True stories: Mind the speech: Tube announcements are a joke

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The Independent Online
If I had my way I would travel to work by boat, serenely floating down the Thames as the sun rises, arriving at my destination calm, centred and ready to begin my day.

But I'm stuck with the Tube. Not an altogether pleasant experience, but it's quick and relatively simple to use. There are some rather quirky problems with the system, such as London Underground's little joke with its announcers.

The only announcements over the Tannoys that I understand are the ones telling you to clear the station due to a mysterious package, or that particularly chilling one where London Underground let you know that some poor sod has had enough of his/her commuter existence and 'fallen on to the tracks.

However, the announcements that should give me some indication of how (and when) I'm going to get to work when there's a problem on the line - they are just beyond me.

The bizarre thing is that we never question why we can't understand them. We just accept it as one of those quaint mysteries of urban life. Ours is not to reason why.

Until the other day.

I was sitting on the Tube, keeping myself to myself, head buried in a book as usual. The train stopped in a tunnel, stayed there for about 10 minutes and then moved into the station where we waited. And waited.

There was an announcement.

A woman leaned over towards me and asked me if I could tell her what the announcement had said. I was so embarrassed that I couldn't. She was a visitor to this country and I had failed her in my duty as a conscientious Londoner. She seemed perplexed.

She turned to the person sitting next to her and repeated the question. He looked blankly back, as if surprised that she should care what her journey had in store.

She looked around rather hopelessly at the carriage. Nobody met her gaze because no one knew - or cared - what the announcement said.

I couldn't help myself. I started to giggle at the ridiculousness of travelling on the Tube. I got up and left the train.

Not understanding or worrying about announcements on the London Underground is one thing. A public display of sheer hilarity is simply not on. I caught a bus in the end and was nearly two hours late for work. But I was happy, and, for once, sane on arrival.

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