- Don’t even think about approaching the ticket barrier until you’re sure you know what you’re doing. We do not look kindly upon those who are unable to operate an Oyster. If that sentence doesn’t make sense to you, you are as-yet unqualified to use the tube. Do some more research; come back later.
- Yes, “mind the gap” is a real announcement, but no, it’s not played everywhere. If you’d like to hear it, and get excited and screechy, you’ll need to scurry along to the Central Line at Bank, Northern Line northbound at Embankment and Bakerloo Line at Piccadilly Circus. You’re welcome.
- Stand on the right of the escalators. For Pete’s sake, don’t stand on the left: the left is for walking up or down. At best, you’ll piss off someone who’ll tut loudly and continuously, rolling their eyes until you get the message. At worst, the barrage of harassed commuters behind you won’t take into account that you’ve stopped, and will blindly continue on their course, jogging down the stairs at speed, hurtling you face-first towards a horribly disfiguring accident.
- If you must pause anywhere in the network of the Underground to take an inexplicable photo, blow your nose or consult a map, stand well clear of all oncoming foot traffic. See above.
- If you have rubbish, kindly take it with you. Londoners have places to be, and bomb scares that turn out to be half a flappy Pret wrapper make us really cross.
- Respect a queue wherever you see it: always join at the back, and don’t even think about pushing in ahead – it’s the one remaining offence for which you can be hanged at the Tower. Queues are to Brits what cows are to Hindus.
- When the dude tells you to let passengers off the train before getting on, he’s talking to you. Yes, you. Do us all a favour and listen to him, would you? Again, that means you, European teenager with backpack.
- Ref. point 4, above: When you do get off the train, keep moving. It doesn’t matter where, just move - preferably with the flow of pedestrian traffic. Do not stop just outside the door and ponder your next move from here. You’ll be trampled, and there’ll be very little sympathy.
- The buttons on the tube doors don’t work. Don’t press them.
- Don’t make eye contact. With anyone. Unless you’re in the middle of a heart attack, in which case: play it down, wave off any rare instance of concern from strangers and get off at the next stop. Don’t be the guy who pulls the emergency alarm and screws up the entire line in both directions for the next 20 minutes. No one likes that guy.
- Bugger the woman and children: in matters of seats on the tube, it’s every soul for themselves. There’s no point in fighting a Londoner for a seat – you won’t win. If by some miracle you do, expect Gorgonesque stares of unimaginable hatred until you reach your destination.
- On which note: you’ll notice there are fewer seats than people who wish to sit in them. Reserving one for a backpack is the preserve of the very, very brave. Or cretinous.
- The following are not suitable for use on the Underground (not an exhaustive list): smelly foods; anything that might spill; anyone who’s left the house without a generous application of deodorant; small rodents or dogs that panic in crowds; terrible earphones that leak tinny Euro-pop; large groups of teenagers incapable of using the indoor voice.
- It’s pronounced Les-ter.
- Yes, it’s always this crowded. No, the tourist numbers aren’t helping. No, we don’t know how we do it every day either.
Travel: A week on the West Coast. California or bust
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