A couple of weeks ago in the run up to Christmas, I witnessed a truly altruistic gesture of kindness on the Underground.
‘Twas the last train on the Victoria line, at around 12.30am, on a Thursday night in party season, so typically, it was packed. While the train was sitting at Green Park, an extremely drunk man stumbled off the train, knelt down on the platform with his palms upturned as though consulting with God, and then with all eyes trained on him, promptly went to sleep.
There was a tense silence on the carriage as everyone waited for him to be shaken awake by the cold floor or the rattling station announcements. And then, seconds before the doors closed, some good Samaritan stepped off to help. He crouched down and put his hand on the man’s shoulder, and then the train left and the pair of them disappeared.
There’s a better man than me, I thought. He didn’t have to do that – the station has staff and the unconscious man probably just needed some coffee and a cab – but he still knowingly got off the last train, possibly extending his journey home by hours, because he couldn’t turn his back on a stranger.
Then the next day I saw this comment on a blog’s Facebook post about the Tube at Christmas:
Yeah, there goes that warm fuzzy feeling.
When I was at uni in Liverpool, I was told constantly that people in London are unfriendly and mean. I’ve always thought that to be a myth, but when you come down from up north for a visit and spend a day getting scowled at for walking too slowly, it’s easy to come to that conclusion. Public transport is a grind that brings out the worst in people. I like to think I’m a happy, easy going person, but a few weeks after starting my current job I was throwing a Boris Bike into the street outside Parliament, cursing at the sky and frothing at the mouth, because I had missed my bus. (Perhaps all the people in those viral racist rant videos are just late for work?)
When you spend enough time on public transport, it’s easy for this rage to fester and grow into an all-encompassing contempt for mankind. TFL does its best to beat your optimism and bonhomie out of you. I know that London is full of great people like the kind man on the last Tube, and friendly people who don’t hesitate to do fun shit like this:
be a leader not a follower lmfao pic.twitter.com/EAAUeu3ZHo
— A (@aliyahmariabee) October 3, 2015
But the other day a bus driver looked me in the eye and drove right past me, and I swore that mankind was inherently evil.