Last Friday I went into ‘Town’….London Town to be precise. Nothing really unusual in that, I’m there several times a week for work. Maybe it was the post-Doris relative calm (storm ‘Doris’, that is) which made that particular day feel a little different.
Only 24 hours prior to my trip had been a day of 80-90mph storm-force winds, travel chaos and crowd-control at any London railway station actually offering a train ‘service’ at the time. Traditionally a day to ‘work from home’, most Fridays are far more pleasant an experience on the Tube network anyway, but Friday February 24th February 2017 definitely felt a lot calmer than probably any other time I’ve ever visited our Capital in daylight hours.
Peace and Tranquility
This slightly odd, though not unwelcome feeling of peace and tranquility was palpable among my fellow commuters. Even the resident busker at the foot of the long Leicester Square escalator was playing a more serene tune. I’m definitely sure people were walking less frantically, as if taking a few extra seconds on their journey through the transport system to their end destination was actually a good thing for a change.
Not being a resident of the capital myself these days (thankfully!), just a frequent visitor, I am often reminded when I make the trip in, of when I used to live and work in London (mid 90’s). I swore blind I would never become one of those sad, frenetic human ants, swarming around at break-neck speed, as if saving 2 seconds on the escalator by running up, would make all the difference to the day’s outcome of events. A ‘Sliding Doors’ choice perhaps.
If you can’t beat ’em….
All that activity and rushing about as if your life depended on it really is quite infectious even if you’re sure you won’t get involved. If you don’t surrender to the rush (kind of hands up, sighing, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em), you end up being cut-up, wedged against a railing, or tripped up by a passing suitcase at warp- speed. Politely – mind – but without eye contact – this IS London after all.
This unwritten rule even applies to the escalators, of which there are a mind-boggling 423 on the Tube network (don’t you know); 23 at Waterloo station alone, and the longest at Angel (Islington), which boasts a whopping 60 meters of gleaming steel.
This brings me to my point – there is actually PLENTY of time to stop, take a moment, and let your mind wander. I say ‘plenty’ of time in the London space-time-continuum sense, where seconds and even milli-seconds, count, obviously.
This is exactly what I did last Friday – I stopped, took a deep breath and stared into space without direction or meaning, or even purpose except perhaps to gladly decompress. In that journey upwards from the depths of the tunnels, which must have taken around a minute, two max, I could feel a sense of calm gathering as I let my gaze drift. I felt the world shrink back, sounds muffled, other-worldly. I was in my own little bubble where nothing and no-one could reach me. Trance-like and happy.
This was a revelation – a mini detox for the mind. Mindfulness perhaps to coin a trendy phrase. More likely, in my case, vacant mindlessness as I was thinking about absolutely NOTHING for a change. Kind of in a zen state. Until, that is, I was snapped back to reality by the levelling out of the steps close to the top, ready to tip me off into the real world again, albeit slightly fresher than I was at the bottom of the escalator. Small things but a big and noticeable effect.
Perhaps next time I’ll try Angel tube for more of a deeper mind-cleanse. A kind of mini-break for the grey matter. 60 meters is a lot of mind-emptying distance. Better than stingy old Stratford where the exit to the street only offers the traveller a measly 4.1m of detoxification.
Perhaps each escalator could proudly display a health improvement opportunity statistic – ’54 seconds of mind-emptying freedom on this little flight for your delectation’, instead of a boring and predictable ‘Here’s how many accidents happened this month as a result of people running on the escalators’ – not that anyone takes any notice of such warnings.
‘Zen’ on the Tube, well there’s a gift for a TfL marketing guru looking for the next poster campaign – you can have that one on me. You’re welcome.
Originally posted 2017-02-26 22:07:07.