Social commentary

Making the world a better place, one commuter at a time

Free High FiveAnyone who commutes into central London can bear testimony to the daily struggle it brings.

Packed trains, late cancellations and staff specially trained to make announcements as confusing as possible all contribute to the challenges.  My no.1 gripe is passengers who can’t be bothered to move further up into the train which means that others can’t even get on. Grrrr…

This daily grind creates a large amount of miserable individuals, keeping themselves to themselves, grimly making their way to work. Heads down, headphones in and only interacting with each other only when absolutely necessary (for more on this issue see When good people do nothing).

But yesterday I met someone doing something positive to make a difference.

‘Free High Fives’

I was standing (it had been a hard day) on the escalator going up to Victoria station. I noticed many of the people coming down the escalator the other way were smiling and laughing and slapping high-fives on a man standing a few steps further up the escalator from me.  He was holding up a sign which the people coming down towards him could read, but as he had his back to me I couldn’t see what was on it.

Whatever was on the sign it was having an impact on people. Even those who chose not to high five seemed to enjoy the fun. I travel that way every day and I have never experienced a happier escalator.

Making people smile

When we got to the top I spoke with him and he showed me what was on the sign. It turned out he was Kiwi who worked as a handyman during the day and who did stand up comedy in the evenings. I asked what his motivation was and he said:

‘It’s purely about making the commute better – nothing more’

He went onto to say more:

‘Coming to the UK and London, you can tell people are reserved and keep themselves to themselves on the tube. At first you think they are being rude but it’s really because there are no reasons to interact. So I was thinking of a simple thing that I could do and I came up with this. It makes the commute more interesting – a high-five is not really threatening is it? It doesn’t involve much commitment, but can make people smile.’

The impact of negativity

The world has plenty of apathy and negativity comes easily to most of us. It is easy to feel powerless and that we cannot do anything to improve situations – like the state of our transport system. But its important to consider the impact that sustained negativity can have on us and those around us. If we let it, moaning can become our default setting.

But yesterday, through the gloom of self-pity and the tired frustration of a long day, I experienced a bright example of someone doing something – however silly and frivolous – which made a difference. And it made me smile.

Want to know more about the Victoria Line High-Fiver, you can follow him on twitter @TJ_mcdonald

4 thoughts on “Making the world a better place, one commuter at a time”

  1. How brilliant. Good on him. The community festivals organised by churches all over the UK do this sort of thing too – making people smile for free.


  2. Brilliant idea! Made me think of the bit in the waste land about the people streaming over London Bridge “I did not think death had undone so many”
    (Sorry not normally so pretentious!)


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