The whoosh blows my hair and I cannot help but look for a hand to grasp, sure I am going to be whisked off to Narnia in moments. I have not traveled through worlds (yet), but every time I have stepped onto a fast underground train, I have indeed entered a different realm. The Tube.
We have been on the lookout for rats. We have minded the gap. We have been pushed and stuck in the dark and we have had to wait. We have been insulted. A sparkling water exploded and got some of us wet, but one of my many favorite parts of being in London for a month might be the way I have become accustom to the Tube.
There is the woman and man, both dressed very business professionally. She tried to convince him they needed a new couch. She showed him pictures on her iPhone. He smiles and nods, but doesn’t say a word.
The child colors on his sketchpad. His talent, while moving extremely fast, was powerful for one so small. His grandmother looks over his shoulder, bursting with pride.
A man reviews a printed PowerPoint presentation. Something about subsidies. Will he change the world with this presentation?
A little boy makes good use of the middle pole. He spins around and around. I think of myself as a child, and the fun I had spinning around the “No Parking” sign at Las Palmas. Now, I was dizzy watching this young boy. He spun for three Tube stops. He slowed down, but never stopped spinning.
The older man moves as fast as he can, seemingly to take a seat. But he just stands in front of the empty spot. His wife shuffles up, and he presents her the seat, as if they have followed this pattern for years.
A little girl watches a school group. The school group kids each have a partner, and they are all laughing as they play the same clapping games many of us grew up with. “Double this, double that.” The little girl licks a candy stick, watching the pairs of friends carefully. As the school group starts a French clapping game, the candy girl looks up at her mommy. “Like this, double this?” She asks in a British accent. The mommy, exhausted as she looked, ignored the slobbery sugary stickiness of her daughter’s hands and clapped with her. “Double This. Double That.” They laughed. The mommy was her daughter’s friend.
The man plays the same violin day after day, collecting only a few coins from those who dare to make eye contact. He shares music with the world. And even the busy business men and women can’t help but feel a little bit lighter as they walk by.
Strangers offer strangers their seats. People step aside to let others by. We stand peacefully with each other. Over and over again, we are told to “Mind the Gap.” And the gap is indeed minded. The gap between ideas and beliefs, religions and politics, passions and frustrations, unjustness and equality.
I am aware that my stories will never intersect with the people I ride the Tube with again. But there are so many stories to be told. They are as complex as the maps of the underground. And as colorful too. For just a moment, the other Tube riders and I met at a junction in our stories. And although we never spoke, I am better for it. For I listened briefly to the story being told. The story of people minding the gap on the way to and fro. There is beauty underground.