One of my favourite travel pastimes is people watching. I used to think that the best place for people watching was from a café in the centre or square of a city. This was before I became a daily commuter on the London Tube.
The morning rush northbound on the Northern Line is certainly an experience you only need to go through once before you realise you don’t want to do it again. The pushing, elbowing and shoving to get on the bloody thing is enough to put anyone off. If you are lucky enough to actually squeeze onto the already overflowing carriage, ducking your head for fear of being decapitated by the closing doors, you then find yourself crammed under someone’s armpit, between someone’s soft man boobs and a lumpy backpack with someone else’s hair in your mouth. That’s ok, since you don’t talk on the Tube anyway and there is no need to hold on — you are not going anywhere fast.
Then there is the awkward elbowing and shuffling at each stop for people getting on and off. You know you are not doing it right if you are not touching someone else.
On the very rare occasion (like when you go to work an hour early) you get lucky and there is enough space for you to stand peacefully and read the morning news with one hand while clutching the germ ridden poles with your free hand.
Don’t get me wrong; while it is not particularly enjoyable, it is all part of the ‘living in London experience’. The only thing you can do is take advantage of it. Hence, ‘Tube people watching’.
Tube people watching can be a relaxing and enjoyable way to pass the time if you have no free hands to read your morning paper. It can be informative, inspiring, and a healthy alternative to Facebook stalking or other addictive social media that seem to be hindering the world’s ability to be social without electronics.
The London Underground offers what some afficionados might say is one of the world’s, if not THE world’s, finest people watching opportunities. On the Tube you can find a variety of people from all walks of life. Each Underground line and each stop offer a smorgasbord of entertainment and questions yet to be answered.
Why is that man wearing glasses with no lenses? Are you allowed to bring a dog that big on the train? Will that woman finish her Sudoku before she gets to her stop? Is that a girl or a guy dressed up like a giant hotdog? Will the young guy ask for the number of the girl he has been making eyes at since Bank? Where are the couple in the ball gown and white bow tie going? Can I go with them? Where can I get a satchel like the one that woman has? Is that guy with the guitar in a band? Maybe he’s famous?
There are people from different parts of the world, people from different socio-economic backgrounds, people wearing expensive suits, people reading the latest romance novels and homeless people wearing newspapers. The most difficult part about being a people watcher, especially on the Underground, is not to be caught daydreaming like a moron.
So the next time you find yourself crammed on the Northern Line during rush hour, look out for girls like me… a fresh faced Aussie with a hint of a smile, moronically gawking in wonder at the masses as they migrate through London.
Check out more of Jacqui’s observations on her personal blog, NeverEndingHoneymoon.net