Putting my hand up
It’s easy to moan about London: About the rudeness of commuters, the impatience of pedestrians, the misery of retail staff, the unfriendliness of cafe owners, and the over zealousness of the paper terrorists, i.e. those that hand out the plethora of free papers and magazines in the most awkward of places, like the entrance of tube stations during rush hour.
These are not uncommon moans, they are regularly on the lips of everyone I know who lives and works in London. They are listed loudly and frequently by friends, family and fellow ‘get me out of london-ites’.
However, it occurred to me yesterday that as much as I moan about the aforementioned things I am as big a contributor as the next person. During my commute into work I imagined shouting “Can you get dressed before you leave home” at the woman dawdling up the stairs in front of me awhile she put on her jumper, coat, hat and scarf right in the middle of the station stairwell. On the way home I stormed the wrong way through Tottenham Court Road station, as that gets me to the platform 45 seconds quicker than the usual route, irrespective of all the people going the right way. I then ‘tsked’ my way through Bank station at the other end, and gave someone a dirty look when they walked the wrong way down the stairs at the exit.
I’m not proud of these things; in fact listing them all out like that makes me feel a little bit ashamed. My instinct is to blame London for turning me into this kind of person, but that’s a load of old codswallop. It’s my choice to behave like that, it’s my choice to not smile at people, to ‘tut’ and ‘tsk’, and throw the odd person a dirty look. It’s my choice to roll my eyeballs at the people who don’t let you off the tube before they try to get on, and it’s my choice to not ask how someone is when I order my morning coffee.
What if everyone is like me? What if everyone is secretly a really lovely person who, just by virtue of being thrust into a city of 19 million people, turns into a miserable, grey, moany commuter? That means that I am frowning at genuinely good people. It also means that I am probably shouting obscenities in my head at people who rush home to have dinner with their family.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that it’s not always everyone else’s fault, that somewhere between the moaning and the eyeball rolling I am doing my fair share of adding to the stresses of travelling through, and working in, London.If I point the finger at the City, I have to point the finger back at myself as a City dweller.
This observation also hammers home the point that when I finally make it to St Ives it will be ME that has to make an effort to shed these habits, the emphasis should not be on people in Cornwall being more pleasant, it will be on me to let go of my London ways. It will be my responsibility to change my instinct to tap my foot when people talk to the cashier in the supermarket when I am in a hurry; and it will be my patience that I have to work on if some people walk slower than me down steep hills.
I naiively believe that when I depart London I will leave the nasty commuters and inconsiderate people behind me, yet I would be lying if I said that living in London for 34 years is something I’ve escaped unscathed from. I can be as impatient, as inconsiderate, and as thoughtless as the person next to me at Bethnal Green tube and I’m looking forward to being better than that when I get to Cornwall.
If I was a student of the Dalai Lama I would probably have to say that the real trick is to be kind, lovely, and tolerant all the time, even in the most of trying of situations (i.e. the tube at rush hour), but being the spiritual amateur that I am I’m just going to take the easier, softer way and move out.