When I first moved to London ten years ago and became a regular user of the Capital’s underground transport system, I always felt extremely awkward, in a truly British way, when anyone would beg or preach aloud on the Tube. My response would always be to put my head down and pretend they didn’t exist – a very noble thing to do.
I wondered what it would be like to make a speech on a busy commuter train and, indeed, if I’d also just be ignored. I’d never done it before so I had to do it.
To be honest I was shitting myself. I had no idea what I was going to say, but as soon as I opened my mouth everyone looked at me, for a second, and then each passenger responded differently. Some looked at the floor avoiding eye contact, presumably fearing I was some crazy nutcase (which I might well be). A couple pretended to look at a map, which they weren’t looking at before I started speaking. One girl whispered something into her boyfriend’s ear and then giggled. A few people listened without showing any emotion, but one very attractive woman seemed to have a genuine smile – perhaps this could be a weird way to find myself a girlfriend?
I got my friend Dean to film me from a distance so it didn’t look like we were together. In keeping with all my videos on this blog the quality is appalling, however it’s very short as I unintentionally choose one of the shortest distances between two stations on the underground. The sound quality is bad too so you can’t hear it very well, but I say nothing particularly profound or thought provoking so it doesn’t matter really.
So to sum up what I learnt from this experience, it’s not easy for a desperate person to plead to group of uncaring strangers. When someone makes a speech on the tube it’s easier and probably less awkward to just listen to them rather than pretend they are not there. If you pretend to read your book you’ll only have to restart the chapter once they’ve gone.