Andon du Jour – London Underground

Imagine: It’s 7.30 am. Another fun-filled weekday is only a tube ride away. On your descent down into the station what do you see? Not just one, but two information boards. If you squint you’ll see the sticky tape. The posters are homemade.

You can tell that whoever put the posters up are doing their best to help. They’re actually offering information. The boards are there to workaround a problem.

To show my appreciation, I decide to blog about them, so I take some pictures. Someone resembling a station manager approaches me, uncertain of my next move.

‘What are you doing, miss?’ he says.

‘I was just taking some pictures,’ I reply.

Then, as though struck by inspiration for want of something more to say, he says, ‘You’re not allowed to take pictures, miss.’ By this point I feel like a time traveller’s wife, revisiting Dickensian times.

‘But I think these posters are really very useful,’ I say. He smiles. I realise I have his attention, so I ask the question that my friend Jim and I have been asking ourselves for the past three months: ‘Why is the stairwell closed?’ I had speculated that perhaps it was due to a health and safety issue, to which Jim replied at the time, ‘It seems to me the only danger if it were open is that they might actually have to clean it.’

‘I don’t know, miss. I can’t really remember. It seems so long ago,’ replies the nice man.

Suddenly, another official appears on my right and thrusts a card under my nose. ‘Please call this number if you have any complaints,’ he says. This is fast becoming a minor situation. Like the time I was arrested by the Moldovan police.

‘But I don’t wish to complain,’ I reply. ‘I was just asking for information.’

The official who gave me the card stares at me and says, ‘Please. Please call up and complain about the stairwell. THEY haven’t done anything about it for ages. There’s nothing we can do. Someone cut their hand using the staircase ages ago.’

Perhaps that stumbling someone was under the influence I thought, having traversed up and down the staircase on a number of occasions myself and emerged hands intact.

I knew it! The people working at the station were trying to be helpful. They wanted to run the station as best they could. So who are these people known as ‘THEY’ who are blocking instead of helping? How many THEYs and THEMs do you work with? What if I told you there is only US?

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