Column: Did he mind the gap? Why, no, not at all

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Sunday’s column (read it here) is the last of my vacation chronicles. It’s about navigating London and Paris on foot and by bus, subway and train. I thought the topic might be of interest since it’s so different from how most of us get around in Southern California.

Above is a photo of a “Mind the Gap” pavement warning from a London Tube stop and two videos that include a “Mind the gap” announcement: one with the male “voice of God,” the other with the gentler feminine version. If you’d like to know more, Wikipedia has a page devoted to “Mind the gap.” What a wondrous world we live in.

Below are photos of three things referenced in my column: the handy crosswalk reminders of which direction to look in London; a double-decker bus (seen, self-referentially, from the window of a double-decker bus); and two Eurostar bullet trains in a Paris train station. The latter might be in California’s future. Or not.

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  • Andy

    The look left and look right markings are quite useful because on English style roads, the left lanes and right lanes are often divided as well as many one way lanes. Walking around Hong Kong and London, on many occasions I found myself very glad I had looked left or right, simply because I wasn’t able to tell which direction traffic would be coming from…especially on those narrow one way roads.

    On the Hong Kong metro, you too are reminded with the ubiquitous “Please Mind the Gap” at every station, but not only are you reminded once, or twice, you are reminded thrice due to the three official languages in Hong Kong. First in Cantonese, Mandarin, and then in British English. On the tube, the stations aren’t uniform and neither are the announcements. Different voices, frequencies and announcements can be heard at various stations while in Hong Kong the announcements and voice is uniform no matter which station. In HK the gap is always the same height and same width no matter which station you are at, but in London, some gaps are HUGE! and some gaps have a huge height differences and thus the necessity in London for the messages.

    On the LA front, I’ve noticed on the Ansaldo Breda trains on the Gold line, the trains tilt at some stations to narrow the gap.

    [I did find some of the English intersections (namely the one at the tube stop for my B&B) confusing; the streets branched off in a Y shape and cars had innumerable approaches with which to kill you! The pavement warnings were indeed helpful. -- DA]

  • Andy

    Mind the Gap annoucements in HK

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXp6lFLRKgY

    Much more inviting that the male voice on the Tube.

    Also Mind the Gap warning with graphic of a guy stepping over the gap in HK MTR. If you notice, there is also a Mind you Head sign when you traverse through the cars.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbfCImzWQ1Y

    you always find foreigners laughing on the MTR when they hear it. Quite funny. They take it to more extremes than on the Tube, even though the gap on the tube is much larger than the MTR gap.

  • Ramona

    I used to be out and about with an Irish fellow. He was very good at telling me “Mind the step” or “Mind the door.”

    The whole thing reminds me of “Keeping Up Appearances” (a BritCom) in which Hyacinth reminds her husband, Richard, who is driving, to “Mind the pedestrian.”

    Although the pedestrian is totally on the other side of the road and in no danger at all, Richard dutifully replies, “Minding the pedestrian, dear.”

    Thanks again, David, for allowing us to have our own European vacations.

    ["Mind the pedestrian" -- that's funny! -- DA]

  • DebB

    The “look right” or “look left” warnings are mostly just in London, because it’s such a huge tourist town. Once outside the city, you’re pretty much on your own, as far as crossing the street goes!

    In London, I, too, was lost on foot on more than one occasion. Growing up in SoCal, I kept expecting the distances to be farther than they were, and street signs like ours are non-existent.