On Saturday, when I left my flat to go to the Ronald McDonald House (known from here onwards as either the House, or RMH), something happened on my way to the bus stop.
I was waiting to cross the street, while the bus was already at the bus stop. Now, there’s a traffic light to the left of my street, whilst the bus stop is to the right, which means I never cross at the traffic light. I saw that the driver had closed the doors, and so I made a gesture of defeat, more to myself than anything. I kept looking both ways, just to know when to cross, but in no hurry anymore.
Suddenly, I heard a honk. When I looked at the bus, the driver was asking me, using gestures, if I was trying to get to the bus, and I gestured back that I was, but that I couldn’t cross. Unbelievably enough, the guy gestured that he could wait a bit. Right after, there was a moment when I could cross, and I just asked one car approaching (but still far) to wait a moment, and I got on the bus. I, of course, thanked the driver, with the biggest smile on my face, several times.
Let’s be honest, people don’t do that kind of thing.
It reminded me of three other main instances, in which transport staff had done something they didn’t have to, in order to help me out.
The first I remember, takes me back to Madrid, when I was still studying. I had to take a bus to go to class, I think it might have been line 1, but I don’t remember. To get to that bus stop, I used to walk along an avenue, against the traffic. So I could always see when the bus was at its stop. One particular day, I was way too far from the bus stop to make it on time, and again, when the bus left, I stopped trotting and made a gesture (again to myself) of frustration. I kept walking then at a normal pace, when the bus suddenly stopped at my side. The driver opened the doors and said: “Were you trying to catch this bus?”, to which I replied I was, and he let me in.
Again, that doesn’t usually happen. He made my day.
Another time, in Stockholm with my friend Aissa (hi, Aissa!), we had been partying until 7am the night before, and we went to Skansen that day. Skansen is like a little themed village, where you can see how houses were, and there’s even a small zoo with Nordic animals. The thing with Skansen is that it’s on a hill. So you arrive there, you walk uphill seeing everything, and then you have to walk downhill to get back (don’t get me wrong, it’s better than if it was the other way around!). We had slept about an hour, so by the end of the tour we were tired. We found the bus we needed to take, and we just wished we could sit down because we were in actual pain.
At some point, nowhere near where we needed to go (T-Centralen, if you’re wondering), the bus stopped and after the driver said something, everyone got off. Basically, there were some road works ahead, and so that was the end of the route. We didn’t know where we were, we just knew we were still far from the hotel, and we didn’t know how to get to our destination.
I was too tired, so I just sat down on the ground, and Aissa went to ask the driver about buses and stuff. He didn’t speak English, and sort of dismissed her, when she tried to tell him where we were going. When she walked back, defeated, the driver called her again. He just said: “T-Centralen?” and we said yes, and he told us to hop on the bus. He was going there, after all, to start the route again. He definitely made our day, because otherwise we would have had to book a cab or something, and we were too tired to think. I kept telling him that I knew he couldn’t understand, but he was like an angel, like a hero.
Finally, the last instance when a member of staff from public transport went out of his way to help me, was after a party around the office, or maybe just drinks with my friend Sam (hi, Sam!). We had moved to our new office not too long ago, and I didn’t know the area well. It was late and I was a bit tipsy.
We went to Blackfriars station and tried to catch a train to London Bridge, but I missed the last one (he got on his alright). I went back downstairs and the staff member, who had been answering all my and my friend’s questions about which train I had to get, was there. He saw me and asked me what had happened. Well, I had missed the train. I didn’t know how to get home, and when he asked me where I was going, and I told him, he replied there was a night bus just around the corner that would take me there. I wasn’t sure where, so he replied that he was on his break just now, and he was going to the supermarket that happens to be just by the stop, and he could walk me there.
A little alarm went off in my head at that point. You guys might not understand it, but the ladies will. You’re on your own, a bit tipsy, not really knowing the area or how to get back home, and some guy offers to walk you to a bus stop. While I thought he was being very nice and helpful, I kept an eye out at the back of my mind, if only in case he wasn’t entirely altruistic.
We arrived at the bus stop, and he stayed with me, chatting about life and about London, until my bus arrived. He then said bye, not invading my personal space at any time, and left once I was safely in the bus. He basically saw I wasn’t up to my best form, and instead of ignoring it and go on with his life, he actually thought he would try to help me get home safe. He was my hero that night!
Now, I’m not sure if these four people (men) did that because I’m a woman (and why would they, anyway?), or if they are just helpful people. Even if when I tell these stories, I have many friends telling me it’s never happened to them, I want to think they are genuinely nice people and they would choose to help others nevertheless. Maybe they’re gentlemen and they only help women in distress, I don’t know.
Why am I telling you these stories?
Well, on each occasion, I really wasn’t expecting any of those scenarios. You miss the bus, you wait. The bus ends because of road closures, you walk or get a cab. You are drunk and don’t know how to get home, you… I don’t know, sleep in the office? Ha-ha! Probably get a cab.
At some very brief moment, each of these men had the option to go on with their lives, or help me. To be fair, I wouldn’t have been annoyed if none of the buses had waited for me, or offered us a lift back to the main station because, after all, those are rules (no opening doors unless at a stop, and no carrying passengers outside routes, and all that).
However, in that brief moment, these men decided to go out of their way to help me out, and they made my day each time. It didn’t take someone a grand gesture to make me happy, and to be honest, even today, thinking about these situations, puts a smile on my face.
It only takes a small gesture to make someone happy, and it doesn’t take too much effort. You don’t have to wait patiently for someone’s bus to arrive while you’re on your break, or anything like that. If you see someone who looks lost, or someone struggling with a pram, it doesn’t cost you anything to offer your help. They might not need your help, they might say no, but that person will smile, even if to themselves, and you will have made their day.
Unfortunately, nowadays we’re more used to people being rude and dismissive, to people pushing to get through and stepping on you when you’re down. Here, I’m not talking about donating money or time, I’m talking about just a gesture. Say hi to the person on the other side of the till, or behind the wheel on the bus. If you make eye contact with someone, smile. When you interact with people serving you, ask how their day went. It costs you nothing, and you might make them smile.
Who knows? You could be someone’s hero!