I was in town for a meeting today so I got to travel on the tube like a real commuter. It was a District line train, one of the old ones, and as I’d forgotten to buy a newspaper on the way in I spent some of the journey idly watching the little blob things on springs (I believe that is the technical term) that people can hang on to when they’re standing. And it suddenly struck me that the new tube trains don’t have them, they just have those colour-coordinated pole-dancing poles and bars along the aisles for the tall people to hold on to. I assume at some point in the past, when pea-soupers regularly engulfed London and Routemasters roamed the earth, there were tube trains with actual straps, as in ‘strap hanging’, but as far back as I can remember tubes have always had blobs on springs and I feel a little aggrieved that they have started to disappear without anyone (= me) noticing.
The thing about the spring-blob-things (somebody help me out here, there must be a name for them) is that when the train lurches forward or jolts, it’s the spring that absorbs the momentum instead of, say, the passenger’s shoulder joint. But on the other hand, they are strictly one person handles and they are spaced out in a way that suggests a more generous age, when a rush hour train meant five or six gents standing chivalrously in the aisles while the ladies took their weight off their feet and did a little knitting on the way home, instead of the extended game of sardines we all have to play now. So the blobs must go the way of straps and we shall have to hold ourselves up by means of jamming ourselves into the gaps between people and hope that in the event of a sudden stop, we don’t all fall over like dominoes and end up in a tangled heap at the end of the carriage.