Earlier this year, I stumbled across a blog post on Twitter called ‘Crying on the Tube’. This was a very well written piece from a woman who discusses the two times she has cried on the tube, and the countless other times she has witnessed it. After reading this, I realised that I have never actually seen anyone cry on the tube before.
A couple of weeks after I had read this, on a sunny Saturday in August, I was meeting with a University friend in London for the day. After she had got her train home in the evening, I jumped on the tube to go home myself. The tube was fairly empty, with a woman sitting next to me, another sitting opposite her, and several other people scattered around. As soon as I get onto public transport, my brain switches to autopilot and I tend to let my mind think random thoughts until I suddenly get the panic moment of wondering where I am, and thinking I have travelled past my stop.
On this occasion, I noticed the woman sitting opposite me smile at the woman sitting next to me. Considering travelling on the tube is mostly trying to pass the time by looking at your shoes, I thought it was nice that they had smiled at each other instead of just turning away when they made eye contact. However, a few seconds later, the lady sitting next to me turned towards me, and I could see her beginning to cry. She said, “Do you think it is okay that…” and continued to tell me, in detail, the boyfriend issues that she was currently having.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad surprised that a stranger on the tube would tell me such intimate details of their life. I was also slightly taken back by her sudden turn towards me and all of the details she was sharing before I had time to prepare myself to listen carefully. All of the time, being on an unfamiliar line, I was trying to check I had got on the right tube by looking at the map in the carriage and the signs as we travelled past stops, whilst also trying to look at and talk to this lady.
It is much, much harder to give an opinion on a situation where you do not know any of the people involved at all. Each time this poor lady said “but what do you think?” I was really struggling to answer. I just tried to be as honest as I could. As we arrived at a station, she stopped talking mid-sentence and said “which stop is this?” I said the station name and she thanked me, squeezed my hand and quickly got off before the doors closed.
So this was my first experience of seeing someone crying on the tube, and my fumbling attempts to help in any way which I could. All I could think once this woman had left was how I could have been a much better help than I was. I hope that she had left slightly happier than when she had got on it, as I had listened to her and attempted to give her advice in our short time together.
I am sure that the other people in our carriage that could see this lady crying, or indeed anyone who has ever seen someone crying on public transport would wonder what the person is upset about. Seeing people cry in any situation isn’t a nice thing, and being in the presence of someone upset can sometimes transfer onto you slightly. It is human nature to want to help someone we see in distress, and this occasion had made me think about the ways in which you can help someone, even if that someone is a stranger. I am quite certain that anyone else would do the same as I did in the situation, and try to help in anyway they could. The morality of helping others can go beyond family and friends; to someone we may only know for a few minutes.
I hope if I was visibly upset in public, somebody would offer me a smile or try to make conversation with me. In the future, if I see someone crying on the tube or anywhere in public, I will try to make eye contact and raise an encouraging smile. I would of course offer any help if I could, but maybe a smile could do just as well.
Read the article at birthdaymagazine.co.uk