Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tube Piercings

Whilst riding the tube back home the other day I witnessed perhaps the most surreal of my underground journeys to date. Imagine a relatively packed Northern line train between Chalk Farm and Camden Town stations. To the left of me were sat two drunk middle-aged women (MAW) who, speaking in tandem, were trying to verbally restrain their even more inebriated friend sat opposite them. Directly in front of me was sat a rotund American man (AM) with a camera dangling from a lanyard around his neck. He was smiling inanely. To his left was a gentleman (GM) in a beige linen suit, holding a well-thumbed (bordering on brittle) paperback book in one hand, sharing the same hand with an arm of his spectacles which he twiddled endlessly. The seat to my right was free. The train stopped at Camden Town.

As soon as we were moving again I noticed that the dynamic inside the carriage had palpably changed. I looked up from my own book and noticed the most drunk of the women dropping her oversized aviator sunglasses to fix a gaze on my new next-door neighbour and subsequently point him out to her not-drunk-enough-to-not-be-embarassed colleagues. Everyone else was intently staring at the chap sat next to me (CSNTM). I glanced at him almost out of obligation and noticed he was sporting an incredible array of facial jewellery with almost every pore skewered by some form of metallic contraption. His mohican hairstyle and tartan clothing didn't help him blend in.

AM: (Looking at CSNTM.) Do you mind if I take of a photo of you sir?
CSNTM: (In an unexpectedly soft, almost inaudible voice) Erm...well...if you have to, but it's been a busy day...
AM: No, no. I don't have to. It's just're worth taking a photo of.

(CSNTM's not impressed but too polite to refuse this intrusion. In the meantime, GM interrupts)

GM: (In a crisp home counties accent) Now hold on a moment. (Looking towards CSNTM) You're a work of art! You're expressing yourself through what you've done to yourself. You're an artist! He (pointing to AM) wants to appreciate your work. Let him photograph!
CSNTM: Well...I am an artist. Oh, ok then.

Amidst the resultant surrendering of the usual tube protocol of not making eye-contact or conversation with anyone whatsoever, the carriage inhabitants dissolved into several streams of chatter. The far-from-sober women revealed they were returning from a wake, AM was on his way to a musical, GM returned to his book and CSNTM brought a welcome reprieve from the cocoons we inhabit on the undergound.

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