Diary of a Tube worker: "Doing my head in"

Submitted by AWL on 13 April, 2020 - 8:28 Author: Jay Dawkey
Tube ticket gates

“You can sit in the mess room, but only two of you. There is the locker room and then the ticket office. The GLAP (the glass box by the barriers) is your choice if you want to go in there."

The supervisors are doing their shift change. M asks if there is anything she should know from D.

“I can’t tell you anything, we don’t have the sheets, so not sure who is coming in. But you’ve got T, Jay and S. It’s pretty dead anyway”.

A customer comes to the window to ask how to get to Old Street. M asks us “Would essential workers really not know where they are going?”. The tedium of working means many of us have become amateur detectives. Why is that person travelling? What do those shoes mean? If you need to work, you’ll be going into work, I suggest. Very few people are going to go out of their way to make them, their friends or family ill.

I remind people that one of the cleaners last week was upset when he was told to stay home because his flatmate was symptomatic. People are worried and no amount of reassurance about sickness policies or pay not being suspended is going to make people think that all our bosses will act fairly.

It’s 0645 and, having woken up at 0530 to get in to do nothing, I can’t say I am in the best mood, but then would I be if I’d been told there was loads to do? Perhaps it’s coming in to work full stop that is the problem…

I choose the locker room. I go and dump my stuff. T and S are in the mess room. That is the two it can take, so I leave the discussion on the merits of Bad Boys 3 and choose the locker room.

E, on her way to another station, comes in to change her shoes. We haven’t seen each other for a week. She has been self isolating: she lives with three other people who all became symptomatic one after another. “I stayed off for 14 days, but is it 14 days from the last person or first person? I’m not doing it any more whatever it is, and I didn’t get it. But I should have been on leave for one of these weeks. This is doing my head in to be honest, I don’t know what we are meant to be doing. Can I get that leave back?”

Just before 1430, I see if I can get out. I’ve finished my book and sitting in the airless cell of the locker room is leaving me restless. I think I’ll try and get in somewhere else for the next shift.

M lets me know we both agree the situation is “madness”. “When we were working on nights together, if I had said that in 2020, the guy who presented the Apprentice was US president, that Australia would have been burning, and that we’d be in lockdown, you would have told me to stop with the horoscopes.”

I laugh, “Yeah, you’ve got a point, but I’m not letting up on horoscopes being bullshit just yet”.

• “Jay Dawkey” is a London Underground worker and RMT union activist

Other entries in the “My Life At Work” series, and other workers' diaries

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