Travel tales: That time my friend and I got separated on the London Underground

I’m not a great public transporter.

I’ve never really had to do it here in the wilderness of the Great White North so I’m not very skilled at the whole bus-and-train situation and, like most awkward people, I tend to internally panic when thrown into new, crowded situations.

This one time, though, was the most chaotic public transportation I’ve ever experienced – even worse than when I was on a bus in Germany going past a public screening of the Germany/Netherlands World Cup game and drunk Germans started crowding around the bus, shaking it back and forth.

Early one morning in London, my friend and I got up to go on an Austenian adventure to Bath. We got out of our hotel and made our way to Victoria Station to take the tube to Waterloo where we’d jump on a train to Austen’s least favourite city. The thing is, we didn’t realize we’d decided to go at rush hour until it was too late.

The chaos began with the crowds.

Feeling like sheep being led to the slaughter, we made our way to the little barriers to follow the crowd down to the platform we needed. I swiped my Oyster card, feeling quite confident in my ability to do this whole thing correctly and I look behind me at my friend, whose Oyster card was not working. It didn’t have enough money on it. But I couldn’t stop or go back because the crowd was pushing me forward. So we made some quick sign language to each other that she’d add money to her card and I’d wait for her on the platform before the sea of people separated us.

So there I was, waiting on the platform and doing my best to become part of the giant underground map behind me. And you know when you’re waiting alone and time seems to stretch? It felt like hours, even though it probably wasn’t, but eventually she came and found me as the platform filled up to a whole new level of claustrophobia.

Turns out, she went down the wrong platform stairs and was standing on the other side of the tracks when she noticed my awkwardness, so she had to fight the waves of humans to come find me.

And then, the awkward got even more exciting, because the line we wanted had been shut down. So we had to follow the sea of people up the stairs to another platform where that line’s regular commuter traffic essentially doubled.

I have never been in full body contact with so many strangers in my life. But eventually, after powering down inside like a robot to survive the crowds and queuing, we made it to Waterloo, made it on our train and sat comfortably as we perused The Metro on our way to one of the best days I’ve ever had.

We wore bonnets at the Jane Austen Centre. So yeah, it was a good day.


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