Journeying Through the Bowels of the London Underground: My Personal Catharsis

By Reader Alexander Taber Shaw on at

I arrive in the station with my arms by my side, and my head tilted sideways at an odd angle. I wipe away the slightly coagulated drool from the right side of my mouth, and pick the sleep that has hardened into a crust from the corner of my eyes. I am squashed. Mentally and physically.

I breathe out, exhaling sigh. I feel my body inflate back to its usual proportions and subsequently expel a cheeky jet of potent gas from my anus, which in turn hits the station wall and rebounds into my mouth, where I cough twice and then trump again.

It's 5:03pm and the blue shirt brigade has just finished work. As far as my weary eyes can see, swarms of them rush to and fro, carrying copies of the Evening Standard under their arms, taken only seconds previously from the drenched hi-vis-wearing man standing outside the station in the rain.

I slowly make my way towards the barriers, my Oyster card prepared and ready in order to avoid any snide remarks of dismay from the other commuters; after all, they are in a rush remember -- Joey Essex is on the telly tonight, and his words of wisdom and impending on-screen romance with that thing known as Amy Willerton prove a strong and highly regarded conversational point over a sushi lunch in the work canteen the following day. Just stop and take five seconds to imagine what would happen if the two of them actually decided at any point to reproduce. Makes you shudder doesn't it?

As I edge towards the escalators, I realise that this is actually my favourite part of my commute, not because it reminds me of Alton Towers, but because it also provides me with the best opportunity to catch the eyes of beautiful women going the other way -- in actual reality what usually happens is that I unintentionally catch the eye of a man, who smiles and then if I'm lucky, double-takes -- I can't help looking like a member of Boyzone. Blame my father.

It's usually around the time I reach the bottom of the escalators that I feel a slight uneasy pressure emerging from deep within my bowels, and realise a poo is imminent, however due to the lack of toilet facilities located within the underground system, I have to wait until I arrive home. Flatulence is just a positive side effect.

In the distance, I can make out the faint outline of my carriage. Its luscious hues of reds, whites and blues draw me closer, hypnotising me and tantalising my every senses. It begins to whisper to me, its voice sensual, intelligent and refined like a good wine (or Joanna Lumley).

Its voice is Boris Johnson.

"Come in Alex my dear boy, come in and sit inside me. Perch your posterior on my moquette seats, you lovely sardine, you. Tomato sauce, brine, or olive oil...?"

As I enter the carriage and somehow miraculously manage to find a seat, I am greeted with a stench so foul it gives me gastro-oesophageal reflux and I inadvertently belch and dribble onto the floor, causing the woman sitting opposite me to sneer and sink her head deeper into the Commuter Cupid section of the Metro. Her wedding ring lies tarnished on her finger. A copy of Fifty Shades of Grey peers out of her bag.

The potent and lingering whiff of body odour emanates from the fat man two seats down, and penetrates my every crevice. I try in vain to cover my nostrils and lean closer to the woman sitting to my right, her combined aroma of musty Chanel No. 5 top notes and Deep Heat muscle spray prove a slight and welcome relief from my current sweat, nausea inducing, intoxication.

I can't take it anymore and decide to leave at the next stop. I stand up quickly and trump. It smells like cabbage and chicken wings. The woman opposite faints. Her copy of Fifty Shades of Grey falls to the floor. Somewhere further down the carriage I hear a woman scream. I make a bolt for the door, pushing past a huge group of Asian ladies wearing shiny puffer jackets. An over-preened man on the outside steps aside, smiling at me and then doing a double-take. I make for the escalator and stand on the left hand side. Why do people insist on standing on the right? I catch a beautiful woman's eye. She looks at me with disgust, shakes her head and mouths the word 'pervert' at me.

As I pass through the barriers of the station and step outside, another man in a hi-vis jacket hands me a copy of the Evening Standard. I shake his hand and thank him. I ask him for a hug and he runs away. Lighting a cigarette, I check the Citymapper app on my iPhone.

108 minutes walk to desired destination.

Best get a move on then.

Alexander Taber Shaw is a Yorkshire Bradfordian who's just moved to London, where he's studying at Central Saint Martins. When not staring at women (or men) on the London underground, he enjoys DJing, collecting music, eating chicken wings and pretending to be a lonely middle-aged man on Badoo.

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