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Five ways to win at rush hour in London

Written by
Will Jones

To live and work in this great city, compromises must be made – like dealing twice a day with the spirit-sapping, soul-sucking commute.

Whoever coined the phrase 'rush hour' must have been referring to the rush of happiness you feel once it’s over. Your tube station gobs you out into the street and personal space becomes a thing again. No matter. Take note of these five ways to make the experience a little less awful – and perhaps even enjoyable.


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 1. Break etiquette

Start small: try standing on the wrong side of the escalator for three seconds. The next day, try four seconds, and so on. Make fleeting eye contact with another human. Maybe smile. If you’re feeling dangerously reckless, strike up a conversation. Your fellow commuters will pull faces like they’ve undergone sudden invasive examinations but who cares: you’ll forever be known as a maverick. People will remember you, perhaps even change carriages to avoid you. Soon you’ll have enough space to do circuit training.


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 2. Cycle

Seriously, just try it. Even if you need to travel ten miles. It's always easier than you think it will be and is usually quicker than public transport. A lot of London is flat, so if you plan your route carefully you can probably do the journey without spilling too much sweat. It’s healthy. It’s free. It’s green. If your usual method of transport offers you the same freedom of movement as that thing Hannibal Lecter is wheeled around in, you'll never go back.

3. Daydream

Ah, that harrowing moment when your phone dies and you realise there’s not a paper in sight. What now? Read the adverts? But what then? Soon you’re going to have to accept it: you're your own captive audience, alone in the silent abyss that is your mind on public transport. Except it’s not an abyss, or at least it doesn’t have to be. Savour the few precious moments that your life is completely free of distraction as they're remarkably difficult to come by in our techy age. Let your thoughts wander, see where they take you.


4. Make it a competition

Trying to shave time off your journey can quickly turn into a happy obsession. At first you’ll carve great chunks off as you discover little shortcuts, different routes, creating new records on a daily basis. As the weeks draw on it will get more and more difficult. You’ll start winning by seconds, not minutes. Before you know it, your power walk to the station will become a flailing sprint and your time on the train will be fraught with nervous excitement. You’ll burst into the office a deranged waterfall of sweat, gasping: 'I did it! I fucking did it!'

5. Work out the names of your stops backwards

Just because. Once done, decide what language they would likely belong to and under your breath learn how to pronounce them perfectly: then define. Vauxhall, for example, becomes Llahxuav, which must be a hybrid of Welsh and Czech, and is probably an experimental new laxative. Mahlab is clearly from the Dark Tongue of Mordor and refers to an ancient demon of that land. End this game when it becomes tedious or when the stares from people concerned about your strange mutterings become too much to bear.

For more handy rush-hour tips, take a note of our nine sneaky tube shortcuts that only Londoners know. 

Or pass the time with this tube rent map.

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