I could spend 3.5 hours moaning about the tube strike in London, which is what I did trying to get home on Wednesday night. I could and it would be totally justified because those 24 hours were evil. But walking home on Thursday afternoon I realised it was not all Armageddon, though.
From a completely self-centred point of view, I found two bright sides to the tube strikes.
Firstly, commuters become humans again.
When the people of the underground are forced out on to the surface, they leave their – as my friend picturesquely described this – cold turkey faces, and the no-eye-contact-don’t-even-think-about-it policy to join the massive wave of general disapproval.
People love to complain and all of a sudden we were on the same delayed, overcrowded boat; united in the pain-in-the-ass of a strike. So we talked to strangers, talked about how annoying it all was and how we didn’t feel sorry for the tube drivers, and how much this sucked. People talked. And they even sounded a bit more sincere when they apologised for stepping on your foot, which for London standards is the equivalent of getting a big fluffy hug. It was not a jungle anymore. It was comradeship (until the bus arrived and there was no way in hell you’d let the woman who got to the stop three minutes after you go first).
Secondly, unreliable timetables, disruptions and DLRs cancelled halway through the route meant you had to find your way around. And sure, I’d much rather wander about on a lazy Sunday when there’s nothing better to do and when I don’t have to be at the office for a meeting. But my walk from Tower Gateway to Moorgate revealed a whole new world to me (or at least a few burger places that seemed worth visiting).
I also, rather painfully, finally learnt to differentiate Stepney Green and Bethnal Green. Turns out, they are not pretty much same thing, as my poor blistered feet realised. Still, I felt like I got to know London that little bit better and that’s kinda cool.
Although tube strikes are always going to be a pain, it’s nice to know it’s not all doom and gloom. What seemed to have caused Armageddon on a London scale made me feel closer to this mad city and learn a thing or two, and that’s never a bad thing.