The carriage belted out Christmas songs: readers' positive public transport tales
We asked Guardian readers to share their own stories of community and connections after Elon Musk’s controversial comments on public transport
- ‘I met my wife on a train platform’: Twitter responds to Elon Musk with positive public transport stories
The #GreatThingsThatHappenedOnTransit hashtag sharing stories of community and connection forged on public transport was born on Twitter in response to criticism by Elon Musk. We asked you to share some of your own, and here we present a selection.
I returned from Sheffield to Newcastle on Boxing Day around 20 years ago. The train stopped somewhere between York and Darlington because of a fault with the signals. After an hour, everyone was pretty annoyed. After two hours, people were chatting to strangers and started breaking out all the Christmas gifts of food, drink, sweets and games they were returning home with. After four and a half hours, the entire carriage was belting out Christmas songs when the train eventually started moving.
It remains the least stressful and most enjoyable Christmas party I’ve ever been involved in!
Amazing, surreal and hilarious comments by tube drivers on the London underground early in the morning. Always gets the carriage laughing. What we need everyday as we head to work! Musk is probably still in bed at that time.
I was on a train from Semarang in Central Java to Surabaya in East Java. I had arranged to meet my staff in our East Java office the next day and had asked for a car to meet me at the station. At some point on the journey a text came in from ‘someone’ at the office letting me know the car would be there to meet me and take me to my hotel. After acknowledging I sat back to relax. At some point smoke started to come into the carriage and eventually the train stopped and we were all told to get off. It was mid-afternoon thank goodness but we were running through a rice paddy so we all had to stand on the edge of the field and wait. I texted the ‘someone’s to say I would be delayed. A response came back saying that they wouldn’t hold their breath, to which I responded that it was a good idea because I wasn’t sure how long I’d be there and they might expire. They same back with something regarding CPR and the conversation continued with great amusement. I arrived at the station in Surabaya and the car was waiting for me with a sleeping passenger in the front seat. Next day I walked into the office and asked who I was texting with the day before. The sleeping passenger was the texter. Nearly 11 years of marriage and two beautiful kids later we still smile about that day.
I was on the Northern Tube line in winter 2002, heading back home from work, worried sick about my job. I probably had my head in my hands, I can’t recall what I was doing to attract attention but at one stop I looked up to see a very old lady stand up, reach out, touch my shoulder and say “It will be alright” with a saintly smile and then exit the train.
I was bewildered but grateful.
My work is so close that I only need to walk there, but my husband takes the bus and swaps reading recommendations with his bus pals. It turned out that one of them grew up in the house we now live in so we learned loads about the building and the neighbours.
I met my fiancé on a train in 2015, on the way to a beer festival, in a semi-random encounter. (We were part of a very large group and might never have talked to each other all day, were it not for the fact that when everyone piled on board, the seats were snapped up quickly and we were left standing in the door area opposite each other.) We get married in February. I don’t drive for medical reasons so I use the train a lot. I’m a huge fan of public transport – it’s more environmentally friendly and it’s cheaper to move people around in groups than it is for zillions of personal cars to clog up the roads burning fossil fuels.
It doesn’t happen often because people like to keep themselves to themselves and avoid eye-contact on the whole, but every so often you’ll share a brief and knowing smile with someone on the Tube that sets up the rest of the day nicely.
I received the news that my mum had pulled through an extremely complex and risky heart operation whilst on a train in Germany, I promptly broke down in tears and within 5 minutes all 4 of the strangers in the compartment were in conversation and there wasn’t dry eye to be found, as we all expressed our love for our mums.
A nod to my fellow cyclists, where, in Edinburgh at least, we often give a nod and smile if we pass each other and if we see another cyclist with a bike problem we always stop, because – A. It’s a nice thing to do, and B. It could be me/us the next time. – society in action.
And I love public transport, Edinburgh’s LRT bus service is fantastic, and everyone thanks the driver when they get off. And you get free people watching for the price of a ticket. 🙂
The bus is where I noticed that young black men are the people most likely to give up their seats to disabled passengers, seniors, and anyone with kids. They’re a crucial part of those bus riders who will volunteer to help fellow passengers as soon as they see the need rather than waiting to be asked for help—or pretending not to notice. I’m often touched by this sort of kindness because it comes from a real sense of community. You’re not likely to experience that while driving down the road in your comfy car.
I made a friend on the train on the way back from a football match Birmingham to London. We were fellow Southampton fans and bonded over that during the journey and have been great friends ever since. I have wonderful memories of travelling as a child in Yugoslavia on sleeper cars to the seaside with my granny. Would not have happened in a Tesla.
In 1977 After 6 months at Sea paid off in the Persian Gulf on the 23rd Dec. Flew home and caught a late train to Devon. There was a woman sat opposite me who said that the ticket inspectors didn’t bother after Newbury. So we moved up to an empty first class compartment. I had a bottle of Bacardi in my case, she Brandy. We had a party all the way to Plymouth where I got off and poured myself into a taxi. I visited her in the New Year in St Ives. Best Homecoming ever!
When I lost my job in the late 70s and was getting unemployment I had to take the 2nd avenue bus down town every week to sign in. There was a group of us on the bus undertaking the same mission, and when we got to talking together it turned the ride from being a dismal weekly chore to a warm and friendly experience with my fellow passengers who were also down on their luck. Solidarity in times of trouble: nothing better. Public transport all the way, I always enjoy using it. The NYC world in close-up.
A real good mate of mine died a few years back. Top lad. I still miss him. Just writing this makes me feel a ball in the belly.
I needed to get from Sweden to Sheffield & no planes. Buses & trains & 48 hours to get to see my mate before the docs expected him to go.
One night late on the Paris Metro near Barbes Rochechouart I heard three African men quietly harmonising a beautiful song – they weren’t buskers (although I’ve heard so many amazing buskers), just singing for fun and togetherness on their way home. There is such a thing as society! Being alone in a car is so stressful and frustrating, and ecologically completely unsustainable (how can people still ignore this?); public transport lets you read, think, people-watch, chat… and sing!
I once lost my wallet and train tickets in Budapest. I needed to get to Podgorica. I got help in getting to to Belgrade. Once on the train from Belgrade not only did everyone in my carriage help, but as they got off and were replaced by new travellers they would say ‘this Englishman, lost his tickets and money in Budapest and needs help’ I got, comfort, food, coffee, money and cigarettes. It turned out to be one of the best days of my life and could only of happened on public transport.
I have a few bad stories but lots of good ones about the metro here in Paris. The one that sticks out most in my mind was an old man who was travelling with his teenage granddaughter. He was crying – I didn’t hear the whole conversation but I gathered he had just lost his wife. Her concern for him was so touching (she was holding his hand and drying his eyes) that literally everyone sitting nearby, including me, started getting teary eyed too. When they got off the train they left behind some slightly embarassed people who then started to talk about losing people they were close to too. A brief moment of humanity before we all went about our business. I still think about it quite often.
Source: Guardian Transport