For a huge city, London is quite a friendly place. We didn’t even make the list of the most unfriendly cities of 2016 and Londoners are many things but they don’t have a reputation as being eternally grumpy like Paris or Moscow or entirely lacking in concepts of personal space and good manners like others. If you genuinely need help or assistance then almost everyone in London will go out of their way to help no matter how busy they are.
However, there is a red line in the sand that can’t be crossed. Not a Barack Obama line that people don’t take seriously but the very defining issue of voluntarily talking on the morning commute.
A most likely very well meaning American by the name of Jonathan Dunne has decided it would be a great idea to hand out badges to Tube travellers that indicate that they would like to talk to their fellow travellers.
That’s just not Cricket. I mean, we’re British aren’t we? Is our civilisation literally going down the tubes? Isn’t this the antipathy of everything about living in London is all about. If Londoners wanted to talk on the way to work, they would move out to… I don’t know, almost any other place in the world. It is only a few weeks ago I blogged about these sort of issues which have plagued British travellers for centuries and now this… what a kick in the face!
Even this morning I was reading about a lady who dared to speak to a fellow traveller who was reading a novel which the loose-tongued lady had already read. So perturbed by this, the traveller exited the carriage at the next stop and got on the adjoining one to carry on her commute in peace. Squashed, humid, sticky, stinky perhaps but silently and in peace.
I’ve spent over 25 years commuting into London on and off. I must say I really do value the silence and solitude. It gives time to prepare yourself for the rest of the day. To catch a breath or peace and quiet, if only to psych oneself up for the chaos when you get off the train.
Often when I leave the house at 6am or 6.30am, everyone sits in total silence and it is just nice and perfect. Sometimes I get a later bus maybe around 7am and even the children generally sit in silence. Of course, there is always the same one who wants to talk and doesn’t seem to get the hint that it’s not appropriate and it riles the 5-year-olds as much as the 70-year-olds.
It’s an integral part of our culture, stripped of privacy by having to mix with millions of people, the least we deserve is to have a bit of peace and quiet. Maybe it has been the way ever since it was the social etiquette to require an introduction before one could speak?
People don’t sit in total silence all the time, the odd tut covers most problems in London without the actual need to speak. What annoys me and I think most fellow passengers the most are people who talk on the phone for no reason, oblivious or actually fully aware but not caring that not one single other person wants to listen to one-half of a banal conversation.
I don’t actually mind people who are friends talking to themselves on a carriage before I arrive and then continuing after I’ve got on the bus or train. I don’t even mind office associates and friends who talk quietly, it’s fun to eavesdrop on people and learn a bit about others lives. It’s the people early on a Sunday morning who have the whole long train to sit on and then sit one seat away from you only to talk loudly either in person or on their phone that annoys me, playing music that can be overheard from their tinny headphones too. Can’t they see that I appreciate my peace and quiet, go and blither away someplace else?
If I want to talk to someone on the tube I will do, I distinctly remember talking to a stranger for almost 6 seconds in 2014. I don’t need someone forcing me to talk to people. Next up, people will be wishing me to have a nice day when I go shopping and that just wouldn’t do. Go and be happy and extroverted somewhere else!