I posted this on my Facebook page last week but the incident is staying in my mind because it was just so surreal.
In the middle of the afternoon, I got on a Metropolitan Line train on the London Underground.
There were not many people on the train.
But, standing in the middle of the aisle with his back to me, was a British Transport policeman.
He just stood there silent, un-moving, like one of those human statues who stand for hours in Covent Garden, hoping for cash to be thrown in their hat by passing tourists with cameras and thinking heaven knows what for all those immobile hours.
What do they think while they stand there?
I was on the train for four stops.
He was there too, standing immobile and silent for four stops. He was bulky and bearded and real. Like some bizarre policeman-suited Buddha.
Occasionally, one of the other two passengers in the carriage would look at him.
But no response.
There he stood, immovable and silent, perhaps thinking he was some oddball PR message from the Metropolitan Police to travellers.
YOU ARE SAFE
WE ARE WATCHING OVER YOU
But the surreality overwhelmed any message he might be trying to give, standing there, blocking the aisle, silent, looking to neither left nor right.
When I got off the train, he was still there, silent, blocking the aisle, thinking whatever thoughts he was thinking.
Eight minutes of my life.
Less than a pinprick in eternity.
One man, standing alone, immobile, silent, on an underground train, beneath in a city, on a planet, in a solar system, in infinity.
2 responses to “The Loneliness of the British Transport Policeman on a London tube train…”
Thank you John for a very moving vignette of humanity, a prose poem worthy of being in the TLS.
Very kind. Much appreciated. Though it’s possible “the TLS” might be “the Total Load of Sh*t” list! I jest. Thankyou.