I’m a big fan of the people who make the announcements on tube platforms. Encouraging herds of bedraggled commuters to “move right down inside the car” is one of the world’s most pointless jobs. It’s akin to standing on the beach shouting “no waves, nice and flat please.” Nature will do as it wishes.
But there must be something about the mind-numbing nature of the announcements that inspires creativity. Like seeing how much consternation you can cause by playing round with the order that you say the words in. I don’t know if the woman on the District Line at Notting Hill actually plays that game but she’d be a world champion if she did.
Most announcers go for the matter of fact: “your next train will arrive in two minutes.” But she opts for the far more portentous: “you have two minutes until your train arrives.” It’s a pretty harmless syntactical swap-around on the face of it. But in the Notting Hill lady’s version of the announcement, you the commuter – not the train – is suddenly the subject of the sentence.
This sudden change of emphasis is disarming. “What am I going to do with those two minutes?” you ask yourself. Do something creative? Do something useful? What can you do on a crowded platform with no tools or materials save a half-eaten pack lunch?
The answer is nothing, except ruminate on the ticking by of time and the ever growing pile of wasted moments which make up your one shot at life. “You have two minutes until your next train” is quite some motivational speech. I wonder what she does with “mind the gap.”