Isn't it funny how people will travel hundreds / thousands of miles to see something you see every day and think nothing of? In my case people still come to Dallas from all over the country, the world even, to see Southfork Ranch.
As I didn't watch the TV show Dallas I was clueless when people asked me for directions to Southfork. When it finally dawned on me they wanted to see the home in the opening scene of that famous (?) show I gave them directions to the very unremarkable house sitting in the middle of a field in Parker, TX and they excitedly hurried off. *yawn*
The London Tube was like that for me. I saw on the news yesterday that the Tube was celebrating it's 150th anniversary and is the oldest underground transit system in the world. Even Prince Charles and his honey Camilla gave it a try. (Is that Charles' "excited" expression? He probably whispered to her, "....and I own this, too.")
That news item reminded me of my trip to London and southern England in 2006. One of my aviation museum buddies and I had arranged for VIP passes to the Farnborough Air Show, and we thought while we were there we'd see the RAF Museum(s), Duxford, the Churchill Museum, the Imperial War Museum, the Queens crib, as well as a bunch of old churches and other touristy stuff. We were there two weeks in all and had a great time. (This was all planned pre-K.)
While my friend Neil was from New York and knew all about subways, they were something I'd only read about or heard Archie Bunker or Seinfeld mention on TV. I learned from scratch, but in no time I was a genuine Tube expert.
My first encounter was somewhat less auspicious, though. We approached my first-ever subway turnstile and Neil swiped his Oyster card (a small magnetized pre-paid card) and went right through. My turn came, but I stepped aside for a little old lady to go first. Then another little old lady. Then a man walking with a cane. Then a lady carrying a baby. Then....
Neil by then was far ahead of me and was waving his arms and frantically yelling, "....push....you're bigger than they are....squeeze 'em out of the way....you can do this. LET'S GO!" He later had to explain to me that while courtesy might have a place in Dallas / Texas / the South, it had no place in a subway. It was dog-eat-dog, use those elbows, take no prisoners.
To this day I fondly remember how proud I was of myself for mastering the London Tube system. Within a day I learned how to zip all across the city, jumping from the yellow line to the blue line to the red line, to the railroads that ran to Birmingham, Oxford, and Farnborough, with only a few gaps that required walking more than a couple of blocks. I had conquered one of the world's great cities. I was now a seasoned international traveler!
By looking at my fellow Tube commuters, however, I could tell they were about as enthused by it all as I was about Southfork Ranch. :)
* "Mind the Gap" is the announcement made at every stop on the Tube warning people to not step into the gap between the train car and the concrete walkway.