Until recently, I lived in an area which was served only by buses, so last night was the first time I was really caught out by the dreaded Signal Failure on the tube. I live at the very last stop on the line, so far out of London that they ran out of numbers (after Zone 6 - the person who designed the system obviously couldn't count very high*) and started using letters instead to designate the zone.
We got as far as Wembley Park (more than 20 miles from home - so if you've ever visited the London area, you'll know that a taxi home was Definitely Not An Option without speaking to my bank manager first to arrange a new mortgage), then the train stopped and it was announced that due to a signal failure at Harrow, there were no trains running in either direction on the Metropolitan line. We were advised to take the Jubilee line to Stanmore and then get on a bus.
Talking to other passengers, I discovered that following the advice given would not be a good idea, since there are no buses from Stanmore to anywhere near where I live. The only advice that London Underground staff could give us was, "Hang around here for a while and see if the trains get back up and running."
By this time it was 10:45 pm, and hanging around for too long would have meant saying goodbye to any possible options for alternative transport, since most buses stop running by about midnight and there would have been at least one or two changes of bus involved.
I eventually managed to get a bus to Harrow and then fortunately the trains started up again and I was able to get a train the rest of the way home. But three things struck me about the whole experience.
The first was that London Transport has no Plan B. There was no replacement bus available, they didn't offer to pay for taxis, and they didn't even have details of bus timetables and alternative bus routes. If the trains aren't running, you really are Stuck.
The second was how good-humoured, patient and helpful (within the limitations of the first observation) the staff on the ground were. Their bosses had made a hash of things, but they were the ones having to deal with large numbers of passengers who had no idea how to get home, and they did so with unfailing politeness in the face of a certain amount of abuse from some quarters.
The third was that I'll appreciate the smooth running of my train a bit more in future.
* This is like when I had hepatitis several years ago. In those days you could get hepatitis A or hepatitis B, then the doctors ran out of letters and any other type was called non-A, non-B. I believe since then doctors have discovered more letters to the alphabet, and hepatitis C, D and E are also available.