The other day my boss told me I was turning into a cranky old Londoner. This was terribly galling, coming from a man who exclaims “Oh for GOODness SAKES!” to his computer once every 13 minutes or so (I’m not sure he knows about ctrl-z), but equally galling because it’s bloody true.
At some point my ‘observations’ about the rude and uncompromising attitudes of London commuters has slowly spread to complaining about the behaviour that gets such people so rattled in the first place. Now the people using ruthless elbow tactics are joined in my mind by those who naively irritate by standing on the left, wrapping their entire bodies around the poles so that no one else can steady themselves, or stopping immediately upon exiting the escalator, barrier, or station to stare up at a sign or down at a map while the cue of commuter zombies stacks up behind.
What gets to me with these people is that I didn’t grow up with a subway system and nobody told me the rules, but I follow the unspoken litany with a mixture of common sense, observation, awareness of the physical space around me, and consideration of others. This is why I don’t understand that others can’t do the same.
I also originally couldn’t understand how badly such people were looked at, talked about, and treated by other Londoners. My natural inclination towards politeness lent me projected inner monologues for the bewildered and unaware – perhaps they couldn’t read the English signs? Perhaps it was their first day in London. Perhaps they were a little off the spectrum of understanding social nuances and shared cultural rules.
Now however, I’ve complained so much that the boss – the man who has referred to me as a ‘colonial’ and told me that my name is spelt wrong – has decided that I have become one of the rude and unforgiving London Zombies. He doesn’t even know about the exaggerated sighing at turnstiles, the over-emphasised excuuuuse me on the left side of escalators, and even (forgive me) a ‘for fuck’s sake!’ at an abrupt halt in front of me.
So how do you keep your karma (and sense of self) in balance when there are a thousand people on your train who don’t give a shit about you and suddenly you don’t give a crap about them either?
Barring a (highly unlikely) religious conversion, I don’t think I’ll stop feeling this way about my fellow Londonites, but instead of beating myself up about it, I thought I’d think about how I could contradict it and even up the karmic scales in some way.
If you feel the same way about the terminally unaware, here’s a few hail marys that might actually brighten someone’s day (maybe even your own):
- Every time you sigh with the intention of your exasperation being heard – give up your seat to someone over 50.
- If you bump someone and don’t apologise – move so that friends can sit together.
- Whenever you get on before a passenger gets off – give someone with baggage your convenient edge/corner.
- If you don’t say hello to a bus driver – help a parental with a pram.
- If you close your eyes so you don’t have to move – let someone go ahead of you in a line.
- If you swear at someone (whether they hear or not) – spot a lost tourist and help them.
- If you don’t say hello, thank you, and goodbye/have a nice day to someone who serves you (whether or not they say it to you) – lose 100 internets.
I would love to know, what drives you absolutely batty in commuter behaviour, what rude things have you done to other people because of it, and what kindnesses do you do for strangers to (pretend to) be a nicer person?