Someone today told me I’d made their day.
All I’d done was ask the man sitting beside me – after we had spent two or so hours or so next to each other in typical commuter silence – whether he liked his job.
Since I first plonked myself next to him – moving mid journey, hands full of gadgets, freeing up a table for a father with two boys – we’d both been on our phones and tapping at laptops. We’d done the careful unspoken navigation of personal space thing. I’d heard his entire conversation with someone who clearly reported to him but stayed poker faced. He could probably see the report I was editing on screen if he was so inclined (I didn’t need to worry – it was pretty techie and not in the slightest bit confidential: no enticing secrets there). I had sussed out almost immediately he was a manager in a large company I briefly worked for many years ago. My phone time was spent scrolling rather than chatting so I think there was less for him to go on as to what I did although I’m sure it was evident I was working.
I wanted to say something for a while – tell him of our remote connection from my youthful holiday job to his high flying career – but I was typically traveller taciturn. If I did speak up that would be breaking the rules. I’d be acknowledging I’d heard his conversation no less!
As my stop drew close though I threw caution to the wind and tentatively asked him if he enjoyed his job. He looked slightly surprised and said he did yes – accompanied by the enquiring eyebrows you’d expect. I explained I thought he did; it shone out of him; it was in his tone on the phone; it was in his body language and his focus on his emails he was typing. I’d noticed because I in turn liked that he seemed to feel like that; it made me smile.
He looked surprised but not unhappy. (Phew!) And then, briefly, we chatted. He too had started with his company years before as a holiday job. He has multiple small children. He works away quite a bit and is grateful for the sleep when the odd hotel night is required (he laughingly acknowledged he’d learned never to gloat about it though!). It was lovely to see beneath his light jesting how much he was clearly looking forward to seeing his family.
I stood up and began to gather my things; my stop was approaching. He asked do I have children? No I replied: I was hoping to adopt, going through the process; my own sleep deprivation was, perhaps, just on its way. He smiled; wished me luck.
And then he grinned even more widely.
“Thank you” he said. “You’ve made my day. You really have. I do love my job and I’m glad it shows.”
I put my coat on and reached for my bag. I wished him an even better evening with his children and he smiled warmly and happily.
I smiled back and said goodbye. As I left the train I found myself grinning in turn.
I so nearly observed the conventions, stayed silent, pretended I hadn’t seen or heard.
But then I spoke up. I made a connection, however briefly. And in so doing I really felt I’d made a difference to us both.
Now several hours later I’m smiling again. What could be better than being told you’d made someone’s day? I should have realised then and there that of course happiness is contagious. I am sure his family gathered around him and immediately put the whole encounter out of his head; but for me it has loitered in my brain.
I guess that must be because connecting, however briefly, ultimately made my day.