I was sitting on the train the other day, an overcrowded, stuffy train, and noticed that not one single person was smiling.
Yes, I get it – the 19:30 from Birmingham New Street isn’t exactly the circus – but it was as if someone had injected a huge dose of GLUM into the carriage, and everyone was suffering from the side-effects.
Now, I’m not normally one for striking up a conversation with a stranger (not because I don’t want to, but rather because I’m a rather shy being), but l-i-t-e-r-a-l-l-y no-one was speaking. And, the more I thought about it, the weirder and more uncomfortable it got.
Everyone was staring at their phone, or out the window, or at a book, desperately avoiding eye-contact with anyone else. God forbid.
Were they all just tired? A long day at the office weighing them down? Or, were they thinking the exact same thing as me – hoping that someone, somewhere, would speak up?
Society is weird. I wonder if it’s always been like this. Perhaps it’s true; maybe there’s an unwritten rule to not talk on trains after 7pm.
If there is, I don’t like it.
In amidst this daydream of thoughts and ponderings, it suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t doing anything about it. I, too, was a side-effect of the GLUM injection, staring off into the middle-distance without making a peep.
So, I made a bold move.
I LOOKED UP
AND SMILED AT A STRANGER.
Yes, that’s right – shy little me actually made eye-contact, nay SMILED at a fellow passenger. I broke the rule, kids.
This stranger, thankfully, smiled back. She was probably mid-sixties, very glamorous, dressed in a camel-coloured coat and a fancy hat. I wondered where she had come from, or where she was going. She didn’t look like she would get the train very often.
I thought that would be it – enough human interaction for one day, right?
But no, my one weak smile actually sparked off a conversation.
We began discussing our journeys (she actually took that train three times a week), and what we did for a living. She was so friendly and chatty, and I realised that my assumptions were completely wrong.
We ended up talking for the rest of my journey.
All because I smiled at a stranger.
That’s why I’m writing this – to encourage you to smile at someone this week, whether that’s at someone you pass in the street, at someone next to you in the queue at the post office, or at someone sitting on the same train as you.
Because, the truth is, they probably will smile back. Let’s be positive, people.
What do you think? Would you ever smile at a stranger?