DURING RUSH HOUR
Beads of sweat surf their way down my forehead. Finally, the doors open, I am swamped by a huge wave of commuters flooding the narrow platform. My initial relief of exiting the 8 carriage transporter is quickly replaced by the realisation that I can see no hint of the tiled platform floor that I am standing on. An array of leather, suede, and velvet footwear surrounds me, reminding me of when I always used to get lost in the local market. This time all I can smell is a nasty concoction of sweat, musk and the odd waft of cheap cologne, juxtaposing the delicious wafts of jerk chicken from “Brixton’s Finest” and fresh plantain from the fruit stalls at both entrances of the market.
My fellow commuters are divided upon their exit strategies, the early birds power through the crowds and down the stairs never to be seen again, reminiscent of the older kids at primary school hustling to the lunch canteen, empty stomachs guiding their owners to the sounds of ovens roaring and knifes and forks clanking together. The rest of us stragglers reach the stairs to freedom at the same time causing a traffic jam so long, if I were tuned in to the radio, I would have heard a news alert about it. Slowly, I am shuffling forward, matching every movement that the TM Lewin suit and briefcase in front of me makes. I pass a sign that tells me when the last southbound train departs the station, 23:18, leaving me wondering if the ever growing jam of people would have disintegrated by then.
I am descending downwards, one grotty stair covered in smatterings of chewing gum to the next stair, this time splattered with dried lumps of bird excrement. I place my hand on the handrail only to discover that a sticky substance has decided to start permanently residing on it, furthermore it is clear this substance welcomes visitors, as I cannot release my hand from the sticky situation that has been thrust upon me. Finally, my passport is processed through the reader and with a newly found spring in my step I hustle through the moving gates. I bound past the “East Finchley Tube Station” sign that guards the exit. I am away.
LATE AT NIGHT
Tapping my pockets, I breath a huge sigh of relief as I discover my Oyster card has not escaped from captivity. My breath leaves a warm lingering fog around me. Languidly, I pull my Oyster card out of my jean pocket and press it down against the fluorescent yellow reader, subsequently the machine beeps and triggers the gates to tear apart. I trundle up the discoloured stairwell, I’m sure it was white at some point during its dismal existence.
Now that I’ve reached the platform, I look up and notice the roof over my head is in fact the night sky, only made less scenic by the glare of the station road street lamps that just reach the elevated platforms. This is the first time I have noticed that this station is open top, I have never looked directly up here before, usually I am just staring straight in front of me.
Glancing left, I am greeted with the sight of a man stumbling around the edge of the platform with a can of Fosters in his hand. Slowly, he lowers himself to the ground and positions himself on the yellow line of the platform floor, with his legs hanging over the rails. Come to think of it…I also haven’t seen that yellow line before, what with all the people occupying all the space in rush hour. I glance left again, the man has disappeared.
After 3 minutes, the rail rattles into life. The headlights of the 23:18 illuminate the darkness as the train rattles into the station and the slowing wheels grind against the rails. The doors glide open. I’m greeted with a blast of hot air and a pig sty of beer cans, empty chicken’n’chips boxes and metro newspapers, all in a crumpled heap over the carriage’s seats. I decide to sit on the floor. After all, it’s 23:18, nobody’s watching…