Sunday, 1 June 2008

The last round

From today, drinking alcohol and carrying open containers of alcohol on the tube is banned.

Last night, The Law of Unintended Consequences swung into play, ushering something which really wasn't a problem towards being one: a party had been loosely organised via various social networking sites to mark the occasion. The rules of engagement were generally thus:

  1. Turn up with alcohol in the last carriage of a Circle Line train from 9pm onwards.
  2. Party.

I was travelling home from Whitechapel on the District Line at 7pm, and thought I'd pick up a beer to mark the occasion before submerging myself in the London Underground. I may have been the only person drinking, but I was indulging my right to look like a somewhat addicted billy-no-mates which, as of this morning, I can no longer do in this way. I shouldn't have been surprised to be the sole drinker - I've been in London six months now, and I can't recall ever seeing more than a few sparsely distributed  groups of people drinking on the tube in any one carriage. Despite not yet being on the Circle Line, and the party apparently not starting until 9pm, I was a little disappointed. I had hoped that the spirit of telling Boris what he could do with his flimsy and knee-jerk ban would at least have ensured the occasional commuter would be carrying a can and exchanging knowing sentiments with other drinkers. But no. Nothing.

At Tower Hill, curiousity got the better of me and I hopped over to the Circle Line to do a bit of research. As the train drew up, I headed to the final carriage where parties were supposed to be, and bumped into a few people carrying likely looking cans of booze and bags of spare alcohol. Keen to find out why other people were doing this, I rapidly introduced myself by waving my open container of alcohol in their direction, and asked the question: why?

It turned out they were mostly booze-on-tube first-timers, drinking because they could today and couldn't tomorrow. And, because, well, why not?



At the next stop, people from a carriage further up jumped on to join the last carriage party. They had got organised. They had party banners, streamers, plastic wine glasses. This looked like a good crowd to hook up with for a jaunt around the circle line. One bunch met the other bunch, clinked glasses and cans and got on with the party.





We'd just pulled into Monument when a cheer rose from the other platform. A larger crowd had gathered there, and looked like they were well organised. It was time to follow the gravity of the pack, abandon the original plan, and travel in the opposite direction.

We were by now maybe fifty people, standing on a platform, armed with nothing more than a few drinks and good humour, waiting for a Circle Line train.

A District Line train pulled up. "Boooooo!". Ten minutes later, another train. District Line, again. "Boooooo!". A few minutes later, another District Line train. "Boooooo!". And then, looming out of the tunnel, the one we'd been waiting for. The Circle Line train. A cheer rose from the platform. They were in good voice.

The last carriage was already half full of party-goers. We all piled on, made acquaintances, and carried on meeting, talking, and drinking. A couple of stops later a chap with his 25th birthday party entourage got on, bringing with them much-needed music. They also brought beer, and offered to exchange my empty can for a full one. I accepted, but this would be my last - the train was filling rapidly, the party spreading several carriages up the train, and the space to dance being swallowed up as at every station more people squeezed onto the train. In fact, the party was very quickly resembling rush hour, but with people in far better humour, and the smell of sweat masked by the general beery aroma. Many were asking the question: Why did we wait for drinking on tubes to be banned before organising this?






By the time we'd got round to High Street Kensington, I'd drained my can, though it was becoming an increasingly difficult battle with the ever-swelling numbers packed into our party carriage to reunite my can with my mouth. Partying in confined spaces not being one of my favourite things, and with more than half a mind on the morning's double outing, I bowed out and watched the party depart to continue on its subterranean circuit. It was about half eight. It was something of a relief to get off the train, and the party wasn't due to start for another half hour. It was going to get messy.

I watched a few more trains go past as I waited for one which would take me in a homeward direction. Every Circle Line train now had several carriages full of increasingly loud parties, with more people and alcohol pouring into each train. The commuters who'd found themselves caught up had mostly relocated to the front carriages and seemed largely untroubled, which suggested to me that, rather than banning alcohol from tubes, perhaps the last carriage on all trains should be a designated drinking carriage, with music to help encourage sozzled drinkers to gravitate towards it?

Sadly, it was with little surprise that I woke up this morning to hear that seventeen arrests had been made, and that train drivers and station staff had been assaulted.

13 comments:

Gael said...

I was smiling reading this (until the last para.)
I've heard aboout various 'flashmob' events, but never been involved. I'm glad you had a good experience, I love your idea of a party carriage - though experience of coming home from Liverpool Street on the last train on Friday night/Saturday morning tells me it might turn messy.
And I must confess to leaving a train last week, running down the platform and re-alighting further down, when a stag-party proved to be too well-oiled for my comfort.
All things in moderation...

Random Reflections said...

Even as a non-drinker, I was pro people having this last drink on the tube. Drunken behaviour isn't great and can be very intimidating but I'm not sure this new law (is it a law?? by-law??) is the answer. How do you enforce it and does it really deal with the problem, which I imagine is far more likely to be due to people who have been out drinking in pubs and bars and then travelling home on the tube. Poor old tube train drivers who will be the main people who are meant to step in if someone is drinking.

It's just a shame that it deteriorated in the way that it did, which just made Boris feel all the more smug I am sure.

But Why? said...

Gael,
Judging from the pictures on the news, it seems I caught the best of the atmosphere before the vomiting and so on began and the police started to show up. I think I saw only two police in my trip round the Circle Line. Mind you, I wasn't particularly looking out for them.

Random,
I've never drunk on a tube before, never wanted to, either. Didn't particularly want to yesterday, but rather felt I should. The deterioration was a pity, and given that as a nation we have a rather unhealthy relationship with alcohol, rather inevitable.

I agree it's not the open containers of acohol but the drunken people who can be agressive and intimidating which I'd rather get rid of, but we already have laws to deal with drunks and disorderlies...

And enforcement? I can't see how it's going to work.

Kahless said...

But Why?, you are not a nerd God, you are a cool dude!

respect

But Why? said...

Kahless,
I went home at half past eight. What better example of nerdish behaviour could I provide??

trousers said...

I do like the idea of one carriage being designated for those having a drink.

But I must admit - while I'm not pro the ban in any shape or form (and am aware of the problems in enforcing it), it took the news of the impending ban to make me realise you could legally drink on buses and the tube in the first place - so in that particular respect, one of my initial reactions was to feel mildly scornful of the fuss about it since in my own town I don't ever remember a time when you could drink on public transport.

Still, as mentioned, I'm not pro the ban, and it IS a shame that a party like this only happened given that it's the last legal) opportunity. It sounds like you were at the best of it before it turned a bit messy: I can identify with the sense of exploring the situation, joining in and then taking a step back once it reached a certain critical mass (if that's not a crap sentence).

Kahless said...

ok ok ok. Maybe the fact that you only bought one can of beer rather than a four-pack could be considered nerdish too.

But Why? said...

Trousers,
Same here, and despite seeing the od few drinkers on the tube previously, I'd assumed somewhere the would something prohibiting it. Before yesterday, apparently not. I'd rather like to see the consumption of hot food on the tube banned as well. Or perhaps all food, given that the packaging the food comes in seems to inevitably end up piled on the seats.

I definitely got the best of the evening - assault and criminal damange isn't really my cup of tea.


Kahless,
I feel my reputation has been restored. Thankyou.

Rob Clack said...

As you say, it sounds as though you saw the best of the party, showing admirable judgement of when to leave.

But Why? said...

Rob C,
Ah, yes. I'm good at leaving parties early. For some reason, the option of going home and getting a good night's rest is usually quite an attractive one. Coupled with my inability to dance, I am quite the party pooper...

Reading the Signs said...

Hey Doctor Why, I agree with Kahless, you are one helluva cool dude, this is a lovely post which has made me feel stupidly happy and I think the party carriage idea is inspired. Gael is probably right that things might turn messy, but it's possibilities, like this that make me want to get up in the morning. Even if I don't get up in the morning, but you know what I mean.

The fact that things turned bad just shows that we are not yet ready for heaven on earth. Keep the faith, Sister!

But Why? said...

Signs,
I am so pleased you feel stupidly happy.

I also feel stupidly happy, but for me, it's because it's ten to nine and I'm still in bed. Despite the fact that this will mean staying late at work tonight, and the fact that the reason I'm still in bed is that I've been working for the last hour and a half from bed, because I don't have to be at the rowing club until about 7pm this evening, all the jigsaw pieces of what had seemed an intractable day now look like they might fall into place! And that makes me happy. Not as happy as making someone else fel stupidly happy, but quite happy nonethless.

Oh, happy day...

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Positive results are expected to come out on the ban of alcohol because it provides a way to minimize alcohol related crimes. It might as well give aid in the promotion of healthy living without alcohol.