Poems on the Underground always felt like an awkward cultural injection to the stress of a daily Tube journey. But at least it was unobtrusive, offering literary enlightenment for those in search of something deeper than ads for weight loss or last-minute holidays.
But now the prospect of a Tube ride replete with a driver spouting sentiments of Albert Einstein or Jean-Paul Sartre has the makings of a transport-related cultural calamity. As someone who has suffered philosophy lectures for years, there is a time and place for intellectual platitudes, but it is not during rush hour. When I'm late for work, stuck in a tunnel because of the same signal failures from two weeks ago, even a heartfelt apology feels meaningless. I can't imagine anything better will come from a smug philosophical recital, even if it is Mahatma Gandhi's belief that "there is more to life than increasing at speed". Right sentiment, wrong time.
Besides, London Underground long ago lost its right to make such Tannoy announcements. The proud voice that tells us of a "good services on all lines" is in itself a curious exercise in deductive logic. Do we really need to be informed that the service we pay to work properly is doing so?
Ultimately though if TfL still truly believe that dark existential mutterings are the stuff of better commutes, then why stop at Sartre? Surely the most relevant thoughts to travel to would be Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground.