Londoners look back on their funniest (mis)adventures in the city. This week: at Leicester Square tube station, Zoe Lyons got an unexpected lift…
The Underground network is a fine place for bizarre encounters, and I have had many over the years. But my most memorable was on the Piccadilly line back in the early noughties on a stinking hot summer’s day.
Before I started doing stand-up comedy I was a waitress, a job I was terrible at due to my appalling hand-eye co-ordination, lack of organisational skills and bouts of utter disdain for members of the general public. This job dissatisfaction often left me dreaming of an alternative existence, and one day, while on a fag break, I saw an ad in the paper: a reality TV show was looking for contestants.
A few months later I was on a plane to Borneo as a contestant on the ITV programme ‘Survivor’. After all, what did I have to lose? Two stone, it turned out, and the big prize money. So on my return to the UK I was back slinging plates, albeit in a much looser apron.
Going to work one morning a couple of years later, I found myself on a packed platform at Leicester Square with hundreds of fellow miserable commuters. I managed to squeeze into the front carriage, using the sweat of strangers as lube. The tube doors shut, but the train didn’t move. Then the driver’s door suddenly opened.
‘Zoe Lyons, is that you?’ the driver shouted down the carriage. ‘Erm, yes… Yes, it is!’ I shouted back, slightly taken aback. ‘Get yourself up here!’ he replied.
Ignoring the death stares from the other passengers, I made my way to the driver’s cabin and sat down beside him. He closed the door and we were off.
There is no greater childish joy than getting to sit ‘up front’ on public transport. A journey I had done a thousand times took on a whole new dimension. Flying into the stations in the driver’s cabin was a total thrill.
‘I recognised you on the platform,’ he said as we whizzed through the tunnels. ‘I loved you in that programme “Survivor”.’
We got to my stop and he opened the driver’s door so I could leave through the carriage. My dreary journey to a job I hated had become a mini adventure.
Before closing the door he shouted after me down the train. ‘Bye, Zoe! I thought you looked cracking in your bikini on the telly, by the way!’ I might not have won the big cash prize on ‘Survivor’, but the looks I got from the sweaty-faced passengers who clearly had no idea what he was talking about were priceless.
That day, for the first time, I got to experience the unexpected benefits of being a Z-list celeb – surely the best sort of celeb, because the only way is up. Or, if you’re really lucky, up front.
‘Zoe Lyons: Entry Level Human’ is at the Soho Theatre until February 7.