The urge to shop and to ‘do’ the big city has brought so many people to London. I’m a city person. I lived in New York for 40 years. I should explain to those of you not from New York who probably don’t know it, that that means Manhattan. I’m used to crowds. Not only crowds, but crowds of visitors, people who don’t know the local etiquette. Somehow city people have an innate navigational sense—like syncronised water ballet or huge schools of fish that can swim without running into each other.
Maybe it’s my age. Am I getting crankier with age? I’m not sure, but recently my sister visited me here in London. I discovered that she has some of the same crankiness about her. This could be a family thing. If it is, I think we get it from my father.
Everywhere has its concept of social space. The area around each person which is considered theirs and not to be violated. I don’t know whether it’s been studied, but I think city people probably learn early on to tolerate smaller spaces. I’ve got into the subway (sorry, underground) in New York and had my face practically in someone’s armpit, so I’m used to unusual closeness.
So my problem isn’t with visitors getting too close, though it’s a good bet the getting into the Tube during the rush hours is probably somewhat traumatic for them. No, my problem is with people who have no sense of how much space they are taking up. The people with trains of luggage dragging behind them and don’t pay any attention to where that luggage is or is going. It’s as if the luggage just isn’t there. They’ll be walking along the crowded platform with no idea that their luggage has just swiped your leg or run over your foot. Then they’ll stop at the bottom of the stairs of in front of the up escalator and finally realize that they need to deal with all their luggage.
When these people travel in herds this not knowing how much room you take up also makes them a hazard in front of the route maps at the bottoms of escalators. They fan out to fill as much space as possible. Or on the platform they have no idea that when you huddle together it makes it difficult for others to get around them.
I’ll just have to get used to it.