All in the moment

The other night, I was taking the underground back to where I’m staying in London, sitting on a Northern Line train with a friend. Just across from me was a young guy, and after a little while, he reached into his bag and pulled out… a sticker. Very calmly, he peeled off its backing, turned, and fixed it to the wall of the carriage, just behind his head. Although he did this in one fluid, and swift, movement, the sticker was perfectly lined up on the wall – it wasn’t squint, it sat exactly midway between the window frame and the glass divider before the exit door. It mirrored, at the other end of the carriage, a sticker placed there by the London Underground, about giving up your seat for others. In short, it looked official.

But this sticker read:

‘Peak Hours

may necessitate that

you let other people

sit on your lap.’

The blue wasn’t quite the same shade of blue as that used in the ‘real’ notices, but the font of the white printed text was exactly right – as was the slightly pompous wording. I’ve noticed that public notices here often have a rather more formal tone than the notices we see in Australia. The ‘real’ sticker at the other end of the carriage, for example, read: ‘Priority seat. For people who are disabled, pregnant, or less able to stand’. ‘Less able to stand’: I love that. How much less able does one have to be in order to claim the right to a priority seat? If I’m feeling footsore after walking around photographing street art, am I ‘less able to stand’?

But my favourite pompous sign is in the building I’m staying in, outside the lift. It directs the reader: ‘In case of emergency, firstly call the caretaker. Secondly, call the lift engineers. Thirdly, if the engineers cannot respond quickly, call the Fire Brigade’. I love that firstly, secondly, thirdly… The grammatical precision, the conditional clauses. Just perfect.

And this guy’s sticker seemed to have caught that exactly: ‘peak hours may necessitate that someone sits in your lap’. The juxtaposition of ‘necessitate’ and ‘lap’ – so unexpected, so funny.

What a great thing to have made, and to have seen – a sticker that will travel around the London Underground, and which will catch the eye of some commuters and not others, simply sitting on the wall of the carriage. And for those who notice it, inevitably a smile will be brought to their faces, and some of the pain of the moment – the pain of peak hours – will disappear.

4 comments so far

  1. Nadia on

    haha! I photographed this sign. I saw it on the Piccadilly line last night 17th Oct 2008. Wish I could get ahold of whoever is doing it. If you have a way to post pics, I could send it to you.

    Peace and Love,
    Nadia

  2. Sam on

    Can I please have a copy of the picture?

  3. imagestoliveby on

    Hi Sam

    As you can see, the photo was taken by someone other than me, so I’ll have to check with her if it’s OK to pass the photo on.

  4. Cubitus on

    This is the sticker. I can try to provide a larger res. Have fun.

    London Bus Sign

    Oliver


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