Is My Thursday Morning Tube Ride What My Future Will Be Like?

Sarina Bastrup is a first year History and International Relations student with an interest in literature, equality of all forms, human rights and beer drinking in London pubs. Preferably combined through good conversation with good people.

[Featured Image: A blonde woman walking between two train cars on the underground.]

It’s Thursday morning around 8:35. I´m late for my 9 am lecture. I really should start waking up earlier. I finally get out the door and down to the tube. Its packed. Warm. My bag is heavy, and I haven’t gotten my coffee. Annoying. We slowly start to move. Two stops later we stop, people exit, people enter, the doors close, and then nothing. No movement. The doors open again. A couple more people squeeze in. Now it´s truly packed. God, I wish I had had my coffee. The doors close again. Then they open. It happens a couple of times. Finally, people start waiting on the platform. More and more people gather as the doors open and close again. Annoyance spread. It´s 9 now. I definitely won´t make my lecture. I make eye contact with the woman straight in front of me. She was the first to not enter the tube. I send her a grateful smile. It really is too packed in here now. I look out on the platform. Crowds of people are gathered out there. Men, women, children. Of all shapes, sizes and social classes. I get to thinking. This is what I love about the tube. We are all equal down here. We pay the same, we get the same. It 9:05 now. Should have stayed home and had my coffee. A couple of people start giving up. The next time the doors open they leave the train. People spread out. Air! I set my bag on the floor. It really is heavy today. Thank god, we got a little more room. On the other side of the platform another train arrives. A couple dozen more people join the crowds waiting on the platform. I notice one man. Tall, broad shouldered, angry looking. He´s probably in a rush. He gets off the train, walks straight past the crowds, and into the stalled tube. He is next to me now. I pick up my bag again to make room. God it´s heavy. I make eye contact with the woman in front of me. She looks startled for a second. Then returns to her phone. A couple minutes later the tube starts rolling.

Two days later. I´m at work. Its rush-hour in the bakery. More than 30 people are in queue. That´s too many. There is no space for such a long line. We now have a huge, orderless blob of people in front of us. I try to keep track of the order people come in in. It´s hard. I give up. I yell. “May I help the next please?”. A man from the back of the blob makes his way to the counter. “Hello miss, I would like a chicken salad”. I look out into the crowd an older woman in front of me looks annoyed. Then her grandchild pulls her sleeve and she looks down. I serve the chicken salad. “Next, please”.

Later that night. I´m at a pub. Its Saturday and the place is full. The line at the bar is long. I almost don’t want to bother with getting a drink. Its going to take the better part of an hour. My friend walks up to me. “Beer?”, he asks. I say yes but looks skeptically at the line. “No worries” he goes. It´s on him. Off to the bar he goes. I watch him. He goes around the bar to the side. He is a tall man. More than a head taller than most of the other people in line. He leans over the counter. Three minutes later I thank him for my pint. The next one is on me.

This is my life. Not even significant parts of my life. You ask me about what I did last week I won´t tell you about the stalled tube, the rush-hour at work or that one pint in that bar. All of these are wildly insignificant parts of my life. And yet. For as I was standing there, coffee deprived, sweaty and with a heavy bag in the tube, I noticed something. We are not all equal in the tube. Yes, we pay the same. Men, Women, Brits, Peruvian, old, young. But we don’t get the same. That woman waiting on the platform gets a much longer journey than the man who pushed his way onto the tube. Just like the older woman gets a much more annoying queue experience, than the man in the back, and just like my friend didn’t experience any queue at all, when I personally would have waited in the line. I cannot help but wonder. Is this just a small-scale extract of the bigger picture?

We hear the tales. Women’s climb to leadership is harder and longer than men’s. Women earn less than men. Get less frequent pay raises. Worse benefits. Less opportunities. Fewer chances to prove themselves. But we also hear the counterarguments. In Britain today men and women are pretty much equal. There are many more women in leadership today than before. We have equal pay for equal work. Glass ceilings are being shattered everywhere. The prime minister is female for crying out loud! Slowly, even I start to wonder: Is the feminist cause redundant today? Are men and women truly equal? And then I make these observations. The woman on the platform definitely thought “Jerk” as that man pushed his way past her into the tube. But she didn’t object. She didn’t follow him. She didn’t even get on the tube when the other people gave up. She stood where she was and waited. The man didn’t. He got ahead. At the cost of other, yes. My shoulder was sore for the rest of the day. At the expense of several dozen people on the platform thinking he was a jerk. Definitely yes. But when push comes to shove, he made it to work before any of those people. And I can´t help but wonder. Next time a promotion, or pay raise, or even just big project presents itself, will the woman on the platform stand and wait again? Will she think jerk, but never say anything? Will she push her way in when an opportunity presents itself, or wait till she can achieve her goal without being an inconvenience to others? Is my coffee deprived tube ride with a heavy bag a Thursday morning, an insight into what my future will be like? Will I too be on the platform waiting for the next train because that is the sympathetic thing to do, and as a woman that is what I was raised to do? I definitely hope not. I tell myself it won´t be. I tell myself that I´m not that woman. I am a woman raised in the 21st century. I know my rights and worth. I won´t be on the platform waiting. I’ll be on the train getting to work on time. But then I realize: I can’t even get myself a beer on a Saturday night.

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