(This was written for the good people of Worthing)
Who else is watching The Tube on BBC2?
Not right now, although that would be a mighty coincidence, but on Monday nights with the rest of us*? It's an unlikely contender for communal telly viewing, a ritual usually reserved for big hitters like X-Factor and Question Time, but with its wry look into the world under the underground and ample opportunities to guffaw at the idiocy of other humans, The Tube is almost my new favourite programme.
Of course, I wouldn't have watched it at all were it not for my colossal train geek of a boyfriend, a man for whom riding the length of the Metropolitan Line alone is a dream afternoon's activity. "Look how jolly the staff are!" he says as we watch. "They're so patient and cheerful. What heroes." I don't have the heart to point out that the patient, cheerful, jolly staff are probably the only ones they filmed. But anyway, it’s great.
There are lots of good bits to The Tube - seeing your local station, or even a station you frequent regularly, is exciting (you out-of-towners you just get to shout "Look Bev, Covent Garden - where you had your purse nicked" at 15 minute intervals); Learning mind-fuddling statistics like “every day, 60,000 journeys are made and not paid for”, which you can then recite at the coffee machine and sound knowledgeable; last week’s sequence of commuters who had fallen asleep being woken up at the end of the line and gently herded homewards.
But the best bit of all is seeing seeing fare-dodgers get caught. I, as I’m sure you all do too, love a good bit of comeuppance – especially for petty crimes like not blipping a travelcard. In a way it's our version of America's Cheaters, the show where adulterers are secretly filmed, then pounced on by a camera crew and their raging spouse during an opportune moment. We're as thrilled by an oyster fare evader being stopped and promptly fined as our cousins across the Atlantic are by a trouserless man from Milwaukee screaming "IT'S NOT WHAT YOU THINK SUE-ANNE" while she beats him over the head with a shoe.
But I know what you’re saying - ‘We don’t live in London, thanks Lauren. Can’t we just talk about Teville Gate some more?’ Well I urge you, watch it anyway. Make your kids watch it. For they, like me, might one day rely on this underground world to get around and earn a living. You don’t want them to turn into one of those tourists who gets the tube for all of 30 seconds between Charing Cross and Embankment, do you? As the late Whitney Houston once sang: teach them well, and let them lead the way. Or read the map.
Plus, after a 10-minute montage of weekend revellers vomiting on the Victoria line, Teville Gate will start to look rather homely.
*By ‘the rest of us’ I naturally mean Twitter, but you can replace as appropriate with your chosen medium of contact: telephone; carrier pigeon; shouting over garden fence.
In which I dream
5 months ago