In many ways, I am not a strong person. I’m 5’1″. I weigh less than my dream dog. I’m scared of spiders, clowns, and accidentally finding out how many calories there are in tiramisu. I would be the first person to die in a horror film, zombie apocalypse, or freak outbreak of pretty much any disease. I’m not very good at opening jars, bottles, or doors. I’m allergic to caffeine, short of iron, and partial to making poor life decisions. I will invariably eat the last biscuit. (And the first biscuit. And all the biscuits in between.) I spend too much of my time watching cat videos on YouTube.
But when it comes to rush hour, I take no prisoners. I will be getting on that Tube car with my bag, my dignity, and sometimes even a three layer chocolate fudge cake with ganache icing (true story). My lack of height and girth may mean that my partner in commuting crime manages to misplace me while I’m standing right next to her on an almost daily basis. But it also means that, like a tetris piece with legs, I can fit into the smallest of spaces. I will over-take you in crowds. I will slip past you on escalators. I will be an unlikely looking public transport ninja.
So I was pretty surprised the other day when I found myself not just the victim of Tube rage, but the catalyst to an early-morning shouting match.
There I was at Euston, waiting to hop on board the Victoria line, at the front of the queue to get in the next car. (In this country, being the front of the queue means something, y’know?) The train pulled in; all roaring noise and headlights; the doors opened – and some guy body slammed me out of the way.
I was more confused than I was angry. Not only am I good at slipping past people, I have a good track record with chivalry. I’m the girl who people want to help with that heavy suitcase; the girl people give up their space for. As far as I can tell, I must just look like the kind of girl who would be the first person to die in a zombie apocalypse and who can’t open a jar on their own.
I experienced mixed emotions due to the ensuing and aforementioned shouting match, as one man jumped to my defence (hurrah!), only to be verbally attacked by yet another ill-tempered fellow who, perhaps understandably, did not wish to be inflicted with human emotions at that hour in the morning (less hurrah).
So as I stood, baffled, on the platform, I could think of only one explanation for the Tube incident. Say it in your best Austin Power’s impression: I’ve lost my mojo. This is a terrifying prospect. I’m not good at carrying heavy suitcases, or opening jars. Left to my own devices, who knows what might happen.
And if I’ve lost my mojo, then I know exactly who to blame.
Since the tube strikes, tensions have been running noticeably higher. The frailty of the system has danced in front of us, naked, wearing a high vis jacket and a scowl, and we can disavow our over-reliance upon the wholly fallible London underground network no longer.
Light has dawned in the tunnel. The flaws of the Underground have risen to the surface. Concrete is the fear that concrete may be poured in places that concrete has no right to be.
And the fear means that, more than ever, each commuter sees themselves as against the crowd, rather than part of it. This reasoning would (according to National Geographic: cheers guys) explain why millions of people can coexist peacefully during the festival of Maha Kumbh Mela, yet cause a fatal stampede at a railway station when trying to leave the site last year. The positive mob mentality was broken as the festival ended; the crowd stopped being psychological and was merely physical; and chaos ensued.
There’s a slight chance I’m reading way too much into my recent lack of luck on the Tube. But having someone to blame is always nice, isn’t it? And I pick Boris.