I like to consider myself a seasoned veteran of late night travel in London. I am no stranger to the night bus, the worker’s train and the Last Tube home. I am familiar with the long walk and the drunken taxicab.
I feel, therefore, that it’s my duty to provide some pearls of wisdom for those who come after – those who are new to the city, those who are just experiencing the thrill of getting ridiculously battered in town for the first time. Therefore, I have compiled a field guide to the people you meet on late night public transport. May it serve you well.
The Rowing Couple
This particular breed can usually be seen outside clubs, yelling at each other in the style of a soap opera because we live in an autistic society that takes its cues from the media because we’re all emotionally crippled. Anyway. Essentially, this will consist of a couple, one of whom (almost always the man) will be complaining that he has in some way been slighted by the other. The other will tearfully protest, in response to which the man will become louder and angrier, possibly suggesting that she has in some way made him look a fool. This will go on for a while, then they’ll go home and fuck.
Trashed rating (in Winehouses):
The party isn’t over!
This will consist of one or more young gentlemen who are convinced that the night is only just beginning, despite the fact that all the bars are shut and none of the clubs would let them in in their loud and blotto state. Of course, everyone else in the bus or carriage should share in their celebrations. Communication will generally be limited to “Wurrruwurrruuu-urh!” with the occasional swearword thrown in and maybe a popular chant on a manly subject. All men present should find their antics hilarious, and all women should find them sexually irresistable. This often evolves from the Alpha Team, see below.
The Alpha Team
A group of young men on their way to a night out, all of whom are convinced that they are the one in charge. To demonstrate this, they must all be as loud and overbearing as possible. Entertaining only to themselves.
These people are usually between the ages of 18 and 25. They may know each other through university, work or even school. What they will all have in common is that they’re rather up themselves. As a general rule, while they are quite loud and annoying, the only people they will actually bother are those who they know can’t strike back – station cleaners are a favourite target for classist and borderline racist discussions. Again, they apparently suffer from the delusion that their vapid conversation is fascinating to all listeners and therefore broadcast it as loudly as possible.
Fare dodging is one of those things that looks a lot easier than it actually is. It should not be attempted when drunk and/or stupid. I swear it happens on every night bus – at one point, a group of people will try to get on via the centre doors and disappear up to the top deck in the mistaken belief that no one has ever tried this before and it is not incredibly noticeable. The routine then plays out according to the standard pattern. The engine stops, the passengers grumble, the fare dodgers act like they don’t understand what’s going on. The driver goes upstairs, the fare dodgers protest their innocence and, grumbling, eventually hand over the money.
Another night bus exclusive, this is a person who rings the bell to indicate to the driver that they wish to get off at the next bus stop. Then they ring it again. And again. And again. And so on until the bus actually stops. It is not clear why they do this, and all the ones I’ve approached were dead soon afterwards. We may never know.
“Me hates ye!”
Now, I hesitate to include this one, because I think it’s a phenomenon that only I have encountered. Basically, it’s a person from another country who engages you in conversation. Things will be civil and chummy, and then suddenly they’ll start going on about how much they hate London and the people in it. Defensive arguments such as, “You know that’s actually me you’re talking about” don’t seem to work. Well, not for long – you may get a brief apology before the rant resumes.
This chap is typically found on the last tube home. You get on the train, and there will be a guy there, staring straight ahead, apparently concentrating very hard on something. As the journey goes on, you ignore him. Until a couple of stops before you’re due to get off, at which point he will slump forward and vomit copiously.
Of course, this isn’t limited to the Tube. It’s just that only on the Tube can you identify the warning signs. On other forms of transport, you’re pretty much limited to the sound of splashing and a sudden pungent odour.
This consists of a person who attaches himself to your group. He’ll engage you in conversation and it’ll quickly become obvious that he’s had a lot to drink. A lot. So much that he may only be able to guess his own name on the second or third try. What makes these people so entertaining (?) is the fact that not only are they uncertain as to where they are and what they’re doing, but they’re also not entirely sure how they feel about you. Conversations with them conform to no logical pattern – your replies to them may equally be interpreted as friendly or hostile, regardless of what you say or how you say it. This, I suspect, is because the person can’t remember what he himself said ten seconds ago, let alone anyone else. While he may become aggressive, he’s far too wrecked to throw a punch. I suggest you just go with it and lose him at the first available opportunity (or river).