I’ve been thinking a lot about kindness lately, mainly the frequency of kindness. I have a little theory about human behaviour. From my experience, it seems that there’s a weird effect that public transport has on people. Something about being crammed in with a group of strangers makes people show the worst side of themselves. Or maybe what they’re really showing is their true selves, as if their shielded by the anonymity of the masses. Regardless, there’s something about public transport that makes people act like utter arseholes.
A few weeks ago I was catching my morning bus to the train station. It was 8:30am and the bus was packed. It was one of those long, bendy buses that fits about 60 seated and 20 standing passengers. As we were moving along I was unable to avoid watching an adorable toddler and his young Mum. They’d been sitting in the priority seating of the bus, the Mum squeezed up next to her pram, trying to make as much room for the people around her as possible. When the bus finally pulled-up at her stop she popped her son into the pram and attempted to move off the bus. The people around her blocking the exit just watched as she attempted to move passed them, people we’re climbing onto the bus further blocking her way in some futile attempt to find their own space on the vehicle, willing to trap other people on the bus to guarantee their own place. While watching the Mother struggle I saw her attempt to pick up the pram to lift it onto the street, after realising that none of the people around her were going to assist I jumped out of my seat and ran to the front to help her lift her pram off the bus.
I’m not sharing this story in an attempt to pat myself on the back or act as if what I did was some amazing feat of kindness. Realistically, what I did was basic common courtesy, and I’m retelling this incident because I still cannot believe that on a bus with almost 80 on board people only one stood up to help a fellow passenger. It was really just one of those situations where people see another in need of help and just look away, as if pretending a problem isn’t there really does make it disappear.
These instances of blatant rudeness drive me crazy, but I think its general ignorance and inconsiderate behaviour that gets to me the most. I think the perfect example of this can be witnessed on the platform of any train station. General protocol is to wait by the sides of the door until passengers have finished disembarking, after which you make your way onto the train. For the life of me I can’t understand why people choose to push their way onto the train through a stream of people moving in the other direction, not only does it take longer for everyone in this situation to get where they’re going, but you also look like a giant douche, and for what benefit? The train won’t leave any faster just because you’re on it.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m asking too much of the people around me by desiring a basic level of common decency. Or, maybe, we’ve let our society get to a point where we honestly do not give a shit about the people around us, where we think that just because you have some form on anonymity in a world where anonymity in the real world is so hard to come by that we are given permission to act like rude, petulant children who care about no one other than themselves.