I am not recommending that we oldies should be armed, necessarily, but having endured two rush hour experiences at Waterloo I am tempted to recommend just that. And let’s get this clear: I am no little old lady. I see myself rather as a vintage model of womanhood of medium size and remarkable confidence. And as rush hour appears to begin at 3pm, reach a crescendo around 5pm that carries on until 7pm when it tails off, it is likely that any old dodderer will encounter this horror at some stage in their remaining life.
Let me describe this terrifying exhibition of frantic mania for you. The crowd moves trainward en masse. Almost as a single entity. The faces take on a rictus manic stare that goes quite past any individual person in the opposite direction. A phalanx of humanity that would do justice to the Valkyries, no Viking could be more threatening. I stood my ground, just. But made no progress until a sturdy mother yelled: ‘Let us through’ in a nice upper class contralto, the crowd hardly parted But they made a small gap for us before resuming their formation & I retreated into M&S for fortifying cake. I was afraid & I cowered over a coffee until the next train was announced.
I had clearly left it too late; the train was filled almost to capacity when I finally made it. People were sitting on the floor already- this is never an option for me, once down I can’t get up without the assistance of a winch. So I was driven to challenge one of the four people -in the disabled seats. (the seats are not disabled but they are for the older and less able to stand among us and as far as I know there are only 4 in the train.) I challenged the 4 passengers, enquiring if they were all disabled. All concentrated on their electronic devices & I expect they thought I might go away. I am made of sterner stuff and repeated my challenge. As always it is the least strong, a woman, who offers me her seat. I glare at the man next to her and he succumbs & gives her his seat.
The essential weapons for this action is a strong nerve & a gimlet eye (which asset can be acquired with practise in front of a mirror.) And if you can bear to look at the sagging face then you have enough nerve, the gimlet eye will come with practise. Don’t forget life is to be enjoyed.