When travelling on London Underground during rush hour you are lucky if you escape the bleating of an irate driver as the train judders painfully from station to station: “Please do not lean on the doors”, “If you lean on the doors I will take this train out of service” and “Leaning on the doors causes the brakes to be applied automatically” or words to that effect.
Last night an unusually proportioned lady hopped on the same District Line carriage as me and, much to the disapproval of other crabbed commuters, stood at the door poised to leap out and sprint as if she was being chased by Jon Venables. As we screamed through the tunnel the driver took great delight in slamming on the brakes, sending the unusually proportioned lady flying comically sideways. In a desperate attempt to hold onto pole position she clung onto the door like Spiderman, sliding it a good foot open in the process. Instead of sliding the door closed, like most safety conscious gentlemen would, the predominantly male passengers threw the unusually proportioned lady even more disapproving looks before she herself eventually slid the door back into position.
What worried me most about this incident was not that the train kept rocketing on, door open or not, until we reached the next station. It was not the fact that London commuters are more interested in smug self-righteousness than in travelling safely to and from their shitty jobs. What alarmed me the most was the thought that maybe, just maybe, those bastard drivers are lying to us about the effect that leaning on doors has on the trains’ braking systems, just to make our miserable journeys that little bit more wretched.