There seem to be never-ending problems with cities, like late trains, traffic congestion, unaffordable housing, destruction of heritage, and much more.
There’re also problems with living so close to so many people such as neighbours and other drivers. Some of the most problematic times seem to be when we share space, like streets and carriages, with complete strangers, often in very close proximity.
Sometimes though, it’s revitalising to stop and consider what’s good about cities. I’ve sought to do this before with my city (e.g. see here) as it’s too easy to lose sight of the many positive things about urban living.
Follow this link to enter the competition to win one of two copies of ‘Where to Ride‘ – closes Friday
This story in the Herald Sun last month, Late night commuters unite against hateful and racist rant on Melbourne train, shows bad things happen on trains. But it also shows another side – the paper reports that other commuters came to the defence of a man being racially abused.
The best stories though are those of pure kindness. Transport for London is working with artist Michael Landy via its Art on the Underground program to celebrate everyday acts of generosity and compassion on the tube.
Mr Landy runs a project called Acts of kindness. He invites passengers and railway staff to send him stories of kindnesses they’ve seen or been part of on the system.
Here’s a selection of the stories gathered via the project (one per para):
I used to be a revenue inspector. I was at London Bridge and caught a guy without a ticket. I talked to him – he said he hadn’t had a job in two years. He was on his way to his first interview in all that time, and didn’t have any money. I reported him for fare evasion, I had to – that’s my job. But when he came back through the station after his interview, I chatted to him about how it had gone, and then just bought him a ticket to get him home. There’s doing your job, and then there’s the human side of it as well.
I’d never heard of this project, until yesterday when I was heading for the District line at Victoria. Whilst walking down the stairs to the platform, I glanced at an Acts of Kindness poster. I thought: what a lovely idea, but I can’t instantly think of an Act. A nano second later I slipped and started to fall down the stairs. I grabbed the rail, my newspaper went everywhere, and I twisted my knee and ankle. Instantly, a very charming young man was helping me up, collecting my paper and asking if I was OK. His mum would be proud! So now I have my own little story – thanks to your poster!
Coming home after an xmas party on the Tube we got talking to a lovely man who was carrying boxes of crackers which after a while he started to share with all the people in the carriage – all strangers, but we were all putting on hats, taking turns to read out the jokes and sharing the gifts.. it was just lovely and brilliant fun. The best Tube journey, and if the man should be reading – THANK YOU!
After having given blood just near King’s Cross station (& left too quickly to catch my train) I was heading down the escalator when I fainted, badly cutting my legs and face. A young Australian girl with a HUGE suitcase immediately came to help me and held me safe until the end of the escalator and then stayed with me until she was sure that I was ok to carry on, despite having a plane to catch herself.
While looking after my granddaughter I often had to travel with her in her buggy on the tube. On every occasion when I had to try to carry her and buggy up stairs or onto difficult escalators a total stranger would come forward to help. Every kind of person would come forward to help, particularly young men were the most helpful.
I left my handbag on the Underground when I got off at Baker Street on December 22nd. A wonderful man found it and came back to Baker Street with it (making him late for wherever he was going). My son tried phoning the phone in my bag; he answered it and after a bit of running around we connected up. Because of his kindness my Christmas wasn’t ruined. Thank you again, whoever you are (and the staff at Baker Street who were so kind to a distraught woman.)
When I was 9 and my little sister was 7 we had our first ride on the Tube with my Dad. We were wide-eyed. My dad said “next stop” as we paused at a station, but my sister misunderstood and got off. We watched helpless as the doors slid shut, and the train moved off leaving her behind alone on the platform. When we hopped off at the next stop, dashed across the station and travelled back to the station, she was sitting, unflustered, with two lady travellers. I think of this every time I travel on the Tube though I am nearly 40 now, and hold my children’s hands so tight.
I had started a new job and hadn’t yet been paid. I had recently moved to London and forked out for a deposit and a month’s rent. I had no money at all until the next day when I was finally paid. But my train pass ran out and my card got declined. I was nearly crying at the ticket point as I was going to be late for work and I was still on probation. The woman behind the desk put £5 on my card and said that one of my journeys was unresolved so I had probably been charged too much. It tided me over until the next day, payday, and I was so grateful. Her kindness still brings me to the brink of tears today. Thank you!
One Christmas eve when I was about three my mum came home with a small bundle of hay. It turns out it had started at the other side of London as a full sized bale. Following bemused looks from other passengers on her District line train she explained that she thought it only sensible to get some for the reindeers for when they landed later that evening. On realisation of my mum’s logic and foresight the bale was distributed between other excited parents heading home for Christmas. Smiles (and a bit of a mess) all round the carriage.
I was travelling home to Birmingham from North London for Christmas which involved a train and a Tube before heading off from Euston. I had a very heavy suitcase filled with gifts, alcohol and warm clothes. In the rush and excitement of heading home to see my family, I hadn’t anticipated how I was going to get my suitcase onto the first train, let alone the Tube and the second train. There were 3 men along the way that helped without question or expectation. One man carried my suitcase from the overland platform at Finsbury Park right down to the Tube, onto the Tube then helped me off at Euston even though he was continuing his journey to work in Vauxhall. I honestly don’t know how I would have got down the stairs if he hadn’t helped. Re-ignited my faith in our city.
Thank you to the young man who offered to carry my suitcase down those steep steps at Earl’s Court on 12.01.12, and to the gentleman who carried my suitcase up the steps at King’s Cross. Both strangers. It was my lucky day.
I was standing in a busy carriage once when a young man of about 8 stood up to let people sit down. No one took him up on the offer. He looked very distressed, until an observant old man, who was seated further down the carriage, stood up and crossed over to accept the invitation. None the wiser, the boy was delighted. So was I.
I was returning home after work, the platform was very busy and when we all huddled onto the Tube one of my shoes fell onto the tracks. I felt pretty silly with only one shoe on! A lady on the train saw what had happened and kindly offered me a pair of shoes she had just bought! I was so surprised and grateful.
My friend and I were on the way back home from the O2 arena in the early hours of New Year’s Day. Even though it was very late, the carriage was still busy because of the free travel and celebrations. The carriage contained quite a metropolitan group of people who were very quiet and trying not to get in each other’s way as is the British norm. And suddenly one young lady began asking different people in the carriage how to say “Happy New Year” in their native tongue! Everyone on the carriage would cheer and clap when she got it right and it put a smile on people’s faces 🙂
I was standing on the platform edge waiting as my Tube was coming. A girl came walking towards me and slipped and fell. I grabbed her arm to stop her going over the edge. We both picked ourselves up, she was shaken but said thanks and we continued on our journeys. It still shocks me when I think of what nearly happened.
There was an elderly man last week who’d lost his shopping on the train. He left his phone number with me. I did my best to find it, and eventually tracked it down. I called him at home and he came to collect it. The best thing about it was that he wrote a lovely letter to London Underground Head Offices at 55 Broadway about what I’d done for him, and I got a commendation.
I was on a busy Overground train wishing I was watching Andy Murray about to win Olympic gold. A man and his girlfriend were watching it on an iPhone and held it out so I could see Murray’s moment of glory. We all cheered.
It was midnight. I went to do my station checks, and when I got to the bridge I saw a girl collapsed on the stairs, face down. I didn’t know what to do. Another girl was coming and I asked her to stay as a witness for me. I tried to take the girl’s pulse but I couldn’t find it. I tried to check her breathing. She was really pale, and it was winter. I thought she was dead and I had a real feeling of dread. I took my jacket off and put it under her face, and then I called an ambulance and the line controller. Eventually I saw she was breathing, and the ambulance came. I think she was just really drunk.
It’s our job to help customers on the station. One day I was at Snaresbrook on the late shift. This lady was very drunk. I noticed her wobbling about on the stairs. She wasn’t really aware of what she was doing. I rushed out to the stairs and helped her out of the station. Later on I discovered she had dropped a purse and some keys – car keys and house keys. She came back the next day and they were given to her. She didn’t even know where she’d lost them! She left me a lovely note, saying ‘thank you to the lovely lady who helped me yesterday’. I really appreciated it.