The Joys of Living in London – Commuting: pt3

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William James Downing

Before your day has even started…

You know you have been dragging your metropolitan ass for too long when…

You have optimized your route so – hang on, “optimized your route”, I am already depressed with this article; where is carpal tunnel when you are begging for it?

You have optimized your route so well that you manage to shave nine seconds from every minute without resorting to breaking into a run. This is accomplished by using all the tips and tricks of an F1 driver (with a few Dick Dastardly short-cuts thrown in as well).

It starts with learning to walk at your fastest speed without looking like a cat-stepping freak: You are looking straight ahead with a glaze hanging over your eyes that looks like cataracts, but is in fact the look that excuses your forthcoming whistling past of fellow commuters – why are they slower than you?


  • Perhaps they have had a momentary lapse in concentration
  • Perhaps they are new to their jobs
  • Perhaps they don’t give a shit about spending as much time in their home but still making it into work no more than a few seconds before their day starts
  • Perhaps they are not as depressed or anal as you…

You are walking at a competitive, targeted but not aggressive pace, your eyes have a glaze, hopefully you have earbuds in (whether they are playing any sound or not is your choice, but they separate you from fellow commuters and make your driven actions more excusable).

You see someone on the path ahead of you and time your sped up run perfectly, cutting around them just in time to miss the juggernaut of a merchant heading towards you – “Dude? Why are you walking that way? All the money is this way!”. Also being careful not to walk outside of the path, for example in the gutter or mud, because if you did this you would look like an eager dick. Careful to not make contact with anyone either, as this is as socially unacceptable as copulating with a sibling or making eye-contact with someone on the tube – especially if it is eye-contact with your sister on the tube the morning after.

If you do stray from the path or touch anyone, a great way to cover up for this war-crime is to glance at your watch and then pick up the pace a little for a few seconds: In fact this is a great thing to do, however think of it like the turbo boosts or nitro you get on driving games – you have to earn them and you only have a few to use, because if you constantly do this then people will think you got out of bed drunk or stoned or even worse… eager to get to work. This is all on the walk to the train station.

The next step is breezing past the people at the ticket machines with your pre-paid ticket to step onto the train for which you have arrived at the station in perfect time. You are going to find you have walked to the front carriage and situated yourself in the corner between the doors and the first row of seats, whilst holding up your book on tropical diseases and occasionally coughing. This should create a semi-circle of clearance about you from which you are guaranteed a quick exit from the train at your destination.

The herding towards the ticket gates is just that – a herd: It is a hairy, smelly, dangerous herd, but there is no sound other than heels and the beeping as the cattle pass single-file through the gates.

This is especially where your F1 driver mentality comes into play alongside the steps you picked up from Strictly this weekend; picking the route furthest from the doors is not necessary, remember, as you have got off the train at the front. Try the disabled person’s gate, as you will find your ticket works there, no one else is gutsy enough to use it and there is plenty of room to burst through.

Once in the main train station you should know that the most direct route is rarely the fastest (yes, that old chestnut): There will always be more than one route to your tube or whatever and pay particular attention to the existence of passenger lifts instead of escalators – high risk, high reward as they can either take you to the wrong part of your platform or get you there rapidly.

Escalators really can be a pain, or rather the people on them can – there is nothing greater than a virgin escalator, an escalator devoid of cattle, in the morning. Stick to the left hand side, bend your knees and try to proceeded down as smoothly as possible, almost like you are not even taking steps, just let your feet slip off the edges of the steps and you will surf to the bottom quicker than if you had run down – keeping one hand on the rail, just in case, you will float like a geisha. The pains on the escalator are the people on the wrong side who saunter or even stand – never under-take them, but do this: Tap them on their right shoulder and then, as they look round, push past on their left, once past do the ‘tutting looking at watch’ routine and speed on.

Once at the tube, learn which carriage opens closest to the exit of your final destination, let everyone on before you… then jump! I guarantee that even though the carriage is overfilled, there is always room for one more to manipulate themselves some space.

You have probably arrived at your destination now and face the real physical, King of the Mountains, stage; the last few escalators.

You have to follow your same pattern of constant movement, in a straight line, moving through oncoming passengers like a white helmet police stunt motorcyclist – missing them by millimeteres to great applause from the crowd. Using the same smooth movement up the escalator as you did down is going to be brutal on your thighs and glutes, but you know two things; its going to look good after a few weeks and you have not wasted any time on your commute.

Then the final sprint/speed-walk into your building, up the stairs and onto your desk-chair… You sit at your desk wondering why it is so quiet…You realise it is a Saturday… this is doubly upsetting… Why? Because you have only worked there two weeks.

The Joys of Living in London

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The Joys of Living in Lon…

by William James Downing time to read: 4 min