I USED TO BE AN aficionado of the London Underground – or the Tube as they call it over there. I prided myself on being able to travel around London on the Underground with ease and without having to use a map.
Not any more I’m afraid. After twelve years of living in Paris, most of what I used to know about the London Underground appears to have been consigned to some dark corner of my brain, seemingly lost forever.
I was though, reacquainted with my old friend some time ago on a visit to London. Everything seemed to be much as I remembered it. That is to say, everything except the incessant security and health and safety announcements that were quite new to me and which seemed to pollute every corner of every station.Out of this maelstrom of new sounds, one stood out from all the others – “MIND THE GAP!”
It seems that, presumably in the interests of the great God, Health and Safety, or more likely, to protect the Underground authorities from litigious passengers, someone has decided that passengers or, as I believe we are called these days, customers, must be warned of the danger of falling down the gap between the train and the platform. Hence the public address announcement – “MIND THE GAP!”
Health a Safety and litigious customers travel with the wind so, not surprisingly, “MIND THE GAP!, has travelled across La Manche to the Paris Metro – although, as so often, the French do it far more elegantly.
“MIND THE GAP! – The French Way:
As always, The French use three words for every one word in English so “MIND THE GAP!” becomes, “Attention a la marche en descendant du train” – more of a request than a command.
The question is: “What constitutes a gap?” And how big does the gap have to be to warrant an official warning to the great travelling public? Who decides?
This gap at the Metro Station Concorde on Line 1 warrants a warning, as does a similar gap at Charles de Gaulle – Etoille. Several other platforms have a similar warning but the same gap on other Metro station platforms do not. Why?
Is there “gap” prejudice?
As so often in France, a fonctionnaire in an office somewhere, appointed but not elected, clearly has the supreme authority to determine the course of our lives – to authorise whether or not the travelling public should be warned to “MIND THE GAP!”
Line 1 from Tuilleries to Concorde – including advice about “pickpockets” and, of course, “MIND THE GAP!
Wherever you travel, stay safe and, above all, “MIND THE GAP!” – with or without a warning!