How To Prevent Being Dragged Into Awkward Personal Conversations On Public Transport

Let me get this out of the way first… Happy New Year!

Moving on….

The title I feel is pretty self-explanatory. But as always, I never take for granted the fact that not everyone sees things the way I do, ergo I will break this down the usual way…

Background

This post was 100% inspired by a phone conversation I heard a young man having with his friend on the train, one day after work. He was sitting opposite me in a 4-seater seating area. It started off mundane enough, something about how we British need to appreciate being able to travel around Europe, we go to all these fancy places when we have so many countries around us, Australians and Americans are jealous of this mobility we have blah blah blah. Then the conversation took a turn.

Lo and behold, maybe predictably, the topic became a girl. A girl, who to be precise (this is the way I heard it), had told him she loved him a few times, the last being in August 2013, and he was now asking advice from his friend as to what to do. He conceded that what she had done was “completely ridiculous”. Of course by now, my face was so close to the windowpane staring at his reflection (it was dark so I could see him), that I could have licked it. You know those ones where you pretend that you’re staring out of the window thinking about dinner or some such other, but you’re actually listening intently, betrayed only perhaps by the fact that you are sat perfectly still? [sidenote: Why do we do this? Like being still when you’re eavesdropping and not facing the person will help you hear better!].

As I listened more, I found out where she worked, her position, and what she was aspiring to be in life. Though her name was never mentioned, even at this point I was like this is too much, and relaxed my attention. Thing is, I felt sorry for this guy because he was talking quietly into the phone and the carriage wasn’t completely silent, but not noisy either. Yet if called to, I could’ve told him his life story for the past 6 months. I didn’t have to strain my ears to listen. And this got me thinking about those times when some of our more loudmouth friends (we all have them), will try to engage us in a conversation either on the phone, or in person, about something personal and not fit for world wide publication and consumption.

Characteristics of a friendly vagabond

These people know you are in public, and yet some kind of demonic town-crier spirit overrules any grains of common sense they may have, and they start asking you personal questions on parallel with ‘When did you last wash your knickers?’. And they never have a quiet voice or a meek spirit. It’s always the loudest olodo on the block. The level of irritation I feel when this happens to me is unmatchable. You try and shut down the This Is Your Life exclusive South Eastern report with short, curt replies, but this only increases their fervor and their foolishness. You see while they’re asking you why you’re being so coy answering that one question, they’ll reveal 5 more secrets embedded in the heart of that enquiry, to the point you want to introduce them to the five-fold ministry – your fist. The more stony your face becomes, the more lively their tone and revelations become, as if to create some kind of sadistic equilibrium. You go through a variety of emotions pretty much like this: Shock, grief, anger, grief, prayers to end them now, grief, (upon failed prayers) acceptance, grief, grief, grief, and so on. And why is it that after they’ve blurted out your life story like a Kanye monologue, they’re always the first to leave (if this took place face to face)?! So you’re left standing there in the most awkward silence, while people take the opportunity to do one of those furtive lemme-pretend-I’m-just-randomly-looking-round-naturally glances in order to isolate the protagonists of that convo they just overheard, and give them a lil’ judging look (we’ve all been there and done this to be honest). Ahh.

It’s not nice being on the end of that is it? So…I’ve come up with a few key steps of how to eliminate situations like this:

  1. Get better friends. People who have no discretion knowing the most intimate parts of you, and having a voice like a didgeridoo is so long.
  2. The moment you sense the audio biography of your life on the horizon, change the subject. Failing that, “shut up” or a precise kick might work out to be quite an effective strategy.
  3. If the person is persistent, leap off the bus or train at the next stop just as the doors are closing so they can’t follow you. Press your palm against the windowpane like in Titanic if you’re feeling extra smug.
  4. If you don’t have time to get off, feign a coughing attack. Every time they try to comfort you, cough on them.
  5. If they are not your friend and this is a face-to-face encounter, give it to God. It’s already too late for your intervention.
  6. For phone offenders, practice your “I’m losing signal” act. Employ it when you see fit.
  7. Alternatively, just press “End Call”. Simples. If they ask for an explanation later tell them “Nepa took it”. Yes, Nepa has now gone international.

I feel like these were really practical steps that will change many lives and public transport journeys for the better. If anyone has any other tried, tested, and successful methods, I’m all ears…

Yours Truly

xx

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