Thursday, May 28, 2009


I missed my usual train in this morning and took the district line for the first part of the commute. After the usual foray with the kiasu (I got shunted out of the way by a slim man going for one of the wider seats though the tube was near vacant), I settled in my preferred place by the door. There was one of those sweet looking trim old men next to me, the kind who is still active but does everything with the earnestness and viguour that I see in 10 year olds and fresh graduates. He was reading from a sheaf or printouts very quickly, his fingers were tracing lines on the page as he read across it. I focussed on glaring at the man who had shunted me, willing good manners into his mind.

A few minutes after we left my station, there was a strange noise. There are often a lot of these on the tube, especially in hot weather, and I take particular note of these when running late for work without a bottle of water. Initially I thought there'd been some kind of hydraulic upgrade, maybe a suspension system or similar to prevent pensioners and the pregnant from being thrown around. Realism crept in before my morning coffee, though; I haven't noticed a tangible upgrade of the type that might benefit the users of the London Underground since 1997. I did dicover that I could claim the cost of a journey delayed by 15 minutes back (link here X. ), but that doesn't count.

Shunty-man had clearly heard it too and had given up trying to avoid eye contact with me in favour of trying to source the sound. Several people along the carriage were doing the same, some looking bemused, others strangely accusing. People take strange noises seriously on London's transport network. I looked at the old man to see if he could hear it and, God still my spirit, it was him!

He was standing by the carriage doors, feet hip-width apart, doing yoga, the instructions for which were evidently on the print-outs he was scouring. Every few seconds he would hum, then take a huge breath that he would then slowly, but loudly, exhale. This breath would literally rattle around his sternum and be expunged. It made me think of what it would be like if men were hollow, a skeleton in an oil skin, on a breezy day. It also made me think of Darth Vader.

By this time most people had worked out where the sound was coming from and were staring at him in surprise. He was absolutely oblivious, possibly in a meditative trance. It was almost amazing. I've always had an admiration for those who put aside sociological conventions, particularly when they are little old people. This man was so clearly focussed on clearing his karma it was intimidating.

Pity it was on the tube though, the air quality probably took hours off his life.

PS it appears Utd didn't win the Champions League, yay! Wonder if Ronaldo cried? He must have sulked, at the very least. Maybe said something about how the world's best player can't carry an outclassed team...

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