In the old days, a train delay on the morning commute would leave me sitting in the carriage like a lemon wondering whether or not to chance it on the buses. Today, when the train was halted at Clapham Junction due to a 'major security alert' my first thought was to get my BlackBerry out and leap on Twitter. It's perhaps understandable to be a little concerned and jumpy when you get announcements like that. Then you also start mentally working out how the hell you're going to make it into work and which other routes were crowded.
One quick look at my Twitter stream told me there were plenty of police and sirens around Waterloo, so that place was best avoided. A quick search for both Waterloo and Vauxhall (using dabr's search) told me there were plenty of other people stuck on trains and a bit confused as to what was going on.
But there were a few people Twittering that the trains to Victoria were still working, so I immediately changed platforms and hopped on a Victoria-bound train.
Keeping Twitter open, and continuing to search, it became clear that the alert was due to a suspicious vehicle or package near the Queenstown Road station that had caused the shutdown.
I was also Tweeting what I could find out and to let people know that buses were a nightmare but there was no delay on Victoria-bound trains. I also sent an email to everybody in my office - many of them catch trains into Waterloo so would have been hit by the delay or would be just starting their journeys.
Pretty soon, Tweets were coming through to say the package was a false alarm and trains were moving again, but very slowly. Plenty of others were, it seemed, also Tweeting their journey and the info they'd gathered.
By keeping an eye on Twitter it was relatively easy to keep on top of the situation and work out where was best avoided. Result: I was late into work but not as delayed as I'd have been without Twitter.
What's more a couple of colleagues saw my email and took a different route into work, while other colleagues stuck on trains at least had a reasonable idea of how late they were likely to be and could plan accordingly.
So what, you may say. Well, here's what. This may have been a non-event in the end, but to Londoners on their morning commute it was a big deal (Waterloo was a trending topic for a short while).
Now, in terms of news, it may just make a NiB in the evening freesheets. Possibly one of the rolling news channels or news websites may have got something on it quickly. But Twitter was more helpful than their of these at 9am this morning. It was also a lot more helpful than the train station staff who knew very little other than they'd been told to hold all trains.
And there's the rub. It helped manage and ressaure during a slightly confusing real-time breaking (non-)news story. I'm guessing anybody else travelling into work through Waterloo this morning who happened to be on Twitter had a much better idea of what was going on and where to go than their colleagues. Should any journalist have wanted to piece together what was going on this morning, all they'd have to do would be to search for Waterloo on Twitter.
All thanks to a bunch of people typing 140 characters about how their journey to work was disrupted. Without them, I'd probably be wandering lost around the roads of Clapham and Battersea.