I missed a train today. I allowed an extra 20 minutes to get to the train, but I still missed it. A train that was to take me to visit a train station.

A tube train from Canary Wharf to London Bridge was running fine, with no warnings of impending calamities ahead. Change at London Bridge for the Northern Line, and the display indicator showed lots of trains running normally. Tube train pulls in, and stays there.

An announcement from the driver that there are severe delays on the Northern Line.

I need to get to Euston. I have 30 minutes. Do I backtrack to the Jubilee then take the long way around? Nope, whichever route taken will wipe out the allowance I make for delays – better to wait it out.

Do I stand there sighing and glancing upwards in exasperation as the unseen God of Signals caused a miracle? Do I tut loudly and keep glancing at my watch in the expectation that these actions will cause repairs to be undertaken any faster.


I used to panic about being late, and get stressed about it – but no more.

Panicking, sighing, tutting, moaning wont change whatever caused the delay in the first place. I am going to be late. I can either stress myself pointlessly, or I can achieve zen-like calmness about the situation and simply accept that lateness will occur.

Fretting about being late wont change the situation, it will just mean I arrive in a stressed out state. Better to simply relax and accept the consequences of being late.

I can most certainly be damn annoyed that the Jubilee Line driver didn’t warn people of severe delays on the other line – which would have enabled me to plot an alternative route without eating into my “delay allowance”. But that didn’t happen.

I arrived at Euston Station and got to the ticket machine with 30 seconds to spare. It wasn’t enough. The train to more exotic locations departed without me.

However, in all this angst, it was a shake-up of the daily monotony that is the average life. Yes things go wrong and that is annoying, but they also shake us out of the routine. They cause is to momentarily rethink routes and plot alternatives. Some of us stress, or relax. Our brains are challenged to think about something different for a moment.

Our brains are remarkably flexible, but that flexibility is in large part enhanced by having a wide range of experiences, and it makes us better thinkers as a result. Holidays are good – but delays have a similar effect in forcing the brain out of its soporific routine.

As frustrating they are, our brain’s ability to be flexible and work around problems are ever so slightly boosted by these challenges to daily monotony. I missed a train today, but in the process, the inevitable onset of dementia in a couple of decades time just got pushed back by a few days.

It was a good morning.


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  1. Harry Wood says:

    Just reading your description of train lateness is making me feel stressed and annoyed.

  2. danish_ep says:

    Ah, you were subject to “A Northern Line Minute” – A strange anomaly occurs on the Underground in general, and on the Northern Line particularly (having commuted on it for 3 years) in that Next Train in 1 minute can be said to be a period of time which is only definable within the confines of the Underground, having no bearing on the passage of time elsewhere, and meaning nothing at all in the regular construct of time in minutes as we understand it.

  3. swirlythingy says:

    You had 30 minutes to get from London Bridge to Euston without using the Northern line? I would’ve headed straight back to the Jubilee and changed at Green Park.

    I don’t think sitting passively in an unmoving train with “zen-like calmness” instead of attempting to cheat fate really counts as being “forced out of a soporific routine” and “being caused to rethink routes and plot alternatives”.

    Personally, I have a commute from round about Wimbledon to round about Euston, with a choice of multiple stations and lines at both ends, and I regularly vary my journey home just for the sake of it.

    • IanVisits says:

      You’re conflating one incident with an overall approach to similar situations in general.

      If I know that altering my route will get me to the destination in time, then obviously I would do so – but given the choice between unknown delays which are often minor in nature and a known long route – then it usually makes sense to sit out the problem.

      Sometimes it doesn’t work – but the key is whichever solution you take, not to stress about the fact that you are running late. That is a situation that stress will not alter.

  4. Sykobee says:

    The big issue raised here is that the notifications given to passengers are totally useless in the context of being useful for the passengers to make alternative plans.

    There’s no communication between different services – e.g., if SWTrains isn’t running through Richmond, then I’m not told by the district or overground drivers en-route to Richmond at all.

    And when there is a delay, timescales to it being fixed are never supplied.

  5. Carl says:

    Wasn’t life easy when we had no mobile phones, no smart phone access to travel web sites, and you were lucky if any announcement was made. We were just delayed. At our destination people just waited – and assumed that a snafu had occured.
    The most important thing was to never travel without a book, a paper one!

  6. James Bunting says:

    You mentioned that you got to the ticket machine with 30 seconds to spare. Was this for a prepaid ticket? If so it is worth knowing that they can be collected from any machine that is programmed to issue prepaid tickets against a 8 character alpha-numeric booking references. The booking system will ask you where you want to collect your tickets to ensure that your departure station has a machine. However, if, for example, you have made a booking on Virgin Trains from Euston to Birmingham for Friday week you can collect them from , say, Beckenham Junction, at anytime from now on. This not only reduces stress when you are travelling, but guards against a queue or the system going down.

    Unfortunately two things it cannot do – avoid delays on the Tube and get timely and accurate information about Tube delays.

  7. Alan says:

    I think you’re pretty brave only allowing 20 minutes extra! I’m afraid I always leave much earlier even though I usually have ages to wait. Even so your article reminded me of running down the ramp at Euston and jumping in the last door just before it closed after an interesting reversal opposite Clapham High Street!

  8. Chris says:

    The conflict of wait to see if the problem clears or devise a new route based on your knowledge / information at that split second in time – for me is the human mind at its best

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