A 48 hour Tube strike commenced this evening at, oh, just about the hour when everyone in Central London leaves to go home. We had all been warned, with every news outlet reporting the event days in advance, but there were still hordes of people milling about Liverpool Street Station tonight wringing their hands, shaking their heads and generally muttering at the inconvenience. It also meant buses were crowded, as was my beloved Thames Clipper.
Since I moved to Greenland Pier, I take the Thames Clipper catamaran down river to either Tower Hill or, if I'm feeling like I need a Monmouth Coffee from Borough Market before work, London Bridge. Then I walk (or, if it's raining and I'm lazy, a bus) to my office on Bishopsgate, about a mile and a half stroll. I love the Thames Clipper; the pier is under 2 minutes' walk from my front door, it runs every 15 minutes or so from early in the morning until midnight, there's an espresso bar on board in case of emergency, and I always have a seat. I can even choose to sit outside and enjoy the sun if I so choose. The disadvantage? It's cost prohibitive - at 5 quid a ride or 99 for a monthly pass, it's not something your average Londoner can afford.
And you know what?
That's why I like it.
I'll admit it, I've become a transit snob. Being without my own vehicle since 2004, I've developed bus fatigue. I get car sick standing in the aisles, holding onto a pole (because I can't reach the overhead handrails) as the bus lurches from side to side. I hate perching nervously on a seat looking around to make sure there's not someone I should be offering it to. I hate, even more, standing in my high heels burdened with laptop and purse and umbrella and gymbag, while some 21 year old guy sits smugly reading the Metro with his headphones on, not a care in the world. I hate being forced to overhear my fellow passengers' mobile phone conversations, in approximately 90 languages. I hate having to move so some woman can wheel her kid in a stroller down the aisle. Read the sign lady! It says strollers must be folded down during peak hours! And why is the upper deck of the bus reserved for teenagers with ASBOs (that's an Anti-Social Behaviour Order, to those not conversant in UK slang)? Transport For London should hand out body armour with every Oyster Card.
And don't even get me started on the Tube. Why do people run through stations like if they miss this train, it's the end of the world? There's another one coming in 2 minutes! And escalators are made to move you, you don't have to run down them/walk up them! That's what they are there for! And no, it doesn't make having to transfer at Kings' Cross any more pleasant by having some weird busker play electric violin accompanied by canned music. And no, I already said to the last 6 people waving them in my face that I didn't want my complimentary copy of the Metro, the Londonpaper, the Evening Standard, or City AM. Now go away.
But I digress. My boat, the Monsoon Clipper, was almost to capacity when I boarded this evening, homeward bound. I didn't like it. Too many newcomers drinking beer from the ship bar and taking photos as we sped past Tower Bridge. Too many people asking which pier they should get off at and confusing Greenland and Greenwich. I'm concerned that this is shades of what is to come when Thames Clipper enters into a joint venture with Transport for London next year and the boat service becomes integrated with Oyster. Sigh. The plebs will overrun my happy little cruise.
Even more unfortunate is that I quite proudly extol the virtues of my civilised commute to whoever will listen. Even yesterday, on my way to a client meeting with one of my partners, I turned up my nose as we boarded a National Rail train and commented once again how nice it is to float down the river rather than be packed like sardines in a train carriage. Which meant that when that partner sent round an email today asking people to let him know if they were going to be able to make it into work tomorrow or whether they'd be working from home, I had to tell the truth and say there was nothing preventing me from coming in, while around me my colleagues succumbed to grossly exaggerated obstacles: "It'll take me 4 buses to get in tomorrow...it'll probably take three hours." "I guess I'll walk...from Covent Garden." "The only possible way that I can travel anywhere from my home is by Tube, there's not even BUS service within walking distaince, so I won't be in." EVEN: "I walk to work, but the pavements will be crowded."
You'll be able to shoot a cannon off in the office tomorrow, but I'll be there, thanks to the bloody boat.