“How old is he?” asked the old lady next to me on the bus. She was expecting a grandchild any day and was excited by the sight of bub who was in his buggy fast asleep in his thick woolly bunny outfit. Since I’ve had bub, I’ve had conversations on public transport with all kinds of women - young, middle-aged, old, Asian, black and white and after four years of living here, its helped me discover a warmer, friendlier London.
Unlike earlier when I used to get on the tube or the bus and bury my head in a book, I now have time to notice people around me. I’m also much more garrulous, passing up few opportunities to have a chat with an adult given how much time I spend babbling to bub. A child is an instant, shared experience across generations of women - everyone either has had one of their own or knows someone who does and there’s always a little anecdote to share.
But its not just conversations. I’m often able to navigate the tube network with ease because of the kindness of strangers.
The first time I went into central London on my own to attend my office Christmas party, I spent the previous day planning each leg of the journey with the buggy. It was as carefully planned as an expedition to the North Pole. I had budgeted lots of time to get into town, given all the stairs I would have to encounter at different stations. But I made it to central London long before my scheduled time because even without my asking, people just came up to me and offered to help me carry the baby buggy. One young man actually waited for me near the stairs although he was far ahead of me and we grumbled amicably about how major stations in London don’t have ramps. On the rare occasion that I did have to ask someone, he actually apologised to me for not having offered first himself!
Navigating public transport is no longer traumatic like it was in bub’s early weeks, where he would start crying at the top of his voice and start sucking noisily on his fist in-between long, red-faced wailing. Now that he mostly just stays asleep, being on public transport in non-peak hours is almost fun because of the possibility of the friendly chats I can have with a range of people.
London is full of helpful strangers, now that I finally have the time to give them a chance to help me. It’s just one of the many, many, many things bub has helped me discover in his 3 months in the world.