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Mob Mentality

25 Jul

The train halts. We’re told to empty it in an orderly sequence because the destination has changed, due to a signal failure. Four minutes later, I board another train. The driver announces there was a “personal injury” at bank station. Packed in like sardines, we’re not sympathetic.

Some minutes later we’re rolling through the tunnel again. That’s when the emergency sound starts blaring. Someone’s pushed the alarm. A woman has fainted in our car. She’s white as a ghost.

A voice rumbles from behind me: “Oh, here we bloody well go. Another ten minutes.”

People glance at the woman and tut that they’ll be late for work, thanks to this business.

The driver asks train four (that’s us) to evacuate the train.

“You won’t be able to get on this one,” mutters another man to the people waiting in the station. “Someone’s fainted.” He rolls his eyes.

Another announcement blasts: The next train will be arriving on platform three in one minute.

And so the women in skirts and blouses and the men in suits begin to run.

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The Domino Effect

4 Mar

I apologise in advance for yet another story that takes place in the tube but it can’t be helped. I spend over an hour every working day on the tube, with the majority of the time passed staring into space or focussing in on a particular ad (when I’m really trying not to look at the beautiful man in a suit). From this, I conclude it’s only natural to have some stories to tell from the vantage point of this transportation. I hope you agree.

Now that the apologetics are out of the way, let me describe for you an event that unfolded a couple weeks ago, which I didn’t—for whatever reason—write about at the time.

The tube is packed. People cling to the poles that run from the top of the car to the bottom while others grasp the ones implanted in the ceiling. Bodies rock back and forth in timing with the stop, start and shudders of the tube.

I stand. Thinking. A boy donning an impeccable school uniform stirs me from my reverie.

“Excuse me miss but what you like to sit down?”

Heads glide up in timing with the question.

“Are you getting off soon?” I ask.

“No,” he returns. “But I thought you might like a seat.

I don’t take him up on the offer but his action stirs something on the train.

The woman across from me notices a woman with bags under her eyes and a deep frown laden with shopping bags.

She taps her on the arm, asks her if she’d like to sit.

The woman accepts. Plops down. Smiles.

Another offers his seat.

And another.

The whole carriage is laughing and smiling.

One middle-aged man cries out: “No one ever offers to give up their seat for me!” Some people laugh.

Now, I don’t know what one can gleam from this story but I will say that I left that tube ride feeling a little bit happier after the journey.

And the good will lasted me all the way until the next morning when I was pushed and shoved on the tube by fellow travellers all trying ot get to work on time.

Louis, I don’t think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

9 Feb

I clamour aboard the tube and settle into my well-worn seat. It’s been a long day. Eight hours. It’s Monday. I don’t expect to see anything unusual. Whoever does?

I glance at the seats opposite me. Look down. My eyes dart up again, taking in the scene before me.

Two women perch on tube seats wearing coats of identical style and colour—long trench-style wool coats in purple. Not an ordinary purple either. This was the kind of purple you imagine to be made into satin sheets and laid on the beds of kings and queens. Nevertheless, the colour of their coats is really secondary to this story.

The story here is that despite never having met before and coming from entirely different circumstances and backgrounds, these two individuals appeared to strike a friendship.

Woman one is of Indian descent; her face is lined, her eyes drooping. She tells the other woman she’s saddled with two teenage girls and cannot remember how long she’d been married for.

Woman two is a twenty-something French Canadian from Montreal with spiky red hair and a nose ring. She says she dreamed of studying performing arts at a particular London arts school and that’s why she’s come over. Oh, and she also recently bought a purple robin hood-style hat to match her coat.

I didn’t realise they didn’t know each other at first because when I got on the train they were giggling away, conspiring. Then woman two sticks out her hand.

“I’m Brianne”, she says.

“I’m Doris”, says woman one.

“Lovely to meet you, Brianne.”

Introductions out of the way, they continue nattering away like old friends.

And I think to myself, ‘How lovely to witness the start of a new friendship. And how lovely that their friendship should transcend age and culture.’

Passengers on the tube look up from their magazines and newspapers, take a long hard look at the women. Disbelieving.

Then woman two asks woman one if she’s into reiki and if she’d like to come to this “little group” staged in a church.

“Is it religious?”

“Religious…?”

The woman starts to back away.

“Well, many are quite spiritual…

…Many are quite religious…”

And an otherwise quiet train full of people smile with their eyes as they (and I) feel the cynicism creep back in. So, friendships aren’t made on train rides. But you can expect to be pitched to by a religious nut.

Ah, this is the world that makes sense on the London tube.