So I’m driving home from a hard 3.5 hours work (did I mention I only work 7 hours a week these days?) and I’m listening to the wireless and
the Home service Radio 4. The programme being broadcast was about a newspaper editor from Zimbabwe and how he is adapting to life as an asylum seeker in the UK. One of the main differences, he pointed out, between Harare and the UK was how people didn’t seem to talk to each other on public transport.
Now surprisingly, this guy lives in Leeds which is a good deal away from London where I believe such practices as ignoring ones fellow passengers is common place. It kind of shocked me and my Northern mind set because I’d always thought of the south as being a bit….well you know….insular when it comes to talking to complete strangers. Indeed, I’m happy to sit there with my earphones in (sometimes without anything attached at the other end) to avoid the weirdo on the bus.
And that got me thinking. Sometimes I don’t mind talking to complete strangers on the bus or in the pub or where ever. Sometimes it’s nice to get chatting about things. Ok, I think the reason for our inherent phobia of talking to people on public transport, is fear of extreme views. A case in point could be when
and I went to the Brewery Tap at the Cains Brewery in Liverpool and got chatting to a seemingly jovial chap at the bar. The chat, however, swiftly switched from idle banter to a strong antisemetic nationalist rant with the man at the bar sounding remarkably like someone at the Nuremberg Rally. Another case in point is the guy who once cornered me on the 78 and started talking about how the government controls the populace through the covert use of prescription medication.
So yeah, I can understand that people don’t really want to talk to each other on the bus for those reasons in illustration. But surely not everyone is like that. It seems people’s first reaction to someone talking to them on the bus or train or in the pub is one of suspicion and distrust. Who is this weird person? How dare they talk to me? Are they going to knife me or bum me or stick me in a dark cellar where I will be forced to eat marmite and parsnips until the day I die? But I know I’m not likely to force anyone into eating parsnips or marmite. I don’t even have a cellar. I suppose that coupled with the fear of being attacked by marmite wielding weirdos comes the fear that they themselves would be labelled a weirdo. Fear, as they say in Dune, is the mind killer.
Then I thought, what is needed is a kind of badge system. Like say a green badge for “I’m happy to talk to anyone” and a red badge for “Fuck off weirdo”. So those with green badges can sit and yatter away to their hearts content and the red badge wearers can scowl and frown and listen to their music or whatever without interruption. It could even be a registered thing so that should you like talking to someone then you take down the number on the badge and look them up on the internet when you get home or what ever. Of course there could also be a voting system like say badge wearer #473083 is very interesting and like prawns so people who like to talk about prawns (there are a lot of people that do) can look out for #473083 on their travels. Furthermore, one might get talking to #23932 and find out they are one of those religious zealot types that want to turn everything into some discussion about Jesus or whatever. You know, like :-
Person #48909823 – “So do you like tea?”
Person #23932 – “I do. In fact in the book of Ba’at chapter 30 it says ‘And the lord didst partake in tea and verily there was much rejoicing’. I like tea almost as much as I like Jesus. Jesus can be your friend. Oh yes he can. Do you know Jesus? He is your friend. He is you know.”
So the person #48909823 could go and say person #23932 likes to turn everything you talk about into something about Jesus and then people who prefer to talk about Jesus all the time can talk happily to #23932 while those that don’t can talk to whoever else.
Of course such a scheme would require some more thinking out. But I reckon it would work well. Especially with the technology of the day.
What do you think?