I went to pick up some documents from another office this lunchtime, and walked all the way through the main Canary Wharf shopping centre.
Canary wharf, for anyone not living in London, is the gleaming peninsula of corporate headquarters that was built in the middle of London’s rather deprived and run down docks in the 1990s. Everything on the estate is completely purpose built to cater to the needs of office workers in financial services; the shops, the restaurants and walkways are all designed around working lunches.
There is a vast shopping centre that runs underneath all the office blocks, and provides direct access to the Underground platforms – meaning that most people can spend an entire day without ever emerging into the open air. At lunchtimes, there is always an opportunity to observe people, all running about extra fast, regardless of the importance of their errands. They walk as if their trip to pick up foot cream from Boots is a vital business transaction. I suppose the faster they do it, the faster they are going to get back to their desk and probably complete more administrative duties, since that is what the vast majority of financial services jobs entails.
There was a lot of activity near the DLR platform. The small Boots and the newsagent had been closed and all their staff were standing outside. A posse of the Canary Wharf security team were milling around, and one of the escalators had stopped. I overheard one of them talking on his radio, saying that a child had pushed the emergency stop button.
When I walked back through the station, the glass in one of the heavy doors had been smashed. I tried to create a story that might connect these disparate events, but nothing very entertaining resulted. Perhaps someone reported a gas leak in the boots, which was why they had evacuated it. The reason for the stopped escalator was a faulty hydraulic mechanism, which was powered by leaking gas canisters (I clearly have no idea about engineering). And the fault in the hydraulics was sabotage, caused by a building contractor working on the crossrail nearby. He was angry about being let go for taking too many fag breaks, and after piercing the gas canisters he somehow gained access to, he kicked the glass door in as diversion, and made his escape. Would you buy a book about that?
- Positive Signs for Canary Wharf (online.wsj.com)