line as anywhere else. It may be heat, overcrowding, a bomb, a fight, or spleen.
Perhaps trying to get off the westbound platform at Holborn in the morning rush hour. The day before yesterday the queue backed up all the way into the train. Mostly we’re exposed to this risk by London Transport. But as I grimly held the doors apart, I noticed again the way people look at fruit ninja on their phones when they should be watching the person in front, and the way young fit women hobble themselves with footwear they should be ashamed to wear.
And norms are changing. Last week nobody would offer a pregnant woman with an eye patch a seat. Something like this happens most days. Young men and women of Asian background are most likely to give up their seats – I don’t think the EDL has noticed this yet. Maybe when they do they’ll disband. Earlier in the week I had to ask another man in a priority seat to give it to a woman with a crying baby in a sling. Once I gave somebody my seat and then moved the man in the priority seat and sat on it myself. It hadn’t even been busy when he got on. If you take that seat, you have to stay alert. Unless you’re the ill one – which he wasn’t. He was young, fit and healthy like all the worst gits.
There was a young plump man sleeping in the priority seat when I got on on Tuesday. He looked done in – it was sweltering but he had folded his arms inside his hoody. He turned this way and that trying to find a place to lean. Finally he gave up and lolled with his legs stretched out across the aisle. For half an hour he didn’t move. I think he was a rough sleeper. As I got out I brushed his bare leg with mine. He was alive.
And people are going deaf because of personal stereos, occupation, and the dangerous levels of noise on the Central Line. Yesterday three construction workers shouted to each other in Polish even after I moved them into adjacent seats. The day before that I had to tell the couple next to me to stop shouting. And it’s a rare week I don’t have to tell somebody that their headphones are too loud. The week before last I had a set to with a man who was playing his phone out loud and wouldn’t stop. He called me names. I called him lovely, a real charmer and laughed in his face. But mostly they stop because they know it’s wrong – but at the same time they don’t stop unless somebody makes a point of asking them. It’s hardly ever not me. Why is that?
Last night a man was playing fruit ninja so hard on his iPad that his entire body was jerking and knocking the man next to him. I think it’s very rude to fidget and flap in public space cf the women who cover the upholstery in face powder every morning. It makes it impossible to relax with your eyes open.
And the litter that gets dropped. This week a tub so large had been left on an airvent that the man in front of it couldn’t lean back. And you know what – even though it wasn’t his, he took it away with him. Imagine if everybody did that.
Earlier in the week I found myself between two selfish men squeezed from both sides. One of them was spreading his legs so I put my bag on his knee. The other was spilling out of his seat for no good reason, so I leaned on him as I read. He looked as if he felt the heat more than me. When life serves you lemons.
And this is how it is. It didn’t used to be this inconsiderate and disrespectful, I think. It’s our culture now, on the Central Line.
There’s so much more.
Crutch – and yet stiletto sandals. In the priority seat. Not a good look.
Nothing to hide.