We were surrounded by all sides by the human tide that floods these tunnels every two to three minutes (the lost souls given the task of cleaning the tunnels say that sometimes, between the rushes, they can hear the ocean). All sorts. Bankers, with their carefully trimmed morning shadow; would be artists, desperate to preserve some sense of uniqueness amidst the insistent crush; the young things, focused upon their ipods and assorted private universes...so on and so on, trump trump trump.
Then suddenly there he was - the man. The Man in Grey. He wore an Underground officer uniform, and his hands were waving. Hello, I said, but he couldn't hear me. He stared ahead, his mouth moving slowly, intoning. He pointed to the passage behind him.
It was closed off. He was diverting two human rivers into one.
Allright, we thought, we ca handle this. We squeezed together, flashed the cocky smile. One fellow lifted up his briefcase over his head, to make more room. There was very little fuss. The pace was far slower, as too many forced their way into too tight a space. Stairs appeared, and the danger of a human avalanche. Eyes were averted downwards to mind the mini precipices. It's ok, we thought. There's always another train. Trump trump. A good thing we left early, says the old man in the cardigan. Trump Trump. His wife smiles. Trump.
We stop moving.
The hubbub of the crowd diminishes immediately to a stunned silence. There is no movement whatsoever. There simply is nowhere to go. Peering over the ring of heads we can see down into the tunnel, and all there is to see are scalps and shoulders and hoodies. It is a sea of brunettes, blondes and premature baldness. The heads turn left, then right. A few more stand on tip toe to check out the scene before them. Then they turn around.
Behind us, the tide continues, only to stop short against our backs. At the rate of a dozen in a heartbeat, more human beings are rushed into our gathering legion. They meet us, glance quickly into our eyes, peer around, then like us they look back - and see the same truth we are are realizing.
There is no way out.
A few voices are heard calling for the Grey Man - the Underground officer. But he is too far behind, and even if he were not what could he do? By now there are hundreds of us, in five minutes there may be over a thousand. The ceilings suddenly contract around us, and we see that they are so very low. Shoulders begin to jostle, one young lady leaps up and down a few times ahead for no apparent reason or benefit - her red hair a dash of the harlequin amidst the tightening panic. We experience the abrupt and stunning fact of group think, for every one of us, we know, we know, is considering a scream. One woman bites her lower lip. There is an exclamation in German.
A face looms out of the crowd, wrinkled and grinning, bright blue eyes with a twinkle. A London face, inescapably English. "I love the underground," he says, in a voice brimming with cockney mischief. And quite suddenly, the is a ripple of laughter moving out from us. The crowd visibly sags at the released tension. Yeah, one voice says in response. A girl is heard giggling down the stairs. An African baritone takes up the call in a roaring laugh. The cockney nods, and that incredibly English patience moves through us, and is this not just a long cue? We see the bright, perfect smile of a young girl within a crevasse of throats and hair. A nod with the cockney, and, for a brief moment, we remember the meaning of companionship. We stare ahead, brave sheep, and check our texts.
The lights go out.
A MOMENT WITH MUMBLES:
Ladies and Gentlemen, a few words about the above account. After a fierce cross-examination,
I wrought from Mr. Verg the fact that, while all else is perfectly true, the final
sentence of the story you just read was a gross example of hyperbole.
The Lights merely flickered, to the accompaniment of some screams.
Remember, I always have your best interests at heart.