One morning, I had a couple errands to run which would require me to ride the Tube all across the city. I stepped out from my flat across from Farthing Court and made my way to the nearest tube stop. I was startled to find that it was an absolute madhouse. It was positively feral. An attendant there informed me that per the unusual rules of the moment, all major terminals were going off-the-rails (not literally). This explanation warranted no further glossing. No matter—I set onto the train, intending to switch onto the Victoria line. It wasn’t until after I had crossed the Thames and stepped off at the transfer stop that I remembered I had an errand to run just southeast of Finchley. So I hopped back onto the northbound train and rode it all the way back up, until I disembarked near my destination. I walked next door, without having to cross any streets, to the post office to drop off a parcel.
Having checked off my first errand, I began to walk westward. At the Parliament Hill running track, I ran into a few footballers I had met once before. The manager of the Solihull Moors was acting like a horse wearing blinders—no surprise there. Le Saux was there, but he seemed unlikely to keep up. Oddly, Beckham was there as well! I joined the chaps to jog for a kilometer or so before I continued west to the tube. I passed a few horse-jockeys, who all wore some variant of a checkered pattern, and who seemed to hang out at mosquitoed places. I finally stepped into an Overground station at the southern tip of the green. Today was going well, if not a bit difficult.
I stepped off my train at a station on the west side of town, hoping to get a good look at how they switch the train’s power supply to a third rail. But that’s when my day took a turn for the weird. I felt that I was no longer on the continent. Clearly, the HSE had no jurisdiction here, despite the prevalence of “DANGER—HIGH VOLTAGE” signs. The standard floor tiles seemed overlaid with a live power grid, which promptly shocked any commuters who swore. Repeat offenders were carried off to the Naval Intelligence Division. Eventually a station attendant handed me a power cord, which I inserted into a socket labeled with my next station. I was promptly zapped away.
I rematerialized in a station on the southern edge of fare zone 1. The station attendants were all dressed as 19th-century French ensigns, apparently in homage to some historical occasion. They referred to a convention regarding British defensive forts from the same era. I saw two attendants ostensibly debating each other, but they were just saying the same thing and about-facing while onlooking attendants cheered. I saw signs posted describing current lingo, such as for when you step diagonally to the right, and for when someone stands in your way as you’re trying to board the train, as well as what should happen to you in that latter circumstance. But I was not terribly interested, so I boarded my next train.
I was glad to finally be riding the line onto which I had previously intended to transfer. When the train rolled up to the station, I had to smile at the painted motif of animal life out the train window. But the appreciation was short-lived: when I stepped off the train, a station attendant grabbed me and wrapped a cloth around my face, completely blocking my vision! What odd regulations might these attendants have been enforcing? The attendant told me that other than my impaired vision, I could navigate the station in the old and new ways I was accustomed to. I found that it required quite a bit of know-how to find where I was going. Without even realizing, I stepped right out of the station! I can’t say for sure, but I believe I walked across the reservoir and halfway down Seven Sisters Road before finding my way back onto the train at the eastern corner of the park. It was quite a trek.
After twenty-five minutes on the train, I finally managed to pull the bloody cloth off from my face. Just in time—I had just arrived at my transfer station, the first of two adjacent stations that would get me where I was going. I saw my next train approaching on the platform a diagonal walk from me. However, when I began to approach, a station attendant informed me I’d have to wait for some committee to deliberate on whether this move was admissible. I stood there and watched my train leave while several more attendees spoke together in hushed tones. Finally, the apparent leader of this committee informed me that my diagonal move was fair play. I boarded the next train heading north, and got off at the transfer station near the end of the line. As I walked through the station, I could swear I saw the same committee apprehend a man as he stepped out from the side of the station entrance. I believe I heard them say that per the committee head’s decision, he was to be placed in Hackgrütze, or something to that effect. I switched lines and boarded my next train.
I quickly realized I had boarded the wrong train. But no matter: two stops later, I deboarded at a transfer station, where I was able to hop onto the line that I should have switched to at the previous station. I like to think that this hiccup saved me time: if I had boarded the correct train, it would have taken me three stops to get to this station. Anyhow, I hopped on my train, upon which I noticed that one side of the car was inhabited exclusively by chivalrous-looking men, while the other side was inhabited by average-looking everyfolk. I was so distracted by this phenomenon that I didn’t notice for nearly half an hour that I had gotten on the right train line, but in the wrong direction! After thirteen stops, I disembarked and moved to switch trains. As I stood on the platform, I noticed that all trains were moving only to the left. I pondered how natural this seemed, but my thoughts were interrupted by some riffraff shouting obscenities. I boarded my train (going the proper direction this time) while a station attendant issued a fine to those rascals. After a bit more than half an hour on the train, I attempted to disembark, but my way was intentionally blocked by another no-goodnik! Fortunately, another station attendant came and carried him right out of the station. For once, I appreciated that these attendants were enforcing these strange rules today. I got off my train just in time. I considered hopping onto a commuter boat, just for the thrill of it, but instead decided to transfer onto a line I had recently ridden. I rode westward for just a few stops before stepping off the train for a quick breath. I watched the northbound and southbound trains of the intersecting line pass by, realizing that I had already passed this station earlier today. After pondering the efficiency of my route for a moment, I stepped back onto a train, continuing in the same direction that I had just been traveling.
I could only hope hope for all my transfers to be as simple as this next one! Alas, it seemed not to be the norm norm today. I simply rode the west-bound—and eventually north-bound—train until my transfer station. I am quite sure that I had never been to that station before in my life. Mark mark my words, I was getting the hang of these inane rules. It only took me a moment to sally sally forth onto my eastbound train.
Businessfolk crowded my train car as we passed by the Stock Exchange. Eventually I reached another transfer station, where I stepped off the train and looked out the window at a tremendous mess of traffic. Cars were honking everywhere. It seems that certain lanes of traffic, which commuters had generally learned should go opposite their surrounding lanes, were today reversed in their reversal. While there was no such lane near the station, the impacts on traffic reached city-wide. And those incompetent station attendants were the ones enforcing this rule. I found this to be out-of-sorts, and told a nearby attendant so; she assured me that in order to avoid some shapely mishap, anything would go at one particular station on Jubilee. I didn’t understand this at all. Shrugging, I hopped onto my train all the way to western Harrow. Traffic was obviously a mess around here as well, so I transferred lines at my first opportunity and set on my way.
I rode the line for a long while. I nearly missed my stop because, as we pulled in, someone told me that we were at the Jubilee transfer station. Then, when I overheard him whisper to his friend that “lying is at the heart of the game,” I realized that he was giving me information about the previous station! I scurried off the train in the nick of time. There, some ninny was walking backward through the station, practically bumping into everyone he crossed! And for the second time today, someone tried to physically bar me from boarding my next train, this time with careful, false lunges. I could swear I saw communicative eye contact between these louts that indicated they were working together against me. If only anyone were on my side, then I would coordinate right back against them! Instead, I ducked past them just in time to get through the train door.
I waited patiently to hear the name of my next station. I thought I would only be on for one or two stops. But after I heard the name of two stations I had already visited today, I began to suspect that something was amiss. I checked the map, and sure enough, I had gotten on the wrong train! The kerfuffle at the last station had thrown me off. But no matter—the folks on this train were quite helpful to me. It was as if we were working toward a common goal. I got off the train two stops after the second familiar station. While waiting for my southeast-bound train, I was approached by a station attendant, whom I recognized as the president of that same committee I had met earlier that morning. He asked me to help him decide whom to dismiss from the station. I suppose he was treating his job like a game of Survivor. I told him a made-up name, and boarded my train. When I arrived at my station (which I had not yet been to today), I could swear I saw that same attendant forcibly carrying a commuter out of the Underground. I averted my gaze, found my next train, and transferred lines.
By then I was thoroughly exhausted. Once again, I only needed to go one or two stops; but after I had traveled at least a dozen stops without hearing my station’s name, I realized my mistake and disembarked at the station immediately before the end of the line. I boarded the next northbound train with no issue. However, when I reached my transfer station, a station attendant issued me a fine and told me that I was outside the acceptable zone-of-play, whatever that means. I begrudgingly paid her and transferred lines. After three stops, I stepped off the train, hoping for some peace and quiet. Instead, I met another attendant, who issued me another fine. I was accustomed to paying a fee for driving here, but paying an additional fee for riding the Tube was absurd. I hopped back onto the same train and was back on my way.
A few stops later, I got off the train to collect my thoughts. This station was familiar to me—I remembered being frustrated once to find that the station was exit-only after a game of footy. Unlike the home team, I was unable to walk it in. The station attendants were acting as curiously as ever, asking me if I was interested in meta-epistemology. They had the nerve to ask whether I knew where I was going today—of course I knew! My route is always perfectly sensible. I boarded my southbound train, at which time I overheard two attendants shouting about doubled points. I got off my train in between the two stations where I had been fined, and I consulted a map. Evidently I still had farther to go on this line. I explained to a station attendant that I would be riding up the Uxbridge up until before the merge. The attendant found this satisfactory, and he advised me not to head south of the Thames, which was useless advice, because I couldn’t get there from here—this wasn’t even a transfer station! So I hopped back on my train. When I arrived at the station immediately preceding the merge, I got off to run a quick errand at the Lloyds, and returned to the station. I was so quick that you wouldn’t know I had ever left the station. I hopped onto the next train I saw, which I rode for three stops before alighting and transferring lines.
I rode the line until I hit my first opportunity to transfer (other than back onto the line I had just been riding). I walked over to the other platform, but decided at the last moment that I wanted to head back toward my previous stop. I turned around to return to the platform, but a station attendant came to stop me! She told me that because my movement through the station was so erratic, she would have to confiscate my gain line. After inquiring whether I abstain from drugs and alcohol, she turned me over to her superior, who decreed I was to stay at this location. I found that ludicrous, so they had to call in that attendant’s superior, who was in charge of location-based appeals. This third administrator told me that I was free to go. What a waste of time! I finally got back on a northwest-bound train. However, two stops past the first branch point, I realized I had accidentally boarded the northern branch. I decided that side-trip was not worth the trouble, so I took a deep breath and boarded the next southeast-bound train.
I continued on that train, collecting my thoughts, for quite a long time. I must have dozed off, because I missed my station entirely, and the conductor had to shoo me off at the end of the line. At the station, I saw that same committee president from before. He seemed out of his element, as if today were his first day as president. I overheard other attendants assuring him that they would keep matters strictly within the circuit of some Marxist professor from Lancaster, which seemed to ease his stress. I hopped back on the train to return to the station I had missed. This station had a similar-sounding name to the end of the line station at which I’d just changed trains. While I moved to transfer lines at the station, I saw a couple attendants installing some computer program that was supposed to help out with narrative-style logic puzzles. I boarded my southbound train without giving the attendants much thought; I don’t care much for games.
I was on the wrong branch of the loop, so to reach my final destination, I rode far enough south to change branches. I actually missed my first opportunity to switch, but I managed to get off the train before reaching the transfer station. There were signs all over the station stating that certain traffic rules were in effect: that one may approach King’s Cross from Marylebone Road, but not vice-versa; and that one mustn’t enter the entertainment district in Westminster. I saw a few ruffians prepare to fight, but it was broken up by a few attendants, who cited that the stare-down was positioned where the train conductors could not see. I felt that these rules were refreshingly simple. I felt the thrill of victory as I rode the train north to the only reasonable place for my day’s journey to end.