A while ago, I had an idea that maybe it would be interesting to take a day off work and spend the whole day at Waterloo station. I’d get up at the same time I normally get up to go to work. I’d get the same train I normally get, but then instead of getting the Bakerloo Line to Oxford Circus, I’d stay at Waterloo, then I’d get the same train I normally get in the evening on the way home. It would be brilliant. McDonalds for breakfast, maybe sushi from Wasabi for lunch. Dinner at Burger King.
The day started well. I arrived at the station, bought a paper from the WHSmith on the concourse, then went to McDonalds and had a Big Breakfast meal. After that, I had a little wander around and went to Costa to have a coffee. Another wander around and I went into Starbucks for another coffee. By about 12noon, when I’d been at the station for about three hours, I began to get a bit bored. I’d more or less exhausted all of the things you can do at Waterloo station by this time.
I sat on a seat and filmed people as they walked past:
As well as feeling bored, I began to feel a bit self-conscious by this point. Had a member of British Transport Police noticed I’d been lurking around the station all this time? How would I explain my actions? “I’m just… well, you see, this is what I do. I do things like this. I’m harmless.” Would they accept that? I thought of those people in Greece a few years ago who were taking photos of planes and got arrested. At least plane spotting is a semi-legitimate hobby. It’s not even as if I could claim I was train spotting, as I hadn’t paid any attention to any of the trains. At the most, I could claim I was train station spotting.
I was sick of coffee, so I went into the Wellesley for a pint. I sat in the corner and had only taken a couple of sips when there was an announcement:
Due to a reported emergency, would all passengers leave the station immediately.
People looked round at each other, sharing the same amused look you display when the fire alarm goes off at work. Is this a drill? A mistake? Do we have to actually leave the station? Is there a bomb? Everyone gathered outside, squeezing onto the narrow pavement on Station Approach Road. I suddenly got scared. What if someone had reported seeing me wandering around, taking photos and making little videos? What if I was the reported emergency? I kept expecting someone to tap me on the shoulder and say “Excuse me sir, would you mind answering a few questions?” I didn’t want to be sent to Guantanamo Bay.
After a few minutes, staff were allowed back into the station. Then, they let passengers back in as well. I went back to the Wellesley, finished my drink and left.