When discussing London, one thing you can count on hearing is the common phrase of the London Underground’s intercom system: Mind the Gap.
The slogan that is on t-shirts and signs, and is adorably copied by excited tourists and children pertains to the gap. It is the space between the tube car (the subway car) and the platform you’re arriving at. The words are a practical warning to a generally clumsy population.
Then why do we love these words so much? Is our love based on the friendly female voice that calls out before the car doors open? Or perhaps our love is due to the simple sound of the catch phrase that accompanies the rather complex series of underground rail systems? Or simply, us tourist love British things and go gaga for anything said with an accent that we can repeat? The world may never know.
On the tube, our class of American tourists has no shame about projecting that we were in fact, tourists. We talk and laugh on the otherwise silent car, tease about being super confused about the tube, call out our new favorite hashtag, #lostinLondonWSU, and repeat ‘mind the gap’ at least once every time we board.
I am not specifically skilled at ‘minding’ anything and thus the phrase caters to clumsy patrons such as myself. As we were boarding the car, I did a little trip-and-catch-myself dance before the poles and guard-rails came to my rescue, preventing me from doing a hard face-plant. When the only other alternative is train surfing or bracing yourself against other riders, you chose the pole! Which brings me to my next point: spontaneous pole dancing!
To add an extra bit of awkwardness to my narrative, when first standing on the train I was totally befuddled as to which direction the train would be jolting us. With only two fingers really gripping the pole, I swiftly pivoted around it, whooping in surprise as the tour group balanced themselves out. I remained upright but a bit too twirly. Giggles abound as I recollected myself and struck a pose! It wasn’t quite a Bridget Jones on the fire pole moment, but it was a spontaneous display of my tourist awkwardness!
Thankfully, other people’s inner pole dancer emerges whilst riding the tube for not being prepared for the sudden departure. I am not the only one out there I swear! The fact that the tube’s conductors have specific announcements calling attention to the gaps in the line or staying clear of the doors means that enough people had issues with the gap to require a loud speaker to be installed.
When people say that traveling really brings the best out of you, this is not what I had expected. Sure, I assumed I would gain an appreciation for the public transportation, London’s complex design, and for its people through various methods of watching them (not creepily, I promise). What I was not excepting was being taught to be more mindful about gaps, directions, and proper pole techniques!