Amongst many things, the British are famous for queuing. They queue orderly almost everywhere, even at the bus stop, come rain or shine. But believe it or not, there are exceptions. One example being the London tube, which can be quite challenging if you’ve hit rush hour and are not used to the frenzy. But to this date my favourite would have to be London Euston train station.
Just a couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of witnessing a flock of people loosing any bit of countenance at said station. London Euston, and especially the departure hall (which currently gets a bit of an update) is not one of railway architecture’s gems. It feels like a big cinema just without seats, popcorn and atmosphere. Everyone is standing in the slightly dated departure hall, heads turned upwards, eyes locked staring at the screens, waiting for the platform of their trains to be announced. It’s crowded, there’s nowhere to sit and people are firmly rooted to the square meter they could get hold of, not willing to budge the tiniest bit. Navigating through this crowd can be as challenging as negotiating an obstacles course and you don’t want to run over somebody’s foot with your suitcase. There is something magnetic about the screens, too. I had told myself over and over again, that this time I would not become one of them and instead get a coffee, something to read and relax. I just wanted to take a very, very quick look if my train was still on time. And I was hooked. I grabbed something to eat from one of the food stalls, found myself the perfect spot and stared at the screen munching away on my sandwich.
And then it happens and the long awaited moment arrives. The platform number magically appears next to the train and it seems as if Apple has just announced a half price sale. Every other waiting person is running towards the recently announced platform, trying not to bump into the other still staring half with their suitcases and bags, dodging children and jumping over small dogs, all the while holding onto their tickets, food and drink. It’s like they have never heard of the principle of queuing in all their lives.
However, I like traveling by train. (I am even old enough to remember the times when train carriages in Germany had a long corridor on one side and several little compartments on the other, seating 6 passengers in two rows of three facing each other. Nobody wanted the middle seat, like in an airplane nowadays, but the advantage was that you only had to deal with the noise and smells of 5 other people instead of way too many in today’s carriages.) What I like most about train travel though is that I get to look at the country as it passes by, something I can’t do this extensively when I’m driving my car, and that I can walk around on long journeys and maybe get a beverage or snack.
It is educational, too. Announcements at Welsh train stations are bilingual so I try to learn numbers and other simple words by listening to them and their English translations. Or you can learn how to pronounce place names and not only Welsh ones. It took me a while to figure out that “Lemster” was actually a town I had passed several times by car, namely “Leominster”. So at least next time I’ll pass it I know better.