Some of the signs displayed in the London Underground rightly state that the best way to get to grips with a terrorist threat is for every individual to be vigilant and to look out for left luggage etc. But the question now in my mind is whether the people of London are actually capable of being vigilant about these matters. Looking out for what is going on around you is something Londoners do not do well – they shut themselves in their own little worlds while using the public transport system, and are basically oblivious to anything around them. This applies to fellow passengers (as I have previously analysed in this blog) and also, it seems, to luggage.
It was about 08h00 yesterday and I needed to get to Clapham Junction to take a train away from London. I dashed to get on the Number 37 bus from Clapham Common tube station, and then having entered the front doors of the bus, there is was: a large holdall just sat on the luggage rack above the front wheel arch of the bus. There was one elderly gentleman sat towards the front of the lower deck – I asked him who the bag belonged to, and he said it was not his. I then went to speak to the driver to inform him of the bag, and also called towards the back of the bus. A guy sat in the very last row responded and said the bag belonged to him. OK, phew, there’s no danger. But on reflection, maybe there is more than I had suspected.
First of all, are we still so careless to sit about 6 metres away from our luggage in public transport? In the present environment in London I would never dream of doing that. So the man leaving his luggage at the front and sitting at the back shows that some people at least are not taking care.
Worse still was the reaction of the twenty or so people who boarded the bus on the way to Clapham Junction. The bus was predominantly empty so it was at no point possible to just assume the bag belonged to a nearby standing passenger, but not one of the passengers that entered the bus even cared to notice the ‘abandoned’ bag, let alone think to do anything about it. So, however common or stern the warnings, it strikes me it is much harder than I would have imagined to get Londoners to really care about the terrorist threat.