You’ve had a really hard day, you’re sweating like you’ve got some sort of tropical disease and an overweight businessman has his armpit in your face – yep, you’re on the tube. Stuffed into a carriage like a stinking can of sardines, you slowly work your way from the door to the ‘dream corridor’ – the bit in between the chairs. You’re in prime position. You’re one of only five people who have access to a cluster of seats and it will be a battle of wills to see who gets that first vacant space. The woman with the Mulberry handbag looks like she means business. She’s got that ruthless look in her eyes. She’ll claw mine out if I get in her way. There’s a couple of teenage girls talking loudly, eyes darting across the carriage with intent, waiting to pounce. This could be a free-for-all.
We pull into the next stop and the man directly in front of me is getting off the train! I’ve been chosen! I am special! I SHALL BE SEATED! As he slides out of the chair I position my body in a way that makes it impossible for Mulberry Girl to pass me, and then I descend onto my throne. AHHHH! It feels good and I do not care about the black chewing gum embedded into the fibres of the seat – it merely adds to the appeal of my new resting place. I have another sixteen stops to go, but these stops will be experienced in prime London Underground comfort. TFL I salute you! And then I look up, and I am confronted by an OLD PERSON.
Their sparkly eyes make contact with mine, and then their gaze focuses in on my seat. MY seat. I look at them, trying to assess their age. How old does an old person have to be for you to give up your seat for them? Sixty-five? Seventy? Surely if they’re still working full time they have the ability to stand? I mean for Christ’s sake, if they hadn’t wormed their way into the ‘dream corridor’ they
wouldn’t even know there were seats on this train! The old person continues to look at me, then my chair, panning up and down like a security camera on the hunt for an escaped prisoner. They’re not using a walking stick – if they had difficulty standing surely they’d use a walking stick? I will stay where I am, let them use their legs. It’ll be good for them. This old person is not old enough to warrant my seat. They’d be insulted if I stood up. They are not decrepit, they are healthy and full of life! But then other people begin to look at me. Other passengers looking at me. Judging me. They look down at their Evening Standard’s, shaking their heads. The world has gone to pot they think. I sigh and get up. The old person is probably no more than sixty. Not even a pensioner yet. But I am defeated. The Mulberry Girl smirks as I stand up. I relinquish my throne. The Old People rule.