THOSE engaged in the world of social media cannot have failed to spot Thursday’s big news emanating from the capital.
‘Tube Chat’, the idea no-one was waiting for, has arrived in London and people are not at all happy.
— FITE DA POWAH (@pewpy) September 29, 2016
Others, meanwhile, felt let down for different reasons.
— Steeeve (@stevenjmesser) September 29, 2016
The worst thing about the #tube_chat badges is that they haven't even CONSIDERED the rest of us, who'll have to listen to it happening.
— Lauren Bravo (@laurenbravo) September 29, 2016
After all, London is not known for its sociable commuters, you have to wonder who came up with such a misguided idea.
It’s even got to the stage that a “Shut Up Tube” campaign has emerged in response, for those who – as the badges make abundantly clear – would “rather drink a pint of bleach” than talk to anyone.
This is a city of people who will happily dawdle and catch a later train, in order to avoid small talk with their own friends. #tube_chat
— Gareth Dimelow (@gdimelow) September 29, 2016
‘Tube Chat’ was the brain child of Jonathan Dunne, an American who has so far spent more than £200 in an attempt to get people talking on the Underground.
There’s something quite charming and quintessentially British about someone utilising their own hard-earned money to try and change the mentality of an entire city.
On the other hand, the phrase “know your audience” really comes to mind.
Warning: the below video contains strong language
— Russell Kane (@russell_kane) September 29, 2016
As Kane points out, Mancunians are much friendlier than our London cousins.
Having lived in both I can confirm the stereotype is absolutely true.
On the tube I’ve been stared down for daring to ask to borrow a newspaper, shoved for attempting to move down the carriage to find space, and had someone simply walk away from me after I had the gall to sit next to them.
On the Manchester tram I’ve been offered not just chats, but drinks, newspapers and yes, even a seat.
In London the rumbling of the carriage is the only permitted noise.
Even when sitting with my closest friends I have found my conversations cut short as we enter the silent abyss of the ‘Morden via Bank’ tube.
So what would be the results of a Northern version of ‘Tube Chat’? A ‘Met Meet’ if you will.
Here’s just a few of the people you may come across and how you may get on…
The Locks Girls:
‘Locks Girls’ come in threes.
They’re intimidating at first, dressed all in black, drinking ready-mixed cans of Pimms; the Locks Girls will be found on the Metrolink every Thursday and Saturday heading to either Sakura or Ark.
They once saw Chesney from Corrie in there and got his number for the “bantz”.
They’ll spend most of the journey giggling at each and every person getting on the tram and you’ll wonder just what’s so funny.
But after a few minutes of conversation you’ll be joining them on their night out, drinking a ‘cheeky’ VK and taking selfies using the Snapchat dog filter.
Media City producer:
Waiting with his e-cigarette at Altrincham’s tram stop will be ‘Media City producer’.
Glasses, stubble, blazer and chinos, this man grew up in nearby Hale.
He’ll talk to you about how Manchester is now a true Northern powerhouse and while he spent a year in London, he always wanted to come back.
He works at the BBC and looks down on the “plebs” at ITV.
In his spare time he watches arthouse films with a bottle of BrewDog ale and plays ‘Pokemon Go’ “ironically”.
Despite a clear snobbery in ‘Media City producer’ (he still thinks Salford is part of Manchester), you’ll have fascinating chats with him about his encounters with celebrities in the corridors of the BBC and by the time you’re changing trams at Cornbrook, you’ll be starting an online petition with him to keep Mary Berry on ‘Bake Off’.
‘MADchester man’ has a few identifiable features.
With his bald head covered by a beige bucket hat and an anorak over his clothes, he doesn’t have as many teeth as he used to; lost in fights at the Hacienda in the 90s.
He loves the Stone Roses, even ‘All for One’.
Regaling you with stories of pints with Bez and popping pills with Mani, he’s been lost in life since the Hacienda closed.
He still goes to Factory occasionally but only to moan about the music and get a cheap Jagerbomb.
Naturally like the band he idolises, he supports Manchester United and has an Eric Cantona poster on his wall.
He misses Lee Sharpe and thinks Michael Carrick is over-rated.
“That Rashford kid’s alright though,” he’ll exclaim.
He may be drunk and smelling of Special Brew but it won’t be long until you join hands and walk through Piccadilly Gardens singing ‘I am the Resurrection’.
Salford University student:
Originally from Yorkshire, ‘Salford student’ has truly embraced her adopted home and loves a chat on the tram.
She won’t accept the nationwide rankings which put Salford as the worst of the three main Manchester universities.
“We’re not the third best university in Manchester. We’re number one in Salford.”
She studies physiotherapy which she loves but will mainly talk to you about her gap year in Thailand, showing you her Tinder profile picture taken with a sleeping tiger.
Since starting University, ‘Salford student’ has got heavily involved in student politics, and while her parents are staunch ‘Brexiteers’ she’s not having any of it.
She wants equality in education for all students and is considering running for an NUS leadership position.
You will find yourself wanting to run her campaign by the end of your journey.
#tube_chat is simultaneously the least & most British thing I've ever seen. Suggesting public social interaction, but doing so in badge form
— Maddie Soper (@misformaddie) September 29, 2016
Manchester is full of interesting characters and I would urge everyone to give the seemingly strange people they come across a chance.
London is similarly full of variety but the commuters just want to get from A to B with as little disruption as possible.
So if you’re new to the city and on a Metrolink journey, don’t have the ‘London fear’ when someone approaches you, ask them about their life and you may well be surprised.
London may never be ready for the idea of ‘Tube Chat’, but why not bring it to the North? I think we can handle it.
By Ed Tyler