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Manners still matter

November 16, 2011

Shocking: Manners are so infrequently used that we often find ourselves surprised when faced with a polite gesture

For many Londoners and commuters, the sweaty, over-crowded chaos of the tube during rush hour is a source of much frustration, claustrophobia and badly disguised annoyance at their fellow human beings.

Whether you are a fan of the often unreliable underground or avoid the beast at all costs, we’ve all had days when being pushed, pulled and squashed into the potentially unwashed body parts of a total stranger is enough to drive us completely round the bend.

I have to count myself as one of the lucky ones when it comes to my daily commute. Certainly the first part of my journey through the capital is relatively easy and upon first boarding the tube, I usually find myself faced with nothing more harrowing than spacious carriages, numerous free seats and the occasional sobbing baby.

However, as the train continues on its arduous journey towards the bustling city centre, this seemingly pleasant scene evolves into one of utter horror. Sweaty bodies collide with  rude, foul-mouthed people desperate to snag themselves a seat, while impatient businessmen and women frantically push past some slow-moving, headphone-wearing youths desperate to shave even the smallest of seconds off their journey time.

A small part of me is surprised that the country’s commuters haven’t skipped out of their jobs, set up tents in one of the city’s tourist hotspots, decked themselves out in the latest tie-dyed burlap clothing and begun a hippy-style protest against TFL‘s undeniable cruelty against commuters.

Needless to say, the tube is not one of my favourite methods of transport.

Despite my sometimes overly bitter feelings towards the tube however, yesterday’s commute served as a much-needed reminder that among the masses of self-serving, forcefully shoving tube-users remains a small number of respectful, polite people willing to take the extra second to make your journey that bit less painful.

While many view manners to be "old fashioned" and "outdated", the simplest polite gesture can have a resounding impact on those around you

Having spent nearly 30 minutes crammed between “the girl with the music so loud she’s sure to go deaf” and “the man who surely doesn’t need to thrust his newspaper in my face every time he turns the page”, my much-practised zen-like state was beginning to wear thin.

“Thank goodness!” I thought when the train began to clear at a particularly popular stop, and I saw the seat in front of me become suddenly free.

Resisting the urge to perform a dance of joy, I glanced around to make sure there weren’t any commuters nearby who were more deserving of the aforementioned seat before adjusting my things and preparing to gracefully slide into the welcoming embrace of the polyester-clad throne.

My smug sense of elation was brought to an abrupt halt however, as out of nowhere sprung a greasy-haired young man who promptly elbowed my in the left breast before throwing himself into my vacant seat, pausing only to offer a slimy smirk in my direction.

Had I not been blinded by the reflection beaming off his suit’s overly shiny exterior (I can only assume the monstrosity was made out of his mother’s kitchen foil), I might have acted much quicker in order to prevent such an outrageous seat steal from ever taking place.

As it was however I could do nothing but stare, open-mouthed in indignation, at his blatant arrogance and horrifying lack of etiquette.

Surprisingly I wasn’t the only one left with a sense of fury at this young man’s behaviour and – unbelievably – it wasn’t long before he had been hauled from the seat by a nearby gentleman, who then proceeded to yank out his headphones and demand – in the politest of tones – that he apologise to “the young lady” (hear that mum? I’m a lady…).

While the tin foil-clad youth looked furious, it wasn’t long before embarrassment and shock had prompted a hastily-spoken “soz” and he quite literally hurled himself from the train at the next available stop, leaving the carriage with nothing but the memory of his twinkling cubic zirconium earrings and the stale smell of Lynx aftershave.

Essential reading: The Little Book of Tube Etiquette focuses on the do's and don'ts for tube users

As you can imagine, I was on Cloud 9 and, having taken my rightful seat, proceeded to gush my gratefulness towards my knight in tweed armour, who graciously nodded his acceptance before exiting the tube at the next station.

Now please don’t think that I am expecting all future journeys to play out in such a marvellous manner (wouldn’t that be incredible, though?), because I’m in no way that delusional. However, I hope that the incident will serve as an example to all tube users of the fantastic impact that manners can have on your fellow commuter.

Certainly this terrific tale of good vs evil, tweed vs tin foil, should act as an urban legend-style warning to all bad-mannered young men (and women!) – you never know when the next public transport hero will strike!

And finally, to my heroic rescuer, my thanks, once again. Not only did you make my journey all the more eventful (and comfortable), while providing me with ample blog-worthy material, you have also instilled in me a hope that many more like you will begin to surface in order to fight against the all-too-common rudeness that seems to have overrun the capital.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2011 5:29 pm

    At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old women, but why bother, I am fast becoming one.
    The elbowing, dig-you-in-the -back, trip-you-up, “that seat is mine”-type are a source of annoyance but I am frequently aware of a number of young people, male and female, who offer their seats to the not so young. The ones that really infuriate me are the mothers who seem to think their children should have seats at the expense of anyone else. Never mind that old man with a walking stick, the 4-year old wriggling around there will not sit on mum’s lap or stand, but he will keep his seat.
    And what about people who put their feet on seats? Well, that’s another blog.

  2. November 16, 2011 5:45 pm

    As another grumpy old woman (or lady perhaps?), it’s the backpacks and suitcases that should be banned. Large items of luggage should not be allowed on the tube in the rush hour!! And maybe that should also apply to children?

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