elb's hovel of thoughts

Thursday, December 09, 2004

In a hurry in London?

Reminder to all people:

Should you ever need to take the London Underground, be very wary of certain lines which co-share the same platforms, but end up splitting to different destinations after a station or two (note: this effect is also commonly observed at the outer areas of London, where the same line can branch out into several). Especially when you can hear and see the train coming when you are making way to the platform, and you suddenly somehow summon some previously unknown source of stamina to dash through the turnstile, and enter the train.

Because the train could take you to where you least expect it, often only noticable after
1) Glancing at the platform table and noticing the station you want to get out of is mysteriously missing
2) You encounter unfamiliar stations or notice after a couple of minutes overdue 'where the heck is my stop', which is immediately followed by step 1.

What to do next:
1) Calm down, and assess the situation and the maze of lines that make up the London Underground. Pick the next most direct route to the intended destination.
2) If you're lucky, the change only involves one transfer; i.e. stations A B and C are lined up in a triangle, with one line going to and from A and B, another B and C and the third A and C. Assuming that you got onto A and wanted to go to B but instead somehow found yourself at C, all you need is to board the C to B line.
3) If you're unlucky, the switching in the above step involves an inhuman walk up and down staircases, long straights and curves of up to almost a kilometre (at certain stations). Or if you have to backtrack from C to A, and then do A to B.
4) If you're really unlucky, the above two steps can really mess up your schedule. For example, if you have a train ticket for a fixed journey, and you are running late and miss it and need a new ticket which can cost a bomb. Or it could get your partner/wife/husband all worked up and smelling foul play. Or something else, well, let your imagination do all the thinking.

Fortunately there is a sort of saviour, in the form of London taxi drivers, who would carefully navigate the streets of Central London for you (maybe some reward could be handy). This is however subject to
1) Traffic jams. Central London has plenty of these. Majority caused by either
a) Buses, be it the accordian kind of the double decker kind or the standard buses, which stop
at every stop.
b) Pedestrians. Yes, the power of the masses, who swarm up and down the pedestrian crossings and jaywalk, even when the lights are green for the cars. Unfortunately the poor drivers cannot afford to plough through a crowd of one hundred; this would result in a lynch mob of several thousand. (Note: super-pedestrian mentality has to be disabled upon return to Malaysia)
c) The insane amount of traffic lights. In some stretches, you could barely drive as little as 50metres before hitting the next red light. Add that with the pedestrian factor, and you need one heck of a patience.
2) Money. A cab in London is super expensive. Unless you have a minimum of 50GBP, forget it. (It is unknown to me whether the cab drivers now, if they ever have, use credit/debit card facilities. I do not wish to find out). On the plus side, they are honest people.
3) Walk. Sometimes you just might have actually have to use those muscles.

To simplify: Never hurry when there are several lines using the same platform.

Copyright Patrick Ee, 2004


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