Jul. 26th, 2013

jfs: (boy with cat)
There's something enervating about constant heat in England; we're not used to it, and it saps away at us. Tempers fray, nerves thin; we snarl at each other where we would have let things go.

So I was on my way home from London Bridge, after an excellent night in the pub with friends tonight, and I got on the Ilford train at Stratford. And just as I sat down, two people bumped into each other, and he decided that she had been less than careful and she decided that he had over-reacted and suddenly two people were having a loud and energetic argument in the carriage and the rest of us just wanted to be somewhere else and that somewhere else was cool and at home. Short of an ice gun and a teleporter, that wasn't going to happen.

They sat. Not opposite each other.  She facing away from him; he defiantly placed facing the back of her head because he was correct and she was wrong. The set of his neck and shoulders exuded righteousness. She sat as if he didn't exist; defensive, perhaps, but no outward signs of nervousness.

I can't answer for either of them and what they were feeling but my reading of the situation was that violence was not going to happen. This wasn't a fight that was going to kick off. This was two people rubbing against each other like burrs under a blanket, and neither able or willing to turn around and say 'Sorry. It's a hot night. I've got a short temper tonight but I shouldn't have taken it out on a stranger'.

So - so far; about what you'd expect from public transport on a hot Friday evening.

But what drew my attention out of my headphones and book was the effect on the rest of the carriage.

If you'd asked me in advance, I'd have assumed that people would have got defensive themselves, in case a fight was going to kick off. Or they'd have got judgemental of one or both of the two, taking sides almost.

Instead I saw smiles. And not the 'Would you look at those pair?!' smiles. I saw people moving over, and making room. I saw newspapers being passed, and when I got off the train there was a concerted effort to make sure that the people with heavy luggage or prams were being helped up the stairs.

It's almost like there was a concerted unconscious effort to overcome the bad vibes that she and he were giving each other by trying to make the world a (very) slightly better place.

Someone tried to play the peacemaker between the two people that were arguing, and it went down like the proverbial lead balloon.

But the rest of the carriage, consciously or not, tried to make sure that even if those two people were upset, that didn't have to apply to anyone else.

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