Transport For London wants us to wear a badge and talk more. — Not if we can help it. The art of keeping ourselves to ourselves
We Brits are renowned for our cool reserved demeanour. We like to keep a polite but aloof distance from strangers, or more simply keep ourselves to ourselves. This on the other hand is counter balanced by our gregarious nature once the formalities of an introduction has been negotiated or heaven help us we are forced into a form of communication through circumstances. The breaking of the ice, as it is commonly known, is a time honoured ceremony that once complete, allows former strangers to communicate.
Their are no formal rules for striking up a conversation particularly in public, and some people are more gifted in the art than others. Those that excel at having the skill to fall effortlessly into conversation with strangers are both admired and distrusted in equal measures. The later being they have some ulterior motive. The jolly tele salesman is a fine example. You only have to hear their over friendly introduction spiel to make you hang up the phone. The same applies to the over zealous sales assistant All smiles and feigned compliments make you head straight for the exit door.
Most of us like to communicate on our own terms and in our own time. There is no finer example of this than when we use public transport. Generally when travelling with the heard we adopt the demeanour of a secret agent The rule being, to arrive at your destination unnoticed. The rules are simple head down, no eye contact, and definitely no conversation. If we are lucky enough to get a seat it's earphones in or headset on (whether they have anything at the other end isn't important, remember your wearing them for effect.) Followed by any suitable form of reading material. It's then a case of becoming invisible until you reach your stop. Mission accomplished, should you reach your goal speechless.
This convert operation could however soon be under threat should an experiment being carried out in London become a success. The capital has a reputation For being a very unfriendly place particularly on the over crowded underground. . To try and rekindle some cocmoradery amongst its army of commuters Transport for London is encouraging its passengers to wear a badge saying they are 'happy to talk'.In the hope that like minded travellers would strike up a conversation, and in doing so lift peoples spirits.
This idea has of course been castigated by the put upon rail users. To quote the famous line from the Humphrey Bogart movie Treasure of The Sierra Madre — 'Badges I don't need no stinkin' badges'. Sticking to the spy analogy 'say nothing' is most commuters by words.
Apart from that is on the one occasion that unites travellers throughout the world. The announced cancellation or the extended delay. Hearing the words 'We regret to inform you....' is like flicking a conversational release switch. All pretence to anonymity are relinquished, in a united release of venom towards the transport operators. We become collectively united in venting our displeasure to anyone who will listen. And whether it's from you or towards you. You acknowledge the spirit of its delivery and suddenly the ice is broken and friendships are formed. Badges? We don't need no stinkin badges. You want to make us talk. Just cancel our trains it works a treat.