February 20, 2019

London: Stories on the Underground

I have been riding the Underground back and forth to work for six weeks. People rarely make eye contact, there are not a lot of smiles, and virtually no interaction, but it is one of the most entertaining things I have experienced while being in London. People are interesting and even if you never speak a word to one another, they can still be interesting. Really, really interesting.

I see Mr. Darcy on the train every day. He’s always tall and wearing a navy blue suit. When I see him I swoon and take a picture. London is a special city. You are surrounded by history here and cannot help but imagine the times of Shakespeare, Jane Austen, or even James Bond. It is a magical place and so completely possible to find yourself sitting next to a modern day Mr. Darcy.

Last week I sat next to a woman who had a stuffed dog in her purse. Not a real dog that was dead and stuffed, just a stuffed animal toy. The dogs head was poking out of the top of her bag. She sat down, opened the paper, and started reading to the dog. She called it darling, petted it as she read, and asked the dog what it thought about the story she was reading. I could not look away.

When she reached her spot, which was sadly too soon, she explained to the dog they were almost home and getting off the train. She told the dog she loved it, kissed it on the head, and got off the train. I wish I would have spoken to her, perhaps commented on how cute her dog was, but instead I simply enjoyed her while we were together and watched her disappear into the crowd.

Sidebar: The Baker Street station is remarkable and I could wonder through the station all day watching people. It feels like you are being transported into history at Baker Street. The lighting is romantic, thrilling, and inspiring. I half expect Sherlock Holmes to walk by me when I am there and get excited when I think about all the people whose stories have been told there since opening in 1863.

I have watched women put on full faces of makeup, couples riding together having clearly just had a fight, people sleeping, laughing, crying, thinking, and reading. You can feel people’s happiness, sadness worry, fear, and pain. People have great stories and the blessing is that you don't have to talk to them to hear them. You can just look, pay attention, and connect as human beings. It is lovely.

I have one more week of work in London. Monday is a bank holiday and my friends are returning from a weekend away, so I am going to make them a home cooked meal and hear about their adventures. On Tuesday morning I will get back on the train, excited to get to meet strangers without saying a word, wondering if my imagining of their story is close to true, and if they are keeping the faith.