I have lived in London long enough to avoid getting caught when the Underground staff goes on strike. They give warnings as early as a week before the event. And by the day before the strike, you know pretty much what time it would start and end.
Bad luck has it that I booked my plane ticket to make an appointment in central London after the strike would commence. That meant I would have to get into town by tube before the strike occurs and find my way home without the tube.
The later it gets, the harder it will be to get home, I predicted. The later it gets, the fewer the less frequent and less reliable public transport gets and the more expensive private transport becomes. This is a golden rule I learned over time.
After my meeting and dinner, I excused myself to leave for home. It was 10 pm in Mayfair.
Should I turn right and take a bus to Hammersmith and then find another bus home? Or should I take a bus to Paddington, hop on the direct train to Ealing Broadway, and then get any number of local buses home?
In my confusion, I turned left to catch the first bus to take me to Piccadilly Circus. I got off before the intersection and took a shortcut to Regents Street. Priding myself for knowing London like the back of my hand, I hopped on a bus going north. When the bus slowed down after Oxford Circus, I hopped off at Bond Street.
It was then that I noticed the long queues at various bus stops. It was 10:30 pm, and every bus that came along was stuffed to the max.
What should I do now? Hop on a bus to Hammersmith or a bus to Paddington?
I asserted myself into the next packed bus to Paddington. There is a quicker way to get to the train station from Green Park where I began my journey. I just didn't think of it earlier. The train ride took less than 10 minutes. The walk to a local bus stop took 5 minutes.
By the time I got home, it was almost midnight. Had there not been a tube strike, I would have arrived home in 30 minutes at the earliest. Instead, it took three buses and one train ride to get me home in two hours.
1 July 2004 Thursday