If you've not read the above book yet, please, please, please do. It's fantastic. I finished it in a day and a bit. I know there's a current trend for adults reading books aimed at children (from Harry Potter - shite in my opinion - sorry, to Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials - brill), but this breaks the mould as it's not set in some fantasy world. It's about a teenage boy (Christopher Boone) with Asperger's Syndrome (a type of autism) who knows "a great deal about maths and very little about human beings". There's a particularly pertinent part (well for this blog anyway) about his first visit on the Tube. Ruth Rendell opened her Tube novel King Solomon's Carpet with someone's first visit on the Tube (where they die at the end of it - rather extreme), but Christopher's view is equally as fantastic and frightening. Here's a tiny piece from Christopher's journey - take yourself back to when you were a child and I'm sure your first trip on the Tube would have seemed like Hell (or perhaps your everyday commute is like this):
"then there was a sound like people fighting with swords and I could feel a strong wind and a roaring started and I closed my eyes and the roaring got louder and I groaned really loudly but I couldn't block it out of my ears and I thought the little station was going to collapse or there was a big fire somewhere and I was going to die. And then the roaring turned into a clattering and a squealing and it slowly got quieter and then it stopped and I kept my eyes closed because I felt safer not seeing what was happening. And then I could hear people moving again because it was quieter. And I opened my eyes but I couldn't see anything at first because there were too many people."
Christopher is so freaked out by this, he closed his eyes again, concentrates on some Kuoni ads, closes his eyes and then "I opened my eyes and I looked at my watch and it said 8:07pm and I had been sitting on the bench for approximately 5 hours but it hadn't seemed like 5 hours, except that my bottom hurt and I was hungry and thirsty". Wish time would pass like that for me on the Tube.
After losing his pet rat on the tracks and almost electrocuting himself when rescuing it, he manages to successfully get on the Tube (noticing every sign, ad, person and piece of upholstery) and travels to Willesden Junction from Paddington. For someone who never normally goes further than the end of the road by themselves, his complete train ride from Swindon to London becomes like a voyage to another planet - as he'd always dreamed of being an astronaut - you can really sympathise with his journey.