Commuting (or even just travelling) on the tube can be something of a nightmare. Thankfully, I commute in the ‘wrong’ direction – because I live in zone 2 but work in zone 4 – so my trains are rarely if ever packed like sardines. That doesn’t mean the tube isn’t still full of all kinds of people, some good and some bad. If you have ever taken the tube (or subway or metro or underground or any form of public transport anywhere) you will probably recognise at least some of these people.
#1. The gourmet
Okay so technically, eating food on the tube is not illegal but it is definitely frowned upon. That won’t stop this person pulling out all manner of food on the tube – and the general rule is the smellier the better. A greasy kebab? Perfect! Tuna sandwiches? Hand them over. Boiled eggs? Can’t think of anything better to eat in a badly ventilated carriage packed with people. The gourmet is most commonly a nocturnal animal, who makes their most frequent appearances on the night tube – but sightings during peak commute hours are not uncommon.
You will find them: sat in the middle of the carriage, munching on a tin of mackerel, completely oblivious to the shocking amount of empty seats around them
Special skills: Always manages to have enough personal space even on the fullest of trains, complete lack of shame, above average ability to eat with their mouth open
#2. The chatterbox
If Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn offered to make small-talk on the tube illegal, they would take London by a landslide. Chatting to a stranger on the tube is the biggest social faux pas you could ever make and 8/10 Londoners would prefer to be slapped in the face than have to talk about the weather with the woman in the next seat*. It doesn’t matter: there is always one. They might be drunk, they might be lost, or they might well be a tourist (Americans, I’m looking at you). Now I personally don’t mind a little bit of a chat, but there is a time and a place. Unfortunately, that time is not 8:30am on a Monday morning and that place is not the Northern Line. This goes double for if you want to talk to me about our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ.
*This is clearly a made up fact, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it was true and if I were allowed to talk to strangers on the tube I would in fact gather this data myself.
You will find them: Trying to make eye contact with you across the carriage to identify whether you are an appropriate chatting target
Special skills: Extremely extroverted, highly confident, innate ability to ignore awkward silences
#3. The statue
The statue comes in two common varieties: standing or sitting. The standing statue takes up a prime position at a pole by the door and refuses to move down the carriage for love nor money. They stand as still as Michaelangelo’s David as people pile up around them despite the fact that the rest of the carriage is almost entirely empty. The sitting statue is as difficult to move, if not more. They know they have it good – in a priority seat, right by the door, ready to make a quick exit and as far as physically possible from the stilton-eating gourmet at the other end of the carriage. It doesn’t matter how many old or pregnant people get on the train: that statue has turned into granite and is staying put.
You will find them: Standing in the most inconvenient place possible or sitting in the best seats in the house. They will look very relaxed, very comfortable and likely very close to an exit
Special skills: Supernatural ability to ignore tuts and eye rolls, incredibly stubborn, championship level musical statues skills
#4. The DJ
The DJ is, almost without exception, a male. He will be wearing a tracksuit: the bottoms way too low, the hood always up, the material slightly shiny. Most DJs travel in a pack, but occasionally you will find a lone wolf. You don’t need to see the DJ to know they are there. Oh no – you can hear them. Because, from the moment they step on to the platform to the moment they get home, they will be blasting tinny rave music from their phone without headphones and nodding along not quite in time to the music. They think they are giving the gift of entertainment to the train – as if all we had asked for on our commute was to listen to someone ‘beatbox’ or sing along to a song they clearly don’t know the words to. The DJ is extremely overconfident, extremely under-talented and the music is his mating call. Dangerous: proceed with caution.
You will find them: By following the sweet sounds of early morning club music – when your ears start to hurt you are getting close
Special skills: Peak levels of arrogance, capacity to listen to the same song 8 times in a row without getting bored, no problems ignoring the tempo of a song to create their own
#5. The sprinter
We get it – you are in a rush. You have things to do, places to be and people to see but… don’t we all? I am hardly on this train before 9am every day because it’s a hobby, but the sprinter fails to realise that they aren’t the most important person on the underground system. They run everywhere. They want to be first at the barriers, first on the train, first out the door. Even if you are walking up the escalator – on the left of course, we aren’t barbarians – they will sprint up behind you and try to undertake while loudly tutting at your walking speed. The sprinter is the kind of person who tries to get on the train before other people have got off, as though that will somehow make the train leave any quicker.
You will find them: perched on those half-sitting/half-standing/leaning seats near the door so they can make a quick exit. If they do sit in a chair, the male sprinter will do that weird spread leg position that takes up at least 3 seats. This is not only a show of masculinity, but a discrete muscle stretch to keep those hamstrings ready to run.
Special Skills: Speed, agility, very sharp elbows to allow for faster routes through crowds, ability to buy and wear aerodynamic power suits
There are plenty of other annoyances on the tube – the people who insist on talking loudly on the phone every time we go overground, the over-sharers who talk to their friends about stuff that is wayyyyy too personal, the groomers who cut their nails and pluck their eyebrows – but these are some of the most common types. Which kinds have you spotted before?