At 8:10 one morning last week, I boarded the 125 London bus to work. It was raining and the bus was crowded. On the stairs, standing in his usual place a teenage boy on his way to school; I had seen many times before. That day, I stood alongside him, unable to find a seat either up or down. We smiled at each other and in a familiar way, got chatting.
Having seen him on many occasions, standing on the bend of the stairs, I enquired why he travelled there. His candid answer astounded me “I’m not seen here by those who are upstairs or down – I feel more comfortable here”. On talking further it transpired he is teased by classmates and others at school because he is shy and, as he put it “more intelligent than the rest”. He is daily subjected to taunting and name calling, just because he doesn’t ‘fit in’ with the crowd.
The young man’s story got me thinking about people I have met, who struggle with finding a place to comfortably exist.
I can remember people like that I schooled with, despite being so long ago. There were some who, after seven years of sharing class, I never spoke to nor hardly ever saw them talk to anyone else. It is hardly surprising that I don’t even remember their names.
What about at work. There was a man I worked with for about five years, Nick. I was still quite young myself and in my first job. We seemed to get along quite well, though he did not socialise with the others on the staff team. In the canteen at lunchtime, he sat in the corner keeping himself to himself. He shared little and no-one shared with him – I remember thinking that he was a bit of a loner.
I guess we can all think of people like Nick from past or current workplaces. Knowing what I do now, I wonder whether he, or indded my classmates, were actually like the boy on the stairs; trying to be invisible and to a certain extent succeeding.
Who is hiding “on the bend of the stairs” in your workplace today? Are they putting out a message that they are afraid of being teased or taunted, perhaps they are being excluded by colleagues, unrecognised by their manager, or maybe it’s you?
When you next see the ‘person on the stairs’, what will you say to her or to him?