A Journey Underground
A short story about travelling and commuting on the London Underground.
The station is quiet. Friday mornings always are, so I only pass a few yawning commuters as I walk through the grand, red-brick entrance into the Underground Station. The small cake and coffee shop at the top of the steps has just opened, and the frosty morning air is tinged with that faint smell of the first few coffees being made. There has been so much snow here over the past few days that the barriers are currently not working, so I avoid the usual scramble for my Oyster and continue down the escalator. The tunnel is wet with snow brought in on the bottom of people’s shoes and there are yellow ‘Do not slip’ signs dotted everywhere. I turn left as the tunnel divides and glance at the black sign with bold orange writing; the next train should arrive in 1 minute. The usual gust of warm air billows out from within the tunnel, signalling the imminent arrival of a train. The rails shudder and there is a distant screech of brakes. A tiny mouse scurries away from it’s hiding place underneath the rails and disappears into a gap below the platform.The train painfully grinds to a halt and I stand back to allow passengers off. The doors are already open; bouncing apart before the train has even stopped. They slam shut and the train rumbles off, the seats occupied by suited bankers reading papers and studying the news on their phones. I sit down on a patterned chair and face directly opposite me. The seats do not line the windows for the entirety of each carriage as they do on other Underground lines. Here on the Bakerloo line, there are still chairs of four stacked opposite each other. I notice the dust rising from the cushion next to me as its occupant shuffles, leaning against the window slightly for comfort. Sitting in such close proximity, even for such a short period of time, means I cannot help but observe the man opposite me. His immaculate three-piece suit seems to repel the dust of the carriage, and as the train jolts forward he coughs and opens the paper sitting neatly across his lap. Unfurling the Financial Times, he begins to read, fairly quickly given the speed of his page turns. The train jolts and the lights flicker off. The carriage is plunged into darkness, before the lights flicker back on in a matter of seconds. This continues time and time again, an unfortunate trait of the Bakerloo line.The man opposite is unperturbed by this. He does not pause in his reading, or sigh with annoyance at the constant flickering. I arrive at my stop and leave the train, feeling the air rush past me as I walk towards the exit, the tube continuing its morning commute.