London is a city in a hurry. Pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, everyone is heading somewhere with great purpose. Many of those hurtling along its (often uneven) sidewalks are going to the subway system, which is universally known as the Tube, but is marked on signage as the Underground. The stations are tidy, well-lit and usually safe. Plus, there is a very nice English lady who politely asks you to “Mind the Gap” and announces all the stops in a lovely, reassuring accent.
Parts of the Tube are old and none of it is air conditioned. In the summer and early fall, hot yoga classes could make a killing down there. In keeping with its aged parts, some Tube stations have escalators, but other have stairs. Many, many stairs. These do not slow down Londoners, who heft suitcases and other loads with amazing dexterity while maintaining optimum speed. When I was unable to keep the pace, they flowed up the stairs and around me like migrating salmon. Woe to any poor soul who has lost her way (not mentioning any names) and turns around in this mass of humanity – she will have to fight for every inch of progress.
One tube station had a very old spiral staircase that I was descending with care. I came upon a tiny, elderly couple dressed in their Sunday best who were moving even more slowly. The Mrs. was a bit more agile and so was leading the way. The Mr. was directly in front of me, turned sideways, hanging onto the handrail and moving methodically down one step at a time. Plunk, plunk, plunk. Around and down we plodded. Fortunately, there was room beside our little knot of slowpokes for others to stream by. (I shudder to think about the pent-up pressure should we have blocked passage.) There was a bit of muttering between the dapper couple, mostly from the Mrs., and I gathered the station was not familiar to them. Then, as clear as a bell, I heard her dry British voice, “If we go down much farther, we’ll see Satan.”
I could not stop chuckling as we finally got to the bottom, without injury or evil apparitions.