A few days ago on a tightly packed tube I witnessed something I thought never really happened in real life. An American man, perhaps in his mid-40s, struck up a conversation with a stranger. Not just any old stranger, but an attractive, suspicious, no-nonsense Londoner, who I think was too shocked by the random nature of this occurrence and lost all common sense. We Londoners just don’t talk to strangers on the tube. We just don’t. Period.
It got me thinking about a recent ad I’d seen by Transport for London (TfL). Unfortunately, we’ve now got to the point where we need a visual reminder to tell us it’s OK to talk. Maybe, just maybe there are more like-minded people out there who want a bit of companionship, banter and/or banal chit-chat to make the journey go a bit faster. After all, once you’ve left the confines of education, how else do people make friends in a huge, impersonal and somewhat mean city like London? So I salute you TfL.
But I bet you want to know what happened with our unlikely couple? Well, some ten stops of awkward chatter later, I watched with amazement as the American declared he’d reached his stop and then invited the lady to interrupt her journey, get off at the next station with him and have a coffee. And she did!
Perhaps it was the spirit of impending Valentine’s Day, that open and gregarious nature one associates with most Americans, or simply two people who liked what they saw and decided the opportunity was too good to pass by? Life has the potential to be serendipitous. So next time you’re passing through a tube station, make sure you ask for your Tube Chat badge.