My Name is Alex and I’m Your Conductor Today!



The young chirpy voice piped up a cheery ‘good morning’  on the packed train carrying a miserable load of  – now ‘ex’ – holidaymakers from Gatwick Airport to Clapham, and onwards to London and who knows where, home.

I looked up in surprise.  This was not the usual breed of grumpy ticket checker/issuer.  This was someone making the best of his job, possibly even enjoying it.  He was unusually verbose and clearly enjoyed interacting with the customers.

‘Good morning madam, may I see your ticket please?  Excellent.  Change at Clapham for Basingstoke, and have a pleasant day’

Amazingly, he was even offering to help anyone that might need it.

‘If you need assistance today ladies and gentlemen, I’m the handsome chap with the sandy hair and glasses.  You can come and find me in one of the carriages’

That elicited a few smiles, a few sniggers. To me, it was wondrous  to hear a cheerful voice in the grey London dawn.  Refreshing to see people smiling, perhaps against their natural inclination, at that hour of the day.

I suspect if we were all a little more engaged, a little less preoccupied with our own troubles; if we were to do our jobs with more enthusiasm, and smile a bit more, then the world would be a better place.  A smile is infectious.  You can hear it in someone’s voice.  It can turn a grey and miserable day into something a bit more positive, even if only for a while.

I wrote to the train company and asked them to thank Alex for cheering me up that morning.  I don’t know if they passed the message on, but I hope so. Good on you Alex!

The Power of a Smile

Smile small Intuitively we all know that smiling is good for us, and good for the wider world too – don’t we?  It costs so little – the energy required to turn the mouth upwards- a few muscle movements less than a grimace, mere seconds- and yet it can mean so much.

A cheeky boy who I’d never seen before, sitting on the station platform as my train passed, raised a hand at me and smiled.  He winked too; it was a mischievous gesture, but it still made me smile. I laughed out loud in fact!  I was coming home from work, moody and half asleep, but a smile from a stranger made me laugh!

A smile can be so many things: conspiratorial, affirming, sympathetic, friendly, or simply joyous.  It’s an exclusively human facial gesture and something we should do more of in my view.  Making the effort to smile at another human being, engaging a stranger, or even a familiar face, can be very life-affirming.  Not only does it benefit the person receiving it, but it benefits us too.  It’s hard to be crabby when your face says otherwise!

Psychotherapists tell us that what’s inside affects what happens externally, but a smile can turn that wisdom inside out.  Wearing a smile instead of a scowl can actually improve how we feel inside.  Go on, give it a try! May be it’s because we have to make a conscious decision to do it.  Smiling may not change our circumstances, but it shows we can change our attitude to things by choosing to be more positive.  I’m not talking about a false, sycophantic, half-hearted for-the-camera effort here, but genuine warmth of feeling that we can display on our visog with a tiny adjustment of muscles – and attitude!

Such is the power of a smile, telephone sales technique trainers insist that you can ‘feel’ someone smiling at the other end of the phone.  Science also tells us that laughter can improve the outcomes for patients being treated for cancer, so the old adage about laughter being the best medicine isn’t far wrong.

Give it a try, what have you got to lose?  You may not cure the world of all its woes, but you may make someone’s day, even your own!