"Tengan cuidado para no introducir el pie entre coche y anden"

Or, for the English, “Mind the gap.”

I spend a lot of time on the Madrid metro every day. I think I spend at least 15 – 18 hours a week on the metro, since I have classes all over the city. I already know the routes of almost all the lines, and I could tell you which stops you’d have to get off at to make transfers, which ones are under constructions, which ones have 5 escalators, on which side the exits are located, etc.

I’ve noticed that the musicians that play in the metro also have a work schedule. For example, when I take line 5 in the morning (at 7:30 on Mondays and Fridays), the man with the hat who sings all the American songs with a strange liveliness for that time of day is there, starting his work day. And usually when I turn left  towards line 5, the same song is playing. And when I return from my class around 9:30, there’s another musician playing in the corridor towards line 10, a guy with a guitar singing jazz and blues. And sometimes in the afternoon if I make another transfer in Alonso Martinez, the guy with the hat is still there, with his speakers, microphone, and container for coins.

I’ve already spoken to some people about the Spanish customs that are noticeable on the metro. One is how the Spanish stare at everyone, no matter if they’re male or female. Once you enter a train, you feel the eyes of at least 5 or 6 (or, the entire train car) locked on you, taking you in from head to toe. Especially if you don’t look Spanish. And if you catch them looking at you, they don’t turn away but instead continue staring at you with a vacant look, without smiling or changing their expression. I’ve noticed that Spanish women especially like to observe what you’re wearing, your style, your shoes, your make-up. The statistics say that the Spanish make eye contact 3 times more than any other Europeans.

Even though the Spanish appear to be more relaxed and chill on surface level, in the underground they appear to be more nervous. I’m talking about the habit of frenetically pulling on the door latch or pressing the open-door button even before the train has arrived at the stations. And when there’s no space to move, people ask you minutes before the next stop if you’re going to get off… And if not, where would I move? Do they want me to shuffle sideways so they can exit the train car .0045 seconds faster? It’s not a matter of “Sprint for the doors!”, which are going to close in seconds and you’ll be trapped in the car with unmoving people! I especially don’t understand it when most of the time, the train stays at the station for several minutes before closing the doors.

Anyway, enough complaining. The Madrid metro is the most efficient, cleanest, and most convenient system of transportation that I’ve ever seen in my life. When the screens say “5 minutes” til the next train, I’ve been so spoiled that my immediate reaction is “Damn it! So much time to wait…” I should be very, very glad, compared with my experience of the metro in New York!


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