diamond geezer

 Monday, January 29, 2007

London EC2: There's an "Emergencies" notice above the rear door of the train carriage which is meant to provide helpful advice and reassurance to members of the travelling public in situations such as this. We've been trapped down here for so long now that I've finally got around to reading it.
Alarms are provided at all doorways and can be operated by passengers in the event of an emergency. Operation of the alarm will enable you to talk directly to the train driver and will automatically stop the train if it is in a station.
We've tried the alarm already, of course. Ages ago, and at regular intervals ever since. But we get no response from the driver, and he's not announced anything over the loudspeakers recently either. Martin says our driver must have walked up to the next station when whatever happened happened. Martin's the accountant stood across the gangway from me, and he's busy expounding his theories on "what happened" to anyone who'll listen (which unfortunately is everyone in the carriage). It's aliens, he says. Definitely aliens, or perhaps Iraq, or maybe meteorites like that DVD he watched with his girlfriend over the weekend. He says Sylvester Stallone will soon be knocking on the window of the carriage, and guiding us all safely to daylight over a heap of burning rubble through a flooded water main. We wish Martin would shut up.
If the train is in a tunnel it will continue to the next station before stopping.
But our train never made it to the next station before stopping. St Paul's must still be several hundred yards ahead - so close and yet tantalisingly out of reach. If the train had been fifteen seconds further ahead in its journey then we'd all have disembarked normally, several hours ago. Instead we're sitting out eternity in a metal box with no obvious means of escape.
In the event of power loss the emergency lights will come on automatically.
The emergency lights are all that's keeping us sane down here. Our subterranean prison would be unbearable in pitch black darkness, but with illumination we can carry on some semblance of normal commuting. A lot of people have turned to the Metro's Sudoku for sustenance, and some have surprised themselves by completing it for the very first time. One important-looking lady has kept herself occupied by composing a stern letter of complaint on her laptop. Men in suits have been pointedly staring at their watches every few minutes or so, as if to say "I have somewhere so important to be, and I'm oh so very late." Bad luck, gents. Some people have attempted to hide behind a screen of headphoned music, at least until their iPod batteries run out. And others have finally broken the habit of a lifetime and are talking to their fellow commuters. "Hi I'm Sheila from Wanstead, and I have three kids and a poodle who I love to bits." "And I'm Sandra from Chelmsford, and my boyfriend works as a fireman, and I wish he was here now." Or maybe not.
To provide emergency ventilation, operate the slide mechanism above the seats or lower the window in the end door.
We're in great need of emergency ventilation right now. There's been an all-pervasive smell of urine inside the carriage since one of the younger passengers couldn't hold himself in any longer, and promptly dribbled embarrassedly down his trousers. Since then we've ganged together and rounded up all the empty coffee cups and Red Bull cans in the carriage, ready for if (or when) another bladder emergency arises.
Do not attempt to leave the train outside a station unless instructed to do so by a member of London Underground staff.
And here's the real problem. There are no London Underground staff to instruct us. The driver's long vanished, and there never was a guard on the train in the first place. The withdrawal of guards may have saved London Underground a lot of money over the years, but on this occasion it's left us lost and leaderless fifty feet down. Nobody's yet plucked up the courage to "attempt to leave the train", just in case the rails are still connected to a live supply of electricity. They probably aren't, but without any official guidance that's not a risk anybody's been willing to take. Except for Martin. He's all for taking a look up the tunnel, because it's better than standing around waiting to be rescued. And who are we to argue, because no rescue is apparent. We don't even know that anybody knows we're here.
Posted at 11:49 from 51°30'51"N 0°5'41"W via my Z470xi mobile


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