How to Stay Human

The tram conductors’ charter

The separation, and silence between commuters on public transport used to be considered a classic example of the social alienation of the individual under modernism. But the mobile phone has changed that perception. Its intrusion into this public space—conversations often held at a level louder than person to person interaction—has, by breaking through it, brought into relief a formerly unacknowledged dimension to that experience.  Rather than producing or reflecting alienation, it provides an opportunity for a rare type of being with others, proximity without the necessity to engage, a shared silence, a type of communion.

Traditionally, tram conductors kindled our public spirit in their interactions with passengers. While they were replaced by ticket machines, conductors still function as a lobby for being human. What follows is a guide for city inhabitants in how to stay human when faced with faceless interactions

            How to be Human

            A Connie’s Guide

Left to progress, human interaction will be increasingly mediated by machines. Devices like Walkmans, mobile phones and ticket machines cut people offer from each other. While the big bucks of monuments and great events bring crowds together, a city needs the small change of public interaction in order to maintain its inner life. The small change of weather talk and eye contact circulates in places where strangers spend periods of time together, such as public transport, bank counters, elevators and street corners.

More than likely, these neat machines are likely to remain. Like the telephone, however, we can still develop protocols for remaining human in their presence.




Always have something to give

Even if you have doubts about the legitimacy of their need, it is always been to offer something. It can be a coin or even a piece of fruit

Be up front

Make eye contact.


Use the teller

Try to keep a passbook and use the services of a human teller. Make this commitment known to the teller as a point of solidarity.

Start a conversation

While waiting in the queue, make an attempt to talk with others. It is easy if you bring something that starts the conversation for you, like a child.

Call waiting

Don’t use it yourself

The call waiting beep interrupts a conversation and breaks the intimacy

Acknowledge it in another

If you hear it on the other end, a very polite response is to say ‘Is it mine?’, giving the person the opportunity to respond.


Humanise the interaction

The telemarketing inquiry is an opportunity to interact with a complete stranger. Make a conversation out of the questions.

Mobile phones

Avoid use in company

Like call waiting, mobile phones can break up the flow of conversation and prevent you being fully in the moment.

Treat calls as public events

Show that you can hear what the person is saying. Use someone else’s call as the opportunity for conversation with other listeners.


It is not private

The Walkman makes a noisy, even through the earphones. Maintaining silence together is a public contract.

Contact 'I prefer a tram conductor' at [email protected]