This morning I travelled on the Northern Line during the rush hour for the first time in yearsand observed a most interesting evolutionary adaptation among the harassed commuters.
The main challenge the commuters face at Clapham Common is getting on the crowded tube. Fifteen years ago there were three broad strategies: fight your way on regardless of others; take the tube out of London to a station where you could get on because the train was less crowded and come back in again; or wait and wait, growing ever more frustrated and accepting you’d be late. I wondered which strategy would triumph in the evolutionary struggle that is getting to work in London: brute force; guile; or patience and resignation?
Remarkably in a very short evolutionary period a new adaption has emerged, one that holds promise for the future of the human species: queuing.
When I arrived this morning I observed the commuters in neat lines behind the spots where they knew the doors would be. This adaption emerged some time ago. The queues were neat and orderly. I was fourth in the queue. The first tube arrived, and nobody could get on. One person managed to get on the second tube, and then two on the third. I was now at the front of the queue and was recognised by those behind me as the person who had the first right to get on the next tube. There was, I must confess, a pushy blond woman almost beside me whom I feared might not be adapted to this hostile environment. She was, I reflected, probably from a less evolved tribe; American, I suspected. All proved well in that I got on the next tube, but the American, resorting to the brute force strategy thought to be extinct also got on. The evolutionary struggle continues.
Queuing is a collaborative strategy as opposed to the competitive strategies of brute force and guile and more progressive than resignation. As such this small evolutionary adaption in Clapham augurs well for human survival in the face of global overcrowding and climate change.
But the commuters need to evolve in other ways. They must learn not to let coats and bags block the closing of the doors and not to lean on the doors when the train is moving–or else the train stops. The evolutionary struggle to get to work continues. Only the fittest will survive.