I exit the door, press the elevator button to go down, and wait for the start signal. Beep. The door opens, and the race begins. As I walk in, I hit ‘Ground Floor’ and wait impatiently for the door to close. I walk out and head toward Tower Bridge. As I ascend the spiral staircase of Tower Bridge, I wonder whether I should keep to the right or the left. The right is faster, as the staircase spirals that way, but the left is the customary path in the UK. I glance in the small mirror in the corner; there are no oncoming pedestrians. Right it is. Of course, I skip every other step to move as quickly as I can.
Whistles, sirens, and a convoy of motorcycles race ahead, halting car drivers and buses as a police escort rushes by. It’s as if the most important people in this city need to move even faster than everyone else. Despite my hurry, I pause, hoping for a slim chance of spotting who’s in that Range Rover. Could it be the Prime Minister? The windows are heavily tinted. The privacy glasses obscure any view.
Continuing toward Tower Hill tube station, a family steps in front of me as I descend the stairs. The path is too narrow to overtake, and they clearly aren’t matching my pace. Annoyed, I glance around and notice the Tower of London on my left. Lawnmowers are racing to mow the lawn, as if the castle might suddenly vanish! I continue on my path. Walking into the tube station, I sense people around me increasing their pace. I can almost hear them thinking, “What if I arrive at the platform just seconds after the departing train?” I notice my own feet moving faster, drawn into the madness, even though the tube departs every 3 minutes.
On the platform, I check the clock: 1 minute. I head to the left side of the platform, knowing the exact spot I need to be to arrive in front of the stairs when I reach my destination. On the tube, my smartwatch vibrates. 20 minutes and 23 seconds passed since my departure. Naturally, I compare that time to what City Mapper estimated as my total travel time: 30 minutes. Will I beat the clock?
The tube announces Temple, my stop. It slows down and waits dramatically long before the doors open. Again, a beep, and the race continues. I dash across a street while the traffic lights are red but have to wait at a busy intersection to ensure I arrive in one piece. The light turns green, and the countdown begins, as if it’s a real race. I navigate a narrow alley with space for just one person. Construction is in progress here. I hear footsteps behind me that clearly outpace mine. This person can’t overtake me here, so I feel pressured to increase my pace. I manage to maintain my own speed, but as soon as we exit the alley, she overtakes me.
I enter the library, grab my student ID on the go to avoid wasting time at the gates. I check my watch: 32 minutes and 46 seconds. I’ve lost the race.