There are countless grave sins you can commit, however, wearing sunglasses on the Tube is by far the gravest.
It is a kind of mortal crime, a transgression – an act of indecency, even. Every time I see such travellers – with their overdone hair and constant phone-flicking – I ask myself: what the hell are they doing? Seriously, what kind of lunatic wears sunglasses on the Underground?
Sunglasses are not required on the Tube. Let’s just get that out the way. No one can reasonably consider the Underground to be over lit. The lighting is adequate, no more. The average Tube station is as illuminated as any office building. And you wouldn’t walk around the office in sunnies, would you? No. So why wear them on the Tube? I suppose it has something to do with the anonymity of commuting in London. Perhaps the presence of metropolitan strangers makes ridiculous behaviour permissible. It’s as if the crowd itself encourages a kind narcissism (the desire to stand out, perhaps?)
Whatever the rationale, these people are deluded posers. There are no exceptions. These ludicrous snowflakes are nothing but competitors in the sport of social media oneupmanship. Personally, I blame the glittering fakery of Instagram. Social media has it seems spawned a generation of vapid show-offs. Consequently, we live in a world where every banal act is deemed worthy of attention. Wearing sunglasses on the Tube is merely the personification of such egomania. It actually represents a much greater offence, that of self-obsession. Facebook may allow us to show off, but it doesn’t mean we should show off.
I recently shared these views with a lady on a date. And as a result suffered something of a backlash. Needless to say, she binned me, and I left the date drenched in the black rain of remorse. A perfectly fine rendezvous ended in tragedy and farce. It was horrid. Still, at least I got to make my point – which is something, I suppose.
It was a sunny Saturday and I was with Bella. We had met online and were trying each other out for the first time. After a moderately successful lunch in Mayfair we decided to head to Covent Garden.
“Let’s get the Tube,” I said.
“Sure.” She took my arm.
Bella was a beautiful brunette. Her Disney-like name and oval face meant she was a woman to be seen with. Like me she worked for a bank but, unlike me, she worked for the money-making part. Accordingly, she carried the style and force of a go-getter: cavernous Mulberry handbag and Jackie O shades. My own sunnies were classic Ray Bans, the kind which were naff a few years ago but are now acceptable (you know the kind I mean).
We strode into Green Park station, babbling about box-sets and their addictive qualities (default first date talk). I pushed my glasses onto my head as we entered the strip-lit concourse. Bella left hers in place. She turned to me on the escalator.
“So, tell me,” she said. “What do you think of House of Cards? Kevin Spacey, evil or what.”
She looked up, her plastic covered eyes were bug-like.
“Yes,” I said. “He sure is. What a crooked character. Still, I’ve met plenty like him at work. I’m sure you have too.”
Bella smiled. No need to confirm that, I thought; we both worked in finance. It was entirely possible we were those characters. We took the Piccadilly line. It was chock full of case-carrying tourists and deep-fried Londoners. Bella kept her sunglasses on. She surveyed the carriage with an amused grin; no doubt recalling some inner joke. I took a moment to study her profile. The sunnies had ruined an otherwise perfect face.
“Hey.” I tapped her arm. “You can take those off, you know.”
I employed a jolly lilt. “I said you can take those off, it’s not sunny here.”
She pushed then onto her head.
“Ok, I will.”
“You don’t have to, I’m just saying. It’s just one of those things, isn’t it? Sunglasses on the Tube, it’s kind of silly.”
“Or you can leave them on. I’m only joking.”
“No, no,” she said. “I’ll take them off, seeing as they’re annoying you.”
Black tunnels whizzed past outside. Our carriage was burrowing deep into London’s black core – straight down – all the way to Hades.
I said, “So, did you watch Game of Thrones?”
Bella turned, her eyes shimmering like costume jewellery.
“I don’t like fantasy,” she said.
I was about to say something else, but she pulled her glasses back down. And with that the shutters came down on our date. The matter was closed. I looked ahead and caught our reflection in the window opposite. We didn’t actually look too bad together. Bella was also facing front. I figured she was assessing our reflections as well – but of course, I couldn’t be sure.