Manners Maketh Man …

…woman, and the occasional machine

Every time I use the tube these days I’m struck by how much less courteous the passengers are to each other than they are on the overground trains. Even on the worst days on the Silverlink, people would generally wait for all of the passengers to get off before attempting to board themselves (a cynic would point out that it was only once people had got off that there was any room to get on, but that is beside the point). Anyone who did try and barge on was usually held back – occasionally physically, but mostly with a barrage of disapproval from the people who did wait. I constantly get caught out by this on the times when I change tubes at Hammersmith – the train comes in with a few empty seats, but by the time I’ve stood by and let the passengers get off, everyone else on the platform has already shouldered their way onto the train and nabbed them all, leaving me standing and fuming for the rest of the journey. I don’t know why there should be this difference. Both services are equally crowded and tubes are far more frequent than trains, so if anything you’d expect the train passsengers to be the ones piling on at any cost, not the tube goers. And what happens to those people who use both? Are they, like me, left standing politely by as the underground-only commuters barrel on? Or does some sort of transformation take place in the escalator down to the platform: mild mannered train user suddenly morphing into a dweller of the underworld, like the vampires in Buffy?

Not, of course, that we are all paragons of courtesy on the trains. There was a lad this morning who was managing to take up four seats out of the three-by-two – one for his bum, one for his feet, one for his bag, and one for his breakfast. And the train guard on the way home this evening decided to rudely butt in and contradict the poor old computerised announcement at every single stop. The computerised system was a bit confused and was announcing the wrong station every time, but still, there was no need to humiliate the poor thing in front of everybody. A little bit of constructive feedback with the off switch would have worked fine.

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