Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Of tube mice and men and women

Mice. I have a boundless admiration for them. Especially the one that is hanging around the pipes around and within my bedroom, who leaves evidence of his/ her presence in the most unlikely places, and who is far to clever to fall for the old 'scone and jam in humane trap' trick.

There are many things to do while waiting for a tube train. Examples include inwardly bemoaning how long four minutes is, trying to avoid the rambling drunk, staring at advertisements, wondering if the air down here is more likely to kill you than the pollution outside, attempting to make as many words as possible from the letters in the name of the station. While doing these or other things, you might find your gaze drawn to a fast moving piece of fuzz on the tracks. A tube mouse. They're tiny, with relatively short tails, and are almost the same colour as the tracks. Their speed is impressive, and they seem to have no fear of trains, people, lights, noise. I've always wondered what they eat, how they survive. How can they cope with the crushing noise of the trains passing over their heads? How do they relate to their world? How incredible it is to contemplate that there exists a species of mouse that will never experience natural light.

I've heard that the mice under the ground are different from the mice above ground, as they have evolved differently. I've never been told what those differences are, but only that they exist, and that it's true about mosquitoes in the tube network too. These creatures have never come into contact with their fellows on the surface, and so they have adapted differently to their environments. I assume that whatever differences exist between tube and surface mice enable the tube mice to live more easily in the bleak habitat of tunnels and dust that human beings have created beneath the surface of the earth.

I'm told that since Londoners have crawled through the network of claustrophic tunnels, sat exhausted on the trains, trudged through the pollution to work they have changed too. Apparently if you annoy a Londoner s/he will react more strongly, and more aggressively, than someone living in a different city. It does not take long to piss off a Londoner. We've all felt that involuntary and completely unwarranted anger when someone, lacking space, has walked into us, or stopped in front of us to look at a map, or got to the queue before us. When someone gets in my way, I get annoyed; if I get in someone's way I get annoyed that they are annoyed. Lots of seperate little worlds, all demanding a degree of personal space which is impossible, all trying to get to the same places at the same times, everyone being someone else's irritant. It is impossible to feel any degree of affection for the tube during rush hour.

Tube mice. They have adapted to the eerie underground world, and thrive underneath the man-made florescent lights. They are most often to be seen on the Bakerloo and Northern Lines. There's nothing like tube mice to take one's mind off the tube.


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