The first thing my cousin and I did when we got off our flight was purchase an Oyster card. I believe there are other kinds of cards, such as paper day passes, and I’m not one hundred percent sure how those work, since we only used the Oyster cards. We also only took the Tube as our mass transit so my knowledge of other London public transit systems is limited.
To get into the train system, or off of it, you have to scan to be let through. There are little touch pads, a bit like Ventra in Chicago. Sometimes though I’d get stuck, it wouldn’t light up telling me I was clear to go and I’d ram myself into the turnstile on accident. With how busy the stations were that would always send me into a bit of panic, because I didn’t wait long enough to space the time between hitting my card on the thing and others going through. What I learned to do, at first to figure out how the system worked was to mimic the people in front of me. Then how I avoided accidental traffic jams was to beeline for whichever turnstile had little to no one at it that I could go through.
The trains themselves are different from the ones in Chicago. For one, they’re cleaner. They are quieter. The music and performances in general between platforms are better. The stations are larger. The only station in Chicago that I struggle to get from one end to the other is the Logan Square Blue Line station where somehow I always end up on the wrong side and have to bolt to catch the train on the other end of the platform. The stations and platforms are a bit of like a confusing bunch of snaking tunnels in London, there are transfers that take awhile to get from one end of the station to the other through and with out my cousin knowing her way around I’m sure I would have gotten lost in those tunnels multiple times.
Downfalls of course are the distance between stations, and sometimes how packed it was that there was no room to turn around and go back if we made a mistake. Sometimes the trains were also ridiculously packed, like a constant rush hour. Every once in awhile we would also hear the updates on the trains, whether there were delays or not, and usually we weren’t affected by any, which was nice to know. There would be, on several occasions where we heard there was a delay because of a person on the tracks. Which was a disturbing thing to realize was being said over the intercom.
But for the most part I liked the Tube. I liked how comfortable the seats were in comparison to the ones in Chicago and I liked the advertisements for etiquette. I also liked that one day a young man with piercings was sitting across from us with a dog in his lap and this little old lady sat down next to him, saw the dog and asked if he liked treats and pulled treats out of her bag and they got along so well. They had never met before, she just carried treats in her bag, and the dog was so excited. When I got back to Chicago I was welcomed back on the CTA by a man screaming to himself, and I missed the Tube so much.
The Tube we were nearest to was Kings Cross, and I will write about that station in another post.