For most Londoners, the tube has many negative connotations – it is often a means to a sweaty and quite often unpredictable end.
In summer, overheating and overcrowding almost always ensures a passenger alarm bell being pulled. Whereas in winter, the possibility of frostbite increases each time the train is delayed and the doors remain open – the only benefit being the wind easing the stench wafting from the black sea of woollen coats.
However, despite these unpleasantries, the tube can have its advantages; as often when I have been caught short of a book or paper, my next source of entertainment is to check out my fellow passengers.
Providing you like what you see, it turns out the tube can be a playground for old fashioned flirting. Trapped in a carriage until your eventual departure, it gives you a chance to engage in a cheeky smile or two, or for the more brazen, prolonged eye contact and a phone number scribbled on the back of your Metro. That is, providing you have the courage.
And so my tale begins. One autumn morning, I peered up from my newspaper to see the most beautiful man standing in front of me. So blown away from his perfectly formed dark features, I believe my jaw dropped ever so slightly causing me to giggle at my reaction, and more embarrassingly, at him spotting it.
As my face burnt up, I buried my head into my newspaper before being stopped by an unexpected cheeky, yet perfectly carved smile flashing right back at me. For the next 10 minutes, a similar scenario of cat and mouse unfolded. Using our smiles as bait, and oblivious to the other 30 people in the carriage, we exchanged glances, blushed and exchanged glances again.
Miraculously, a space two seats down from me became available. Tube Boy then strategically manoeuvred his way over at the first signs of its availability and sat down. Checkmate. Smiling from ear to ear, a swarm of butterflies flew through my stomach, releasing a sudden wave of fear– there were only two stops until my office – who was going to make a move?
I’m usually the chattee, rather than the chatter, when it comes to chatting up. So I was fairly certain my nerves would impede any form of role reversal at this point, especially when sober and on an uncomfortably quiet rush-hour train.
However, as the next stop approached, the person sitting next to me got off, and the greatest sense of relief cast over me as Tube Boy stood up and moved next to me. His leg then began to nervously tap and we eventually turned and looked at each other, before nervously turning back in the other direction.
The doors then flung open. It was my stop. ‘This is my chance, you can do it’ I anxiously told myself. I stood up and proudly put my handbag on my shoulder.
However, unsure of what to actually do next, my confidence suddenly abandoned me and I made my way out of the door and onto the cold concrete platform without so much as a cheeky smile or glance back in his perfect direction.
As the train departed, I stood on the windy platform deflated and confused while scanning the crowd to see if he was there. But he wasn’t. Given the rarity of our encounter, I even waited outside the station in case he came after me like they do in the movies. Maybe this was my Hollywood moment? But it wasn’t.
To ease the disappointment, I have since tried telling myself that maybe he was married or had a voice like David Beckham, however months down the track, I still curse my lack of courage. So much so, each morning, I get in the same train carriage and my new ritual is to always check the crowd before my book even makes it out of my handbag.