“So I have to pay now? Since when? How long for?” The first day of the 60+ Oyster Card being excluded from morning peak time travel, is not going well, at least for these passengers. “Beep beep... beep beep...”
I look at the gate and “57” flashes up. The code for a ticket or pass not being valid where it is being used. “Is it a 60+ Oyster or Older Persons Freedom Pass”? It is almost all our conversations for the first hours of the day. We all clock-watch till 9am when they become valid again and the questions will stop. “Where are all these people travelling at 5am who are over 60 going to? Shouldn’t they be at home baking cakes?” J says.
It is definitely busier now. More people leisure-travelling, shops opening. The volunteers from the GLA are out with their table of masks and the private security marshals are trying to remind people to socially distance. Almost everyone is wearing a mask.
Mine keeps making my glasses fog up so I have to wear them down my nose like an accusatory librarian. In the mess room the marshals come in and out for water. They are working outside in Hi Vis and suits, and it’s hot work. “I had the virus, and my wife had the virus, it’s just like the normal flu but it lasts a long time” one tells me and F. “But you drink enough ginger tea with the black seed and it helps.
“It’s bad though, you two don’t want to catch it. I feel better now I know I had it, but I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. God protected me”.
“Well, you fought it off” F suggests. “But without God there isn’t me”, he counters. “Well, playing devil’s advocate….”
“You should never play the devil, the devil will win”. We laugh, but he is being deadly serious.
Everyone thinks this week we’ll end up on almost normal shift lengths and spend more and more of it dealing with customers. A more senior manager turns up and asks what we think the flow is like.
T reports that “I missed two trains before I got on the one this morning. That is going to get worse, so either they tell us we don’t have to any more, or they do something else, or we won’t come in on time”.
The manager nods but doesn’t say anything. I don’t think he smiled, but then all of us have got masks on so it’s hard to tell.
• “Jay Dawkey” is a London Underground worker and RMT union activist.