Last week I decided and sort of had to go into London for the first time since the 6th of February to meet with a colleague.
It probably wasn’t the best day to go given that it had been hot for a week and I knew the underground would be a whole magnitude hotter. Also I had been suffering from a sore chest or a touch of the Covids as I shall forever now call it for a few days. Still there was a mixture of mild dread and excitement the night before and I kept thinking of a quote from Lawrence of Arabia.
Following the guidelines I travelled well after rush-hour but typically the usually deserted buses had 6 or 7 passengers seated downstairs so I had to go upstairs. Everyone was wearing those general and vaguely medically looking masks except for someone who seemed to be wearing some sort of home made garment over his face. It was enough to satisfy the rules but if there was truly someone sat 2 metres / 6 feet away with the virus, I wouldn’t want to be wearing it.
Annoying because I had sat upstairs, I had to hold on to the metal rails when coming down the stairs of the still moving bus. I used 4 or 5 heavy squirts of hand sanitiser afterwards but even then spent the next few days wonder whether it was enough to open my bottle of drinking water at the end of my journey.
The bus turned out to be the worst part of the journey in someways. Happily now living able to get on at the end of a tube line, it was all very airy and spacious at first. Knowing if there was a bad cold, chest infection or deadly virus to pick up then I would find a way, I was travelling with my modified bank robbers mask on but supplemented with sun glasses.
It should be said I never ever wear sunglasses, I think the last time was in 2012 and there isn’t that much sun deep underground either!
I picked a seat close to some double doors as I reasoned the air would be moving more freely here on the off-chance my special forces mask fund the 0.5% virus particle that wasn’t picked up with the 99.5% guarantee.
The train gradually picked up people as we headed into Central London, people sitting as far apart as they could and the train always being many times quieter than usual not just in terms of the numbers of people but how quiet everyone was. I guess everyone was too busy trying not to die to play their annoying music or make pointless phone calls as they usually do.
I can tell you one thing though, there isn’t much that is more claustrophobic in life than wearing a totally air-tight mask with a sore chest in extremely hot trains and stations deep underground during a pandemic. I can only marvel how some of the special forces can fight in this gear though it must be said I’ve worn it before with only moderate discomfort, that day was one of those days I was out of breath just sitting still. I comforted myself with the thought if it is so hard to breath then it must be even harder for the virus to get in.
Changing at Bond Street was quite surreal, usually one of the busiest stations and there was barely anyone around at all. I realised I missed quite a few things such as escalators, the tannoy announcements now with new safety messages added. The noise of the tube trains and the whoosh of the hot air blowing down the tunnel which can be either refreshing or agonising depending on how hot it is and what you’ve been up to.
50 minutes after I left home I had reached my destination. Normally stations are only this quiet early on a Sunday morning or on Boxing Day or New Year, if like me you work every day of the year!
Even the busy escalators were mostly empty.
Overall I wouldn’t say it was a very pleasant experience but aside from the whole virus thing, it was far far from one of the worst journeys I’d taken. In fact I would give a lot for it to be this way after the virus has been dealt with but then as was said in Lawrence of Arabia.
Dryden: Lawrence, only two kinds of creatures get fun in the desert: Bedouins and gods, and you’re neither. Take it from me, for ordinary men, it’s a burning, fiery furnace.
Lawrence: No, Dryden, it’s going to be fun.
Dryden: It is recognised that you have a funny sense of fun.