Some people are just ludicrous! I was at Euston Station this afternoon, coming down the escalators. Londoners reading this will no doubt know that there’s an unwritten etiquette on the tube which dictates that, if you want to stand on the escalators, you must do so on the right hand side, thereby leaving the left hand side free for those in more of a hurry who want to walk or run down. If you’re not a Londoner and you stand on the left by mistake, you will very swiftly learn these rules! Someone will tut loudly behind you, say something snarky or, even more outrageously, give you a firm sideways nudge. The other rule of thumb, and this is vital, is that you have to be ready to alight the escalator at the bottom. You often get Out-of-Towners nervously putting a foot out first, or stopping out of fear. This can be extremely dangerous as it leads to a crush of people careering into you from behind. The great wartime tragedy at Bethnal Green station was caused by someone loosing their footing on a staircase and scores of people tripping over her. More than a hundred people died in the ensuing crush. Their bodies were so intertwined that it took hours to pull everyone out. There are just too many people in London for anyone to saunter, or stop in their tracks.
Today, as I started to walk down the left hand side, I noticed that a group of people were clustered in the middle of the escalator. I quickly deduced that there was no point in my tapping the shoulder of the person in front to ask them to stand aside. The issue was caused by a small Japanese woman with a massive suitcase, and as we hurtled inexorably to the bottom of the escalator, I could see exactly what was going to happen. She would be too weak to get the suitcase off the bottom of the escalator and royal mayhem would ensue! And so it came to pass. People went careering in all directions and had it not been for my walking backwards up the escalator we’d all have gone down like a house of cards. As I stumbled backwards, up and up the moving steps, I swore loudly. I, and several people behind me, managed to surf the escalators until the ever-growing crowd of people at the bottom had managed to push the suitcase out of the way. The Japanese woman walked away, completely oblivious, and the woman behind me, who heard me swearing, did that really irritating thing of saying, “yeah, calm down, it’s not the end of the world” before rolling her eyes and walking to the platform. And I thought, “if you knew how close I’d come to tumbling over the man in front of me, you would not be saying that…” Instead, I smiled politely and tried to calm myself down. An adrenaline spike at 4pm on a Monday is not good for anyone!