Tuesday, January 10, 2006

GF8 600 - 18 Bus UCHWow, BBC London News have just managed to mention I know about. The thin red line which wobbles down the pavement along TCR. Well done, BBC London, because it only appeared sometime before the weekend. Admittedly I'm not faring much better at finding the reason, although I haven't really been trying. When I first saw it I assumed it was the council or some utilities thing, similar to Brixton's battered kerbs picked out in white (oh, I've just realised I forgot to get the Red Hot Chilli Peppers dancing - it was the part of the Christmas lights and I think they might have been supposed to be carrots [because they're so much more Christmassy then chillies. I think there's either a reindeer or donkey connection]). But it seems too wonky for a pipeline.

Having said that the only reason I know where it runs between is because of the BBC London piece, as I hadn't bothered to explore it, having other things on my mind. And anyway, round there the pavements have red stripes and white plumes, the latter from where a bag of cement was dropped, and the roads come in all sorts of colours, the most recent being turquoise, which was slowly migrating southwards as it scattered, dragged by car tyres rolling through wet paint, and people crossing the road (I briefly had blue soled shoes as I was late, running, and didn't have time to slow enough that I could dodge it).

Apparently the red line runs between a bus stop on Euston Road and somewhere near Centre Point. The BBC say it runs south. I think it makes more sense to run northwards. Imagine the scenario: people out clubbing in Soho. Leave. Direct bus home from Euston Road. They could get a bus up there, but night buses are infrequent, and that's double the cost. So they walk. Imagine someone complains, or someone new wants directions, or someone is abandoned by the person who was going to guide them home. Not so bizarre logic leads the trail being laid (and whoever did it was awake enough stop it at every road, which is a good idea if it's for drunken people single-mindedly following a line) between the club and the right bus-stop.

That's another reason I don't like buses. I walk to the bus-stop. It says "M" on it. Eventually I find a listing which tells me I want "K". The map either doesn't label the roads, or only labels those which aren't labelled in real life. I spend ages trying to find the right bus-stop. Eventually I realise I probably could have walked to my final destination in the time I've been hunting for the right bus stop in. I then either get dispirited and go home, or get the tube to where I want to be, or walk off in some random direction (which frequently works, as once you get away from a hub, the buses only go in one of two directions and all stop at the same bus-stops, which often means it's quicker to walk halfway to an area of bipolar bus-stops than it is to find the nearest). Waterloo and Clapham Junction both lodge in my brain as places where it's quite hard to find the right bus-stop. Which might be one of the reasons they're usually thought of as railway stations.

Thinking of rail things, or more specifically Tube things (and aren't Tube strikes great? Especially when I got the Tube home on Sunday, and then remembered it there was supposed to be a strike. The next day brought disruption in the form of the nearest station at the far end being closed, but as the next one is two blocks down the road...). I'm not sure what it is about me, but I keep being asked to help people do things like lift pushchairs up the stairs at a station, help someone else up the stairs, or get waylaid into carrying someone's shopping home (well, she said she was pregnant and I did think asking "really? are you sure you're not just fat?" might be a bit off). Except it has become obvious that the people doing the asking are all black women. And they always ask white men.

I happened to mention it to my brother, and he said it used to happen to him, and it was invariably black women doing the asking. While trying to work out why, the latest case of someone leaving a tube station asking for help occurred. It was a black woman. But she didn't ask me. She was standing at the bottom of the stairs by the exit, with a huge suitcase. There are people streaming past as a train's just come in. A black guy attempts some lecherous look as he approaches (a facial "how you doin'?"). She responds by asking him to help her by carrying the suitcase up the stairs. He replies with something which very obviously isn't a yes, and carries on up the stairs. She just stands there.

I don't know what happened next as I was late, and in the middle of a surging crowd, so slowing down or turning isn't really an option (well, not unless I want people pummelling my back). And I'm not sure how I would have reacted, as a child is a child (and often not all that heavy), but a suitcase bigger than some adults I know is going to be heavy and unwieldy, plus moving luggage which you can't actually carry does seem a little unwise. Plus the fact she had insanely high high-heels, which seemed to be held on solely by an elastic band round her big toe, jeans which ended four inches below her jewelled thong, plus double that up to her lurid leather jacket, all topped off with a face like The Scream in drag. The over-all effect was a complete lack of practicality (bare feet and 12 inches on naked torso in January? Good idea); firming refusing pragmatism. Which combined with immovable luggage suggests a worrying degree of selfishness. If she's so self-indulgent that she won't help herself then why should she expect anyone else to help her?

Which gets me away from the point: why do black women ask white men for help? Is it because they feel black men will be more aware of their character type, and so be less tolerant and indulgent? Is it because they believe white men are all so well trained that they would never say no (or are all too cowardly to say no)? Are they manipulating inherent cultural guilt? Do they assume white men are the most able of carrying the burden? Do they assume other females are too weak to help? Or has all this just been an insignificant statistical fluke stemming from the use of Brixton Tube station (although not all examples come from Brixton)?

As an aside, and based purely on recent experience on the underground, white women ask white women for help, and men simply don't ask for help (or don't ever carry more than they can cope with).

I'm sure there were other things I wanted to get onto, but they'll have to wait as I've forgotten quite what they were and also have a vague feeling that there are other things I need to be doing.


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