City dwellers necessarily walk a lot, either by choice – some inhabitants don’t even own a car, preferring to dispense with the expense and bother of a means of transport that they rarely use – or by necessity. Some of these people travel exclusively by taxi, but the vast majority take public transport. In Madrid, as the city has grown bigger and more modern, so too has the public transportation system. Between buses, subway and commuter trains, it’s now possible to travel comfortably to most places in and around the city. The average madrileño has sensibly adopted small habits that make the cohabitation of many, forced to share small spaces, at least reasonable and/or manageable. This includes avoiding such behavior as standing in the middle of the sidewalk, chatting, thus forcing rivers of pedestrians to break their rhythm to halt and circle the foreign body. All over the city people are hurrying up and down escalators, crossing crowded vestibules and generally managing to reach their destination with as little fuss as possible.
But what happens when the average working person, who uses the subway daily as the speediest way to get to work comes up against Line 8? This is the line that goes back and forth to the airport. It’s cheap, convenient, central and frequent. Well and good – for the tourist. But what an absentminded, clueless class they are! Spaniards are always putting themselves down and singing the praises of everything foreign as better, newer, more advanced, more efficient and yes, this can be the case. But when it comes to Subway Etiquette, all stereotypes are blasted apart. Mysteriously, we locals are capable of hurrying along while, at the same time, keeping our eyes open so as not to walk into each other and even more, maintaining a steady pace. It’s true that we know where we’re going. But one feels that the logical behavior of those who do not know would be, at the minimum, to get out of the way while trying to figure it out. What ignorance leads people to consult a map in the middle of a connecting hall? Stop at the top of the escalator to look around in innocent wonder? And, most annoying of all, plant themselves in the middle of the moving staircase with their suitcase securely next to them, thereby blocking the way of those of us who are in fact, trying to actually get somewhere? Line 8 is the only line where it doesn’t seem to occur to the users to stand aside, keep right. They do it in Paris, they do it in London; and guess what? We do it too. Unfortunately, the blessed tourist does not seem to notice.
Perhaps the city hall should put up a few signs, just as of old it was necessary to remind users: No Spitting.
(Guest post by Clea)