I have always loved London (well, for the 18 months that I have lived here anywhere) and defended the city and its people whenever its been called out as cold and heartless. Don’t you know that people down here are busy? I would answer back, that we work longer hours and have a million things on our plate (as if other people in other cities don’t have the exact same!).
It’s not that we are cold, we just don’t see the need in chatting to others on the tube when we could be answering emails or listening to the latest Tim Ferris podcast. Besides, I have seen several acts of kindness on public transport before – a man once shielded a pregnant woman from other commuters as she wasn’t able to sit down. A teenage boy helped an old woman lift her heavy suitcase onto the tube, several people helped a blind woman find a seat on the tube safely.
But today, my feelings towards this changed. I injured myself in a gym session – tore a ligament in my lower back, but wanted to head into work to see the doctor before I returned home. I was carrying 3 heavy bags and the short walk across the road from the tube to the office felt as though I was scaling Everest. I walked at a snail’s pace, my back spasming every 3 steps, crying out in pain everytime it did. And not a single person stopped to ask if I was OK. Now I know I wasn’t on the floor writhing in pain, but I also know if I had been up north in my hometown, people would have at least checked I was OK.
My best friend Lizzie came across a girl lying face down at the top of Balham tube station last week, people were literally walking over her as though she was nothing more than an inconvenience, presumably wrongly assuming that she was drunk or high. Lizzie rushed to check if she was OK and the girl had infact had a panic attack and had laid down to try and calm herself. It broke my heart to think of that poor girl in so much pain and fear, and that for 20 minutes no one had bothered to check if she was OK.
Now I don’t know if it’s because I am naturally very empathetic and emotional, I would help anyone in need – I just feel compelled to, but surely there must be even an ounce of that same emotion in others?
The other day I overheard someone saying that you know you’re a true Londoner when you hear that a train is delayed because someone has thrown themselves on the tracks and instead of feeling compassion or sadness you just get annoyed that you’re going to be late for your 9 o clock meeting.
Does this happen across all capital cities? Or is it just a London thing? Movies portray people as helpful and supportive during major crises, but real life reports often suggest that in reality its much more every man for himself.
Does it ultimately boil down to us reverting back to our natural instincts, survival of the fittest?
I would love to hear your thoughts!