London’s commuters were plunged into terror this week as a shadowy organisation attempted to turn decades of convention on its head by encouraging people to talk to one another.
It’s over 140 years since the capital’s inhabitants first learned to keep their gobs shut on underground trains or face the prospect of social approbation and, possibly, asphyxiation. Even when travelling the whole soul-grinding length of the Northern Line, etiquette demands not even the slightest acknowledgement of anyone else in the carriage. No matter how bad they smell. Unless there's an actual bona fide air raid going on outside, in which case singing is permitted.
Now as if the replacement of proper boozers with coffee shops, Apple’s takeover of Battersea Power Station, and "Shoreditch" wasn’t enough, someone has started distributing badges with the slogan “Tube Chat?”, in an apparent effort to encourage, ahem, you know, conversations. On the tube.
Together with the badges, the instigators of this ludicrous attempt to encourage loquacity amongst Londoners are distributing cards telling people they would “benefit from a daily chat”.
Londoners instantly ignored the badges’ exhortations to share their inner most feelings with each other, before running up the nearest escalator so they could tweet their disgust to the world.
Let me be an antisocial pessimistic introvert. Let me go home in peace & indifference to my surroundings. #tube_chat.— Jabberwocky (@Jabberwocky_7) September 29, 2016
The campaign was swiftly disavowed by a fearful Transport for London, saying it only distributed badges to pregnant ladies and people with hidden disabilities.
Shockingly, some people appeared to take the badges seriously. Our own production supremo is already shaken after reporting that “someone tried to ‘greet’ me” at the far end of the Victoria Line today.
A Facebook page apparently pushing the button-based commuter conversational crusade has garnered 290 Likes, though we suspect those are mainly from confused tourists.
Perhaps the organisers should turn their attention to something that would really help Londoners’ stress levels, such as badges reminding all tourists to “stand on the f*cking right, stupid”. ®
The Standard claims to have located the originator of the campaign. It seems they're American.