Monday, 19 April 2010


I often find that I have a sudden urge to do something a little bit odd when I am around a lot of people, particularly on a bus or train. Luckily I never follow through on these little moments of eccentricity (or is that a bad thing? Not sure) but I thought I should write down what I sometimes think about. These are my public transport odd moments.

Lately I have been having the impulse whenever someone nears me breaks into a run to shout something dramatic after them e.g. "Go to her! She's waiting for you!" "You'll never catch them, you know!" "You can't run away from the truth!"

I always spy on people's iPods. Every so often I want to tap them on the shoulder and make a comment like: "Did you just skip a Smiths track to listen to George Michael? Seriously?" or "I'm so glad that I am not the only one who likes that band".

Sometimes when I see someone sleeping peacefully on the Tube I want to give them a little slap and say "Wake Up!" Not particularly interesting but I'd like to think that without my intervention they would miss their stop and I could save them a whole lot of inconvenience.

Just once I want to say "excuse me, are you pregnant or just fat? I don't want to give up my seat unnecessarily".

I want to smile at someone, have them smile at me back and leave it at that. I haven't even attempted the first part of that.

I would love to tell all those guys that they should just give up trying to look like a twenty-something and just enjoy their middle age.

Now a little story.

One day I was sitting on the Tube, when a girl sat directly opposite me. She sat down and spent most of the journey looking at the tube map above my head. Nothing particularly extraordinary about that. Except the whole time she looked distraught. She looked like she was going to burst into floods of tears any second. It made me uncomfortable and I started to think about talking to her. I said to myself I should just lean forwards and ask her if anything was alright. But then I thought "what if I make it worse? What if that gesture causes her to start crying? Or maybe she would think I was some kind of freak trying to make a pass at her. Perhaps she has some kind of disability that means she always looks like that. But what happens if my little gesture reassured her of the kindness of strangers and brightened her day, just a little bit?" In the end I had turned it over in my head for so long it was her stop and she got off the train. And what do you know? It was my stop too.

I've felt pretty bad since then for not saying something, my indecisiveness and worry meant I couldn't even show concern for someone else's well being. I'd like to tell myself that next time I can act differently. I hope so. I tried to make myself feel better immediately afterwards by giving money to a homeless person but it didn't ease my guilt.

And another story, to level things out.

I was coming out of the train station and a person to my left asked if I could possibly spare some change. They had lost their Oyster card, didn't have any money with them and needed to get home. I gave them a pound, which they gratefully accepted. As I walked away I heard them talking to a person next to them, presumably a friend. After a bit of muffled conversation that I missed, I heard them say "I've made 11 quid so far!" The tone of voice let me know I had been scammed, and not particularly cunningly either. Someone had decided to opportunistically made themselves some money by preying on the kindness of strangers to a person with a poor sob story. This was no con artist, this was just someone trying to get some quick cash. And sadly I had seen it before, a person at school managed to raise a not unsubstantial sum for themselves just by pretending that someone had taken their lunch money.

So what are you supposed to do? Never be the good Samaritan? Never be charitable? Ridiculous. Be less trusting? Why should I live in a permanent bubble of suspicion just because of a few bad eggs? In any case they are only acting as the capitalist system encourages but that's another discussion for another day.

Are you suspicious when strangers are kind to you? I can't answer that, as it doesn't happen to me often enough to answer.

Another meandering path through the often muddled and sometimes confuddled mind of Dan.

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