On the Tube

Please stand on the right

Simple rules bring civility to otherwise potentially savage situations. “Thou shalt not kill” has been exceedingly effective in this regard, as have “Give way” and “Let’s Get It On” (first time Marvin Gaye and rules of the road have been commented on in the same breath? I do hope so…).

My favourite of these on the Tube is, “Please stand to the right when using the escalators.” This well-engrained command has created a culture of consideration on escalators across the underground network that is hard to match; masses of people – some laden with big bags or suitcases – are channelled efficiently through compact bottlenecks and no one loses a limb.

Escalator etiquette in London is so pervasive that even the least considerate of tourists quickly fall in step.

The concept of two separate lanes where one is a fast-track and the other not is a compelling one that I wish was replicated more often in day-to-day life. Having to traverse Oxford Street every day to and from work, I lament the lack of a system that would allow us weary commuters to avoid being bombarded by hordes of tourists orbited by Primark and Topshop bags.

This lamentation also applies when stuck behind someone overly chatty at the supermarket check-out, a customer paying for their goods at the off-licence with pennies, or someone bent on having a drawn-out argument with at the airport check-in staff that they won’t win, but will serve to waste ten minutes.

A fast-lane for those who are in a hurry, or have relatively small demands of a service, would be a simple way to streamline urban living. Just a simple thought for a Sunday night.

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