I ventured out with my flatmates, Kevin, Simon (from the US), Stina and Becca (from Norway) in order to get to our class meeting place (Baker Street…think Sherlock Holmes) on time. This meant we had to leave the campus at 7am. Luckily, our overground station was just a few hundred yards away, across the bustling street of tiny cars and massive trucks, a red-double-decker whizzing by every few minutes and through the tiresome beeping of the crosswalk sign. Since we all had a long way to go and it was during congestion time (traveling is more expensive then), we needed to top up (top off) our oyster cards (think easy-pass) before we departed. Once our charges were settled, we checked in at the swipe-points. The ride of a lifetime had begun. I had taken the overground many times before, sometimes with these same people and we had never seen such a dense congregation of travelers on the platform. Our little borough was south-east of central and I had no idea such copious amounts of people lived in our area, all ages and races, shivering in the bitter cold. There were so many people, bundled in pea coats and scarves that when the train to London Bridge arrived, eight cars long, we had to wait ten extra minutes for the next train to arrive.
At that time, we boarded the overground and chugged off to the next check-point. In a compartment that usually comfortably seats everyone, we had to cram into the entrance-exit area along with people reading newspapers, listening to their ipods or feeding their infants in bulky carriages. The rickety journey to London Bridge took the usual eight minutes; tall flats blurring by the windows, the city streets becoming more convoluted and the tourists more numerous. After we disembarked and checked into the Underground, we hit a deadlock of travelers on the several flights of escalators down. We decided to take the faster route, and stepped to the left to descend the electric stairs at a swift pace. The only means of avoiding the mob was to run. However we weren’t alone in this idea. Rushing through the Central (Red) Line entry corridor, the five of us came to the embarking platform where a horde of commuters waited for the tube to arrive. A moment later it did. Mind the gap, was announced.
A mad dash ensued. Kevin practically piledrived himself through the crowd, forcing the rest of us to follow and in doing so, we managed to squish ourselves into the back of the car. We were elbow-to-elbow, pressed against the grip poles, the windows or other passengers. I, personally, was between a tall man, Stina and another few university students, with not even an inch of clearance between us. Everyone looked to the floor or the advertisements along the car wall. Anything to avoid each other. It was then we realized Simon was left on the platform and Becca had entered a separate car. The doors were shut, the tube was leaving the platform. Simon would have to get the next train. Squeals, shrieks and squeaks. Our following transfer station arrived and even though we were closest to the doors, it was a struggle to exit. Stina’s bag was stuck between a woman and the wall, my foot was tangled with the tall man’s shoes and Kevin tripped on his way out.