It Happened To Me: I Didn't Mind The Gap On The London Underground. I Fell Down It Instead

We've dusted off one of our earliest IHTMs for your reading pleasure - the time when Robyn didn't mind the gap...
Publish date:
December 27, 2012
london, Robyn Wilder, the tube, boris johnson, london underground

Artist’s reconstruction

I realise that, with my Hollyoaks fascination and tendency to buy clothes that make me look like an off-duty children’s performer, you might have me pegged as a bumpkin (and the news that the two-horse Sussex village I was born in declared itself an independent state BECAUSE OF SOME DONKEYS may do little to temper this).

But the fact is you’d be dead wrong because I am actually WELL FLY. You see, I live in LONDON, and I know LONDON things.

Testify:• Black cab drivers don’t like it when you address them as “Cabbie”. Especially if you’re, like, a tiny bit Sloaney • NO ONE in London is looking forward to the Olympics. Mainly because Boris keeps asking us if we wouldn’t mind just getting the fuck out of the way for two weeks • Moorgate station exists in fifteen dimensions.

Admittedly, I am so clumsy that I manage to have accidents DAILY. Here I am getting stuck in a bead curtain, for instance:

But even I know that you should always ALWAYS mind the gap when getting on and off Tube trains.

However, one Sunday I was standing on the near-deserted northbound Victoria line platform at Oxford Circus, in full-on commuter mode: blankface ON, earbuds IN (The Shins, I make no apology), higher brain function basically zero.

When my train came I strolled to the doors, stepped into the carriage, then I was eye-level with the carriage floor, then I was slightly lower than eye-level with the floor, and my chest was slowly being crushed.

This all happened so quickly I was barely aware of it. I only became panicky (and then only vaguely) when the bee-bee-bee doors-closing alarm sounded, and I could feel something (“tentacles?” my mind suggested, helpfully) hooked around my right foot, dragging me down lower and lower as my hands failed to find purchase on the platform floor or side of the train and I sank below the train, into its machinery.

Then I was inside the train carriage and everything was okay. Weird, I thought, found a seat and zoned out to the sixth form poetry of James Mercer for a minute.

Then I realised that the two men sitting opposite me were talking to me. I removed my earbuds and one of them asked if I was all right, and I like to THINK that I DIDN'T reply “Uh, YES?” the way Alicia Silverstone says “as IF!” in Clueless, then roll my eyes and ignore him, but I like to think a lot of things.

Finally it hit me that I’d fallen down the gap, and that these two men had hauled me up by the arms and plonked me safely on the train. I looked at my hands. They were smeared in sticky black oil – as was my T-shirt, jeans, bag, shoes and, I learned when I got home, face (but in a sort of jaunty moustache-smear, so that was okay).

I took out my earbuds again. “Oh Jesus,” I said, and thanked the men. They assured me that it was okay if I was okay, I reassured them that I was, we exchanged a few warm smiles, then went back to completely ignoring each other. FOR WE ARE LONDONERS.

This is just one of the many bruises I discovered when I undressed:

And that’s it – my tale of not minding the gap and getting stuck in it instead. It’s not earth-shattering, but I don’t like to think what might have happened had these two men not been such good citizens. And I always, always mind the gap now.

Do you have an It Happened To Me story that you’d like to share? Please email