I have always been fascinated by human behaviour (I wish I had been a bit more focused at school and I could have become a psychologist) but instead I became an actor, which, to some extends, studies human behaviour. And throughout my life I have always found interesting observing how people react in certain situations. This is particularly interesting in some places such as airplanes, trains and buses, I guess in any confined space where you have to share your personal space with others. I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel extensively over the last 8 years and this has allowed me to see and experience some of this “radical” behaviour us humans display in these confined spaces. These experiences have been the subject of many of my blogs and scripts as I have seen some things often beyond believe and you know you have to put that in a movie!
But this week I’ve been exposed to an “ugly” side of us humans I had never seen before. And I guess I had never witnessed it because like every other human, I also have this “ugly” face. And what I experienced this week made me realised how egocentric we all are and how these confined and crowded places make our behaviour change.
Two weeks ago I had a knee surgery and I was asked to rest for two week from my hectic travel. So I have been confined to the safety of my house with a sore leg and trying to get back to normal. I have always been a fairly active person so I have been dying to get back to work. On Thursday I had to go to London and I was looking forward to getting out and about. Still with one crutch in hand, I set off from my hometown to London looking forward to be back on my own two feet.
I arrived very early that morning and I decided to take the tube to work. I was determined not to feel sorry for myself and just go slow and get there. That morning was fine, not too many people and I managed to get to my destination feeling quite accomplished and ready for my day. I guess part of the recovery process is to believe you can do things and it makes you feel good. As it had been such as success I thought I repeat the same on my way back and take the underground again… I guess I was wrong!
I do not want to pretend to know how a person with a disability must feel, I could never do that, but having a recently operated knee and limited mobility with the aid of a crutch, I never expected to encounter what I did that Thursday afternoon in the underground. I truly came face to face for the first time in my life with the “ugly” side of us human beings cutely aware of it by my temporary disability.
It was rush hour and there were, as usual, thousands of people trying to get home. And everyone has to get somewhere and everyone has their own agenda, I know, I’ve been there. And must of the time people are rushing to get the next train or bus and time is of the essence to make sure you make that departure time. And then those who are not in a rush have their music on and close themselves in their own world, not paying attention to anything or anyone around them. I was trying to get home too, I also had my own schedule, I had left the office well in advance, as I knew it was going to take longer.
But as soon as I hit the station I began to experience this “ugly” face of human beings, wrapped in their own world and not caring for anyone else around them. Let me walk you though some of the things I experienced.
· Ticket barrier, people push themselves to get through these as fast as they can, I had a crutch, my bag and my sore knee, I was slow getting through the barrier. I nearly got pushed to one side by a woman who clearly didn’t care I was struggling to get through this narrow space before the door would shut on my leg!
· The escalators, people want to run down and will push their way through those who chose to stand still, I was trying to jump onto the moving step when someone brushed passed me, pushed my bag out of the way and almost made me lose my balance as I step onto the moving escalator!
· I had to wait for three trains before I was able to board, it was crowded, and most people push themselves forward and squish themselves before the doors close. It’s hard to do this with a crutch, a bag and a sore knee! Eventually someone made a space big enough for me to be able to get on the train otherwise I think I still be there!
· Getting off the train! That was interesting! I had my back to the door and when it opened, I did not fall backward because there is a god out there! I had to turn around, slowly and then slowly get off the train. Well a sea of people behind me push and if it hadn’t been for the person who made the space for me I think I would have been flat on my arse!
· But the “ugliest” of all was a man I encounter going up a staircase, he takes the “ugliest” face of humans award! On the last leg (pardon the expression) of my journey there is a set of stairs you need to claim to get to the platform where I change trains. This staircase is usually crowded in one direction where everyone is going, with the exception of a few (4 or 5 people) who are travelling the opposite way. These 4 or 5 individuals usually take the side and try and make their way down pushing their way through hundreds coming the opposite way. It makes sense, no doubt, that they stick to the rail as they try to come down the steps. It only make sense until you meet someone coming the opposite direction with the hundreds of people holding onto the rail because he has a crutch on the other hand and is clearly struggling to get up the stairs. I was already exasperated by all the previous encounters and being pushed as I was not claiming the stairs fast enough when I came literally face to face with this ugly human being! He said to me “excuse me” and I looked at him and said, “I can’t move!”. He then looked at me and at this point you’d think he would have realised my predicament, so he said, “I need to get down” I paused and I thought is he serious? I looked at him and then he said again “excuse me!” so I slowly moved to one side letting go of the rail and feeling just a little bit nervous. He walked down and I then moved back and held onto the rail but of course not before two or three others pushed passed me seeing a gap and an opportunity to rush! I stopped, shocked more than anything, when I heard a person saying “are you ok? Do you need some help?” I thank them and said no and I carried on my epic journey to the coach station to get back to the safety of my home!
This experience made me realised how selfish we can be, I knew we were but not to that extent, and how these environments bring the worst in us. And I say us because I’ve been there; I am one of those commuters pushing my way through to catch the train. I am also ashamed that it has taken this experience for me to realised this “ugly’ behaviour we display every day, that it has taken for me to be in a situation many people are in permanently to realised how hard it is for them.
As a writer it has given me the ability to see another side of humans I can now relate to. As a human it has made me more aware of everything around me. I hope this blog can help all of us to realise that we should be aware of our surroundings and know there are people out there who may need our help also get somewhere.