Rode the tube yesterday, July 8. After what happened 7/7, I felt it was an obligation.
It was a short ride — from Warwick Ave down the Bakerloo, past Edgeware Road, to Marylebone station for a meeting in the Marylebone area. The train was less crowded than usual. Maybe I was imagining it, or wishing it to be true, but it felt like all of us in London riding the tube yesterday were making our collective point to the perpetrators of the bombings and their sympathisers — a giant "fuck you" just by carrying on life as usual.
I found people making eye contact, nodding, sometimes smiling, and perhaps making their own evaluations about their fellow travellers’ intents. If you are a Londoner, you know that is not normal behavior. And the tube itself greeted you its riders just as it would on any day. No special announcements, no staff eyeing you more intently, no overt security presence, no metals detectors. The normality was oddly reassuring.
The return ride was slightly more interesting. The carriage was more crowded. Two older men were in seats adjacent to me, one with a backpack and folding bicycle at the end of the car. The train stopped at Edgeware Road for about 5 minutes — nothing too unusual on a normal day, but yesterday was not entirely normal. The man with the folding bike went to the door to lean out to hear the station announcements, leaving his backpack on the seat. A woman down the row of seats from me yelled out to him "Oi, don’t leave your fuckin’ bag on the seat!"
It was the first, and only, sign of tension and anxiety I saw during the whole day. It is one of the great, and much remarked on, aspects of this city; it’s ability to stay on its feet, to keep calm, to return resolutely to life’s daily routines.
We could have used a little more of this stoicism in the United States after 9/11. We could use a little more of it now.