Badges from a mystery source encouraging passengers to talk have elicited calls for ‘do not disturb’ signs – but not everyone is against!
— Paul (@Paul1Singh) September 29, 2016
The perception of the London commuter as an unfriendly curmudgeon has been bolstered by the mixed reaction to a mystery campaign to encourage tube passengers to chat. Badges emblazoned with the question “Tube chat?” have been distributed on the London Underground network, to the horror of some regular users. Transport for London (TfL) said it was not behind the badges, which are identical in font and design to the official “Baby on board” pins given to expectant mothers. Commuters were quick to express their disdain for the idea.
— FITE DA POWAH (@pewpy) September 29, 2016
NHS worker Jonathan Dunne is the man behind the badges encouraging Tube commuters to perform a decidedly un-Londonish act, and actually talk to each other. It won’t surprise many to learn that Dunne is originally from the US – but has lived in the capital since 1996. Dunne said he had handed out the first 480 badges at Old Street Station yesterday.
I warned you TfL allowing people to stand on the wrong side of the escalator at Holborn would cause the collapse of civilisation #tube_chat
— Tom Copley (@tomcopley) September 29, 2016
“I thought it was going to be a laugh, but it was actually miserable,” he confessed. “I’ve never handed out anything at a Tube station before. You run the gauntlet of people panhandling, people handing out flyers, or whatever. Most people aren’t interested. Some people take things to be nice.” But he said that despite the strength of the reaction on social media, there had been some positive sentiment. “I would say of the 480 [badges] I handed out, maybe 30 or 40 people smiled,” he added.
Some irresponsible fool trying to undermine the fabric of society by encouraging talking on the London Underground https://t.co/kg2mBaOGoD
— Vaughan Bell (@vaughanbell) September 29, 2016
The badges come attached to a small piece of card, which reads: “Have a chat with your fellow travellers. Wear this badge to let others know you’re interested. You’ll benefit from a daily chat. Start using it today!” But some commuters did react warmly to the badges:
— AlanWilliams (@Alan_L_Williams) September 29, 2016
Would you like a handkerchief so you can stop snorting up 3 liters of snot? #TubeChat
— Clair Woodward (@Clairywoowoo) September 29, 2016
A TfL spokeswoman said: “It’s definitely not something we have created. We are trying to get in touch with the people behind them as we never allow people to use our branding unless they have our permission. “This sort of stuff is quite dangerous; we don’t want people to get confused. While it is an interesting idea, we don’t want people using our branding.”
— Ros Ball (@Rosball) September 29, 2016
“Baby on board” badges can be ordered from TfL to help mothers-to-be secure a seat without embarrassment. Badges for people with disabilities or who are less able to stand, saying “Please offer me a seat”, are also being trialled.
— Elliot Hackney (@ElliotHackney) September 29, 2016