Metro 171

As a Londoner I am very excited by the prospect of all night tubes. Not so much because it’s a convenient way to get home in the small hours, but more for the wonderful craziness we’re all going to witness. The underground is insane enough already, so imagine booze and tiredness added into that mix. It will be like they’ve put Shepherd’s Bush Green Post Office on a rollercoaster. With about the same chance of buying some stamps.

The tube is a dangerous enough place to be in the daytime. Last week I boarded a fairly full train. There were a few seats, but a woman had her bag on one and a man was stretching his legs so they blocked access to another one. I noticed that he also had a small bottle of what looked like olive oil attached to his belt with a piece of string which was casually draped over the vacant seat. Luckily the woman moved her bag and I sat there, but the man addressed me, “You don’t sit next to me.” I couldn’t work out if he was making a statement of fact, was warning me off or just offended that I had rebuffed him and his strange vial. I pointed out that his bottle was in the way, “The world is full of obstacles,” he told me in a slightly threatening though philosophical manner.

I thought he was looking for a fight or might just throw the mystery yellow liquid in my face, so I pretended to read my paper. But I couldn’t help looking at his tiny bottle, curious to know what was in it and why it was attached to his belt with string. Perhaps he used it as a miniature portable lavatory.

Though perhaps it didn’t contain olive oil or wee as a couple of minutes later he poured a good measure into the cap and downed it. Though to be fair he seemed crazy enough to drink an olive oil and wee cocktail.

At the next stop a woman got on and he moved his bottle for her. I didn’t question why she was granted access.

As the train filled up on its journey a businessman stood in front of the mystery liquid drinking madman. “I don’t want your arse in my face,” the madman growled, “Get your arse out of my face”. The businessman’s arse was some way from his face, but sensibly he avoided confrontation and took his arse further up the carriage. I still had four stops to go and feared for my life.

The front page of the rubbish free evening newspaper had a story about a guy who had stepped in to stop a fight and been killed. Would I be on the cover of tomorrow’s paper, the unwitting and innocent victim of a well-lubricated maniac.

A woman got on and stood in front of the guy, her arse as exactly as close to the man’s face as the businessman’s - maybe even closer as she was shorter. But he didn’t complain about her arse. Perhaps he only had a go at every other person or was his problem being in the proximity of men? I wondered what colossal personal issue he might be repressing.

I never found out what the elixir was, but I got to my stop unpummelled, so I wasn’t on the front cover of the paper the next day. One day, but not yet.