Ficklish Blog

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


A few years ago, I read a book called Lord of the Barnyard at the recommendation of McBec. It was one of those stories that stays in your head forever. I think of it often, and it's on my mind this week in particular.

I wouldn't want to ruin it for you in case you decided to go pick it up – but one of the plot points involves a strike by a bunch of garbage collectors that brings a town to its knees ('…with hilarious results'). I often wonder about essential public services and how long we could go without them before all hell would break loose.

There's a tube strike in London this week. It started Monday afternoon, and has already caused a remarkable amount of chaos.

Greater London has a population of about 7.5 million. According to this very reputable source, over 3 million passengers use the Underground each day. It's amazing, watching the city deal with a massive infrastructure issue overnight. Millions of people to move around, and all of them looking for another route home.

Everyone is late for work and it takes an age to travel anywhere. RVW reported that he went to a meeting in Canary Wharf yesterday, and it took one of the attendees four hours to reach the venue from his home in North London. The buses are crammed full to the brim, there are hordes of people crouched at each bus stop, poised and ready to hurl themselves through the doors at the first opportunity. Many buses sail by without stopping, too full to take on any more passengers, and the exasperated masses shake their heads and cluck with indignation each time.

There is anger and frustration and fisticuffs and basically, the city is falling apart at the seams.

I'm one of the lucky ones - the Pickle is close enough to my place of employment that I can walk there in about 35 minutes. I really SHOULD walk to work all the time, but am usually too lazy and running too late. Also, it rains a lot here. In any event, the strike has dovetailed nicely with the commencement of Operation: Move That Ass, and I've been walking to and from work each day this week. It means that I get to breathe lovely traffic fumes instead of the sweaty fug of the gym.

The problem is that there are many others doing the same. Even though I walk to work only once in a blue moon, I'm possessive and territorial about my footpaths. All of a sudden, they're swarming with people, which does not please me. In fact, I have been afflicted by pedestrian road-rage each morning, and I'm sick of it. It is apparently necessary for me to lay down some Rules of The Footpath According to jLo.

1. Walk at a brisk pace.

Seriously, folks, I'm no Kerry Saxby. If I'm steaming past you at a rate of knots, you're doing something very wrong. WHY ON EARTH DO PEOPLE WALK SO DAMN SLOWLY? It's 9:00am. Move your ass. People have places to go. If you do not have a place to go and are just out for a leisurely stroll, get the hell out of my way. At least keep left so that I can pass you without having to actually walk on the road in the face of oncoming traffic.

2. Walk in a straight line.

This drives me freaking crazy. What is it with the weaving all over the place? Are you completing sort of obstacle course involving witches hats only you can see? Are you DRUNK? It's 9:00am! You have a problem! A to B, people, the shortest distance between two points. Quit it with the veering from left to right, have your wheel alignment checked if it's that difficult.

Basically, it boils down to this: GET OUT OF MY WAY.

Oh, and I also have a special message for the cyclists: the little green man at the pedestrian crossing? Gives pedestrians the right of way. You are not a special class of vehicle that is exempt from the road rules. If you choose to ride on the road, obey the freaking traffic lights. Don't shoot through the crossing and just assume that the pedestrians will be too frightened to walk out in front of you. I saw a cyclist nearly get wiped out this morning by a woman who didn't see him as he sped through the lights - she put out her arms to protect herself and he was in all sorts of trouble. If I were a better person, I would not have laughed as loudly as I did.

Anyway, it's Lord of the Barnyard all over the place here, common standards of decency and efficient behaviour just falling apart everywhere you look. Anarchy is descending, I'm about to take charge and impose jLo Rule. I bet whomever is in charge of negotiating with the union is sweating like a bitch at the prospect.

UPDATE: I started writing this yesterday, but then apparently this afternoon the strike has ended. Just in time…