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Open those doors!

Visitors to European capitals with metro systems (for instance, Paris) are undoubtedly familiar with the concept of manual door opening on subway cars. The doors are equipped with buttons or handles both on the inside and the outside that need to be operated in order to enter or exit the car. The exact reason for that always escaped me, with the best guess that it is an anachronism that morphed into an energy-saving approach (during slow times, most doors will not open on every stop, reducing the consumption of energy needed to re-close them).

Curiously, on London Underground, the car doors are equipped with the buttons but are always opened and closed automatically.

But on the commuter trains and the DLR, both of which play a role in my commute, passengers still need to operate the doors manually.

On my way home today, as the train stopped at the station immediately preceding mine, the nearest door to where I was standing would not open. The lights indicating the mechanism’s readiness to be operated were on, but no amount of button-pushing produced the desired result for several people desiring to get off.

The configuration of this older car that we were on was not favorable for trying to make the next door when the train is full of commuters. And the Brits would not think of using the emergency stop signal in these circumstances (whereas your truly once did just that when faced with similar events on New Jersey Transit). So the poor souls resigned themselves to having to ride to the next station, muttered assorted curses to themselves, and queued up towards other doors along car’s passages.

Which, of course, made it impossible for me to advance to those other doors myself, I realized too late.

Figuring that at Mottingham, where I get off, half of the train gets off as well – meaning that the train lingers a bit longer here and I should have enough time to exit with the tail of the long queue – I first tried to operate the offending nearest doors myself when the train had stopped. And, with a ring and a hiss, they opened at my first touch! And because I always ride in a car that deposits me nearest to the platform exit, I strolled out of the station ahead of the entire train-load, which is a huge bonus at that time of day.

Somehow that made my otherwise boring and dismal day feel a tad bit better.

P.S. This post took place of the one reflecting on the successful “birth” of the Large Hadron Collider. Unfortunately, so many places that I frequent on the web has recently talked about it, that I found it hard to come up with something original to say on the event. Instead, I felt that I needed to go back to my roots and relate a largely inconsequential story from the life of a befuddled American in London.