Today’s tube strike in London made me really, really angry.
It wasn’t the fact that I had to get up at 4.30am and sit on a dirty, stinking nightbus just to get to work on time. It wasn’t the fact that at the end of my twelve hour shift, I had to walk the two miles to Liverpool Street to catch the overground train home. It wasn’t the fact that my arduous journey meant that I missed the start of the England football match. It wasn’t even the fact that the tube workers could all be watching said football match from the comfort of their local pub with loads of beer, safe in the knowledge they don’t have to get up for work tomorrow.
No, none of those things were what made me REALLY angry.
What made me really angry was the fact that by rush hour, the streets of central London – the streets that my ambulances need to get to critically ill people – were utterly gridlocked with people trying to get to work. There was just so much traffic that no one was going anywhere – not even an ambulance on blue lights and sirens. While people tried to get out of the way and the drivers are permitted to break the rules of the road when on lights, there just wasn’t room for the crews to get through. And, of course, ambulances are only supposed to use blue lights when they are on way to a call or when a patient whose condition is life threatening is on board. It took one of my crews AN HOUR AND A HALF to take an assault victim from the scene of the crime to the local hospital – a journey which should have taken around fifteen minutes.
It would only have taken one call for the tube strike to end in disaster for us. A car accident we couldn’t cover, a cardiac arrest we couldn’t reach. We do have motorcycles, bicycles and cars that can get into tight spots, but anyone in a life threatening condition needs hospital, and for that you need to be able to get an ambulance to them. I watched my screen and held my breath, crossing my fingers and praying that nothing would happen in those gridlocked areas.
It was my lucky day. Nothing did. We got ambulances to all the calls without too much delay, and the delays in getting to hospital were an inconvenience rather than a disaster. But it could have been different. And this is why the tube strike made me very very angry, and why I have absolutely no sympathy with the tube workers and in fact hope they DON’T get their pay rise. If anything, they should be penalised for inconveniencing and endangering the public.
(Sidenote. In the midst of the chaos, a man committed suicide by jumping in front of a train. I wonder if he got a certain bitter pleasure by putting a halt to one of the few means of transport remaining – a final two fingers up at the world – or if he was so disturbed he merely found the tube strike an inconvenience because there weren’t many trains to jump under. Either way, there is a certain irony about a “one under” in the middle of a tube strike.)