Author’s note: I originally wrote this short piece back in May 2017 on Medium. I recently came across it again and upon re-reading it – I immediately wanted to re-publish the piece here. Whilst I don’t particularly miss the commutes, there was a kind of magic that came from encounters like this that I try and seek out wherever I am – and I advise you to do also.
I’ve got a story which you won’t believe is true, and to be honest… I can barely believe it. See, a lot of funny and interesting things happen on the London tube during my commute, but this takes the cake.
So – today, on the non-surprisingly busy Northern Line, I found myself slotted between the Tetris-like people either side of me.
On my left was a shorter girl – (well not that short, I am quite tall). This girl was tapping away at her keyboard on her iPhone like there was no tomorrow. She was in the process of writing a paragraph, not too dissimilar in length to this article – but to who I could only guess was her boyfriend.
Let’s pause here.
So by now, you must have realised that, basically, I’m staring at this poor girl’s phone – reading every word of her lengthy message.
To give you context as to what she had typed (because I know some of you are just as nosey as me) she was passive-aggressively writing to her boyfriend as a reaction to the news that he had double booked a work-event with a date that they had planned. It had not even been 2 minutes since she had got the news and she had already blasted out a response quicker than Donald Trump would scream ‘WRONG’ on Twitter. (You can tell I was bored enough in my short journey to have read this deep into the situation).
And then the worst possible thing happened.
She looked up and caught me clearly looking at her message.
I then looked up and our eyes met. I was sweating. Not just because of the unusually hot weather and not just because we were crammed in that carriage like I would cram carbs in my mouth on ‘diet cheat days’. I was sweating because I had done the unspeakable and had read her emotionally-filled, extremely personal and deeply written text.
So I reacted and broke the silence.
I said whilst attempting to hold a brave smile.
A second goes by.
“The last thing you want is miscommunication via text in this situation.”
I filled the void effortlessly.
“Yeah, I probably should”.
She then proceeded to delete her paragraph.
Immediately after, as if the heavens had opened their gates, the doors to the carriage opened and I had arrived at Kings Cross station.
I uttered, “good luck” as I exited out the train and the awkwardly brilliant situation.
Did I just save a relationship? Maybe after I left, she called her boyfriend, her slight upset was conveyed clearly and the situation was beautifully taken care of. Or maybe, they had a huge argument over the phone and decided to break up at that point. I really damn hope it wasn’t the second one…
Although it’s an unbelievable story, I want to actually stop and observe two life lessons that I caught a glimpse at today.
Sometimes, we rush to respond to a situation and we act out of emotion. Our automatic response is one that may lead us to say things we ought not to say or do things we ought not to do. In this scenario, messaging immediately after being made aware of the news that your boyfriend has double booked can bring upset, disappointment, confusion and most importantly, misunderstanding into play. I offered the girl the option to simply call her boyfriend. But this was strategic…
Not only would she be able to hear her boyfriend’s real voice as they talk through the situation, rather than building up emotion as they wait for each other to text back — but she would also have to wait to get off the tube in order to get signal and call. Thus giving her time to think and get into a state of mind that allows her (and her boyfriend) to see the situation analytically and un-emotionally. This is something we should always do:
Learn not to brashly react, but rather understand and communicate through a situation.
And the other lesson? Well — if you ever get caught reading someone’s text messages… make sure you have something valuable to say and you might end up saving a relationship.
Or just wait out the eternal awkwardness.
This article was originally published on Medium.com