Unless you're a complete masochist with a penchant for strangers sneezing in your mouth, you'll hate the London Underground during rush hour. If you're a social recluse who can't deal with fleeting eye contact in confined spaces, you'll fucking despise it at any point throughout the day. But if you've ever happened to pass through Victoria tube station on your travels (which is highly likely if you've ever got the train up from anywhere south of London), you've probably come across Carl Downer – a train conductor who spends his days sharing "positive vibes" with everyone around him and turning your tube-induced melancholy into merriment.
Carl was born in Jamaica, moved here nearly 20 years ago and has spent the last six brightening up the days of anyone who walks past him with calls about Rastafarianism and positivity. I've seen that lead to lots of Sloaney white guys in their early 20s fist bump him and say "bless up" in a cod-Jamaican accent, which is always one of the worst things in the world, but we can forget about that for now. That video of him above has just gone viral, so I figured it was a good time to find him on one of his afternoon shifts for a chat about making London feel better every day.
Carl posing with a fan.
VICE: Hey Carl. How long have you been working here?
Carl Downer: I've been working with the London Underground for about five to six years now. It's awesome, man. You know why? I get to meet different people from different walks of life, I can just chill, have a nice talk and feel alright, you know? Just call it the Rastaman vibes. Yeah man.
Have you always been speaking at the platform like this?
Yeah, I try my best, know what I mean? If I can make someone's day better, I do that. We make each other's day a better day. You smile, I smile, the whole world smile, you know? That's the way you have to do it, man. I feel happy when people smile because of me. You know why? With the economy nowadays, you don't know what people are going through, and if they can take their mind off all the things going on in their personal life, in their job life, that one moment of happiness can make a big difference. I like to see people happy, man – seriously.
Do you feel it's your duty to cheer people up at the end of the day?
Absolutely. Absolutely, man. Just say, y'know, “This is not it in life, there is more to life than this.” You have to enjoy life. You live life, you enjoy life to the maximum. You have one life to live and you've got to live and live it up – you can't let nothing become an obstacle in your way. No one can be happy for you, so you have a right to be happy. It's a God-given right. Yes, Rasta.
Do you consider yourself to be a happy person?
I try my best to be as happy as can be. At all times, I just keep on understanding.
What do you do if you're having a bad day?
When I have a bad day, alright, I just do the meditation and overcome that with the positive vibes, know what I mean? It's all about the vibes that come with each day. As human beings, we're prone to have bad days, but it's the way you deal with things. If you moan about it, find a way to get over it – make your own vibes. Once you have nice positive vibes, cool running vibes, you'll be alright.
Is it hard to make people feel good when you're feeling bad?
If I was having a bad day, darling, I wouldn't let 'em know because, if I'm having a bad day, I don't want to see someone else have a bad day. If I'm having a bad day, I want to see someone have a better day than I'm having. I'm not going to, in no way, jeopardise someone else's day. By making someone else's day a better day, my day is automatically going to be a better day. My day now, from you interviewing me like this, you're making me have a nice Bob Marley day.
Do you think London is a happy place?
London is a very happy place with beautiful people. If you want to know how beautiful these people are – if you come down this station – you're gonna see a lady with a buggy and you'll see everybody, ten people, want to help the one person. That's how you know Londoners are lovely people. I respect them, man. I take my Rastaman hat off to 'em every time.
Do you have a favourite station?
I like Victoria. I love the people, I love the vibes, I love the way the people come together and feel alright even if we have a bad day. Say the system ain't working as it should be working, everybody come together – both the customers and the staff. We pull together to try and get 'em to their destination. And leave everybody with a smile at the same time, like a true Rastafari ride.
Do people ever respond to you?
Every day, man, every day. It's all about having good manners for people. When you give respect, you get respect back. No matter where the person comes from or who the person be, once you show some respect, you get it back. Big up the people here, man. I love the customers that come through here. I'll tell you something, darling – without all these Underground customers here, right, we wouldn't have a job. So this is my way to say – all you beautiful customers who use Victoria station, big respect and thank you a lot. Peace and love, Rasta bless, you're the best.
Do you have a favourite thing to say to people passing by?
I say so many different things, but guess what? Don't forget, ladies and gents: one love, peace and happiness and goodwill follow you all the way through 2013, know what I mean? Stay blessed, keeping the high every time. You run tings customer, tings don't run you. Big up, Jah bless. Respect, every time. London Underground, Victoria Station, no problem.
Follow Camille on Twitter: @CamStanden
Life exists outside of London? Come off it, mate:
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