In general, I really prefer living in London over living in Prague (for those who have never heard, Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic – that small central European country that some people frequently mistake for Chechnya). London is vibrant, things are happening here, there is so much creativity around. But there are a couple of things that I find a bit hard to comprehend – for example, the London underground.
I don’t mean the size of it, that’s fine. Prague’s underground might only have three lines, but you learn to find your way in London’s maze of 11 lines, especially with the help of Google maps.
What I don’t get are the passengers. They have a couple of very strange habits – for example, they love to gather at the doors of the carriage and completely obstruct the entrance. Sometimes I wonder, whether they do it on purpose, whether they are deliberately trying to create the impression of a completely full and crowded carriage (or do they love to feel each other’s body so much? Even in the summer?)
Let’s say you are waiting at the platform with a crowd of other people. The train arrives. The first person to manage to get in wouldn’t continue further inside, he or she would just stop right at the door: “That’s it, I’m in, who gives a fuck about the rest of you suckers!” That’t probably what they think.
What you have to do if you want to board the train is virtually elbow your way through this door-obstructing crowd. And – surprise, surprise – once you squeeze your way through the first two metres, suddenly, the carriage is half empty. You might even be able to sit down.
Yes, I sometimes miss the much better organised and considerate Prague public transport travellers. In fact, had anyone done something like that in Prague’s underground, the nearest co-passenger would most probably correct the obstructor’s attitude pretty quickly. And they wouldn’t be particularly polite I guess.
And that’s not all. For some reason, the London Underground passengers waiting at the platform love to start pushing their way inside the carriage as soon as the train’s doors open when those trying to get out are still fighting their way through the door-obstructing gathering, which wouldn’t move an inch to let them out. What happens is that the three desperate groups (those desperately trying to get out, those eager to get in and the stubborn door-obstructors) bump into each other and start pushing backwards and forwards, which results in a desperate deadlock when no one is getting anywhere.
Yes, I know, the London tube is crowded and you don’t want to wait for the next train. I understand that finding a strategic position on the platform is key not to be the sucker who has to wait for the next train. But seriously, perhaps if you stop and think a bit, you would see that the whole process might work a bit more smoothly.
Especially in summer months, this crowd pushing game is rather annoying because London Unferground simply doesn’t have any functioning ventilation.
Now, let me tell you a bit about Prague’s underground (or metro, as we say). It’s amazingly spacious and there is a constant cool breeze. Really, even if there is 40 degrees outside (we actually have warmer summers than the UK), you would probably choose to put on a light sweater after entering the underground, it just feels fresh there.
In fact London Underground and its ability (or inability) to cope with weather which is only mildly out of the norm is a bit underwhelming. In winter, as soon as temperature drops just slightly below zero and altogether three snowflakes fall down in the whole city, severe delays would halt the traffic. Not only underground, all the overground and train lines would be disrupted too. I would really love to now why. Is minus 1° C enough for all the railway switches to freeze? Or do they really get blocked with those three snowflakes? What’s wrong with English railway switches then? Perhaps UK might consider importing some from elsewhere….
And let’s not forget about the signal failures. I used be a bit claustrophobic. But being stuck every other day for at least a couple of minutes in the Underground tunnel “due to a signal failure” has been a great training. I cope much better now. The only time when it got really bothersome was when my sister came to visit to see the Chelsea -Sparta Prague football match and we spent the first half stuck somewhere between Green Park and Knightsbridge “due to a signal failure” in Hammersmith.