On Tuesday night, two fatalities at Ealing Broadway meant that Paddington Station’s overground was shut down for around five hours. It woke us all from a rat race of frenetic energy at six o’clock on a Tuesday evening and forced us to do a bunch of crazy things like look, talk and be nice to each other. Shocking! Here’s the 10 things we noticed, which probably double as 10 ways being thortful could make our commuting lives easier.
1. People offered each other seats. If you’re on the train on a weekday at peak time you’re unlikely to be offered a seat unless you’re old, infirm or pregnant – not very thortful! With all the jostling and shoving that goes on during the commute you’re unlikely to give up a space, either. But on Tuesday night, when everyone piled into Paddington after a long day’s work only to find out we were stuck with each other for the next few hours, we all became a bit softer.
2. They looked at each other. This is pretty self explanatory.
3. They talked to each other. Five empty stand-still hours allowed us to do more than check our emails: phone calls were made to far and wide between people who hadn’t spoken since Christmas or New Year, from “don’t wait up tonight” to “I’m thinking of you”. Soon, we were communicating @nationalrailenq and @NetworkRailPAD travel updates to the rest of the carriage, which quickly turned into “So what do you do? And how was the rest of your day?”
4. They were nicer to service staff. It was a hairy situation all over the larger London stations, especially for the guys at the food chains. The queues swelled with no signs of abating, and orders were punched in at nerve shattering speed – but they pulled through. Even if there was a problem, the general response of the disgruntled commuters seemed to be “they’re doing the best they can in a bad situation.” Please and thank you were emphatic and meaningful, not rushed or habitual.
5. They helped each other with directions. Several people stood looking very lost at tube maps, before those of us in the know would eventually jump in and say “going to Reading? You want the Bakerloo line to Waterloo.”
6. They shared interests. A nice young man who offered me his seat on the commute was reading A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin (the literary mother of Game of Thrones, if you didn’t know). We had a great, very geeky chat on book-to-screen adaptations to pass the time.
7. They were considerate of others. Chief among the groups of people in our thoughts were the rest of the guys at the office – some of the first phone calls, emails and texts were made back to work so we could all inform everyone to take a different route home. Though, one guy I was waiting next to did let his mate show up to Paddington for fun.
8. They appreciated the view. The greatest criticism I’ve heard of London from those who live outside it is that we never stop to appreciate anything. That head-down no-eye-contact attitude works when you’re desperate to get to and from work, but it is worth marvelling at the vastness of London architecture, and to look up and notice the different people around you.
9. They stayed in their lane. Okay, we addressed jostling and shoving earlier. There’s also armpit-pressing, swerving, jog-walking, and sighing heavily if the poor soul in front of you can’t wipe their Oyster card in 0.39 seconds or drops their luggage. Tuesday night, there were no such issues. Everyone seemed to collectively drop the attitude problem.
10. They were concerned about @FGW and @nationalrailenq staff. All jokes aside, the First Great Western and National Rail Staff (and everyone else who co-ordinated with them to smooth over the situation) did a great job under stressful circumstances. It was a good evening to thank them.