Unlike the escalator where most species are terrestrial (sightings of Archaeopteryx Pressurisus during rush hour at Euston station last year remain unconfirmed at the time of writing even if witnesses reported seeing a large reptile-like person hovering above passengers on the escalator and moving its? his? her? long, feathered tail from side to side) both on the London Underground's platforms and trains, water, air and earth creatures mix together.
For instance, take the Boidae punctualis. This is the type of commuter who will stop to nothing to get to his/her favourite spot everyday, every week, every year at the same time. The exactitude with which this animal works is astounding and leading scientists from Imperial College in London have already pointed at possible links with the legendary Giant Anaconda, featured more recently in the 1997 film 'Anaconda' starring Jennifer 'from the block' Lopez and Ice Cube. Connoiseurs are particularly fascinated by this creature's sideways swinging movements as they move down the platform towards the point at which the train will open up its door. The same door through which, upon arriving at their destination, the Boidae punctualis will exit and without wasting any time, for he/she has big tasks ahead, will follow the 'Way Out' sign with its big yellow letters. I once saw a member of this group crying desolately on the platform floor after a train arrived carrying the sign 'Door Does Not Open, Please Use Another One'. Paramedics were on the spot and police officers were restraining the commuter after he had tried to strangle a Tapirus indicus, whose only offence was to be visiting London from Malaysia and taking photos of the aforementioned sign.
Another animal whose nature makes him/her stand out amongst the members of the Underground's fauna is the Strigiforme traynyn tempus, commonly known as 'Tube owl'. His/her main characteristic is a silent flight along the platform and an obsession with train times. The Tube owl will normally take up their position near the small overhead screen displaying the countdown between trains. He/she will look up at it with its large eyes and wait...
... and wait...
... and wait, all the time standing still, with his/her forward-facing eyes looking up at that small screen, their flat face betraying no emotion whatsoever and they will continue to wait...
... and wait. Until the train comes. You might think I'm lying but I've seen tube owls letting trains go just for the sake of waiting for the next one. And famous, though apocryphal, is the story about a Strigiforme traynyn tempus who became rich within the space of a few hours when he was confused with one of Covent Garden's famous living statues and people kept putting money in front of him. Twice two commuters, who happened to be GPs, checked his pulse to see if he was still alive. On finding out he was, they were so impressed with his act that both left their savings accounts details. It should be noted that this incident happened on the Northern Line.
The last species I will discuss today is the Delphinidae vīvāx, a very dangerous species, though not at first sight. Known more often by its common name, the 'Underground dolphin', this animal is the eternal joyful, optimistic, daredevil who jumps into the carriage just as the door is closing. The risks they pose come mainly from their selfish persona and their physical (albeit unintentional) clumsiness. The Underground dolphin's reputed intelligence disappears once he/she perceives that there is a train on the platform. From that moment onwards the only thought crossing his/her mind is: 'I must get on, I must get, I must get on' even if that means leaping above the crowd at Oxford Circus, surfing through the heavy morning rush-hour traffic at Green Park or performing acrobatic jumps at Waterloo station in order to sneak through an open door. Needless to say, the Delphinidae vīvāx is sadly involved in a number of unfortunate accidents and a culling initiative was brought to parliament last year. We have yet to hear the outcome of it, though as it is election year in the UK, maybe the traditional whistling sound of the Underground dolphin will be heard less and less. I once saw one specimen somersaulting (I swear, I'm not exaggerating) all the way from the Häagen-Dazs cafe in Leicester Square into the tube station and onto the platform just because she thought she'd heard a train approaching. Her movement was so elegant that it looked as if she was leaping in slow motion, her bottlenose high in the air, a fixed smile on her face. Alas, she wasn't able to get on the train. An Ursidae statikós stood in her way. But that's a topic for another day. Enjoy your week.
Next Post: 'Nation (Review)', to be published on Tuesday 9th March at 11:59pm (GMT)
Sunday, 7 March 2010
Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music
We continue this week with our series (sporadic, I know, but that's the way things are around here, sorry) on the biggest Zoo in Londontown: the Underground. And today we'll discuss the platform. Please, note the platform not the train. The latter will be the subject of our third and last part.