Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Gimme Shelter.

The great thing about living in London is that everyone thinks you're a dick and won't speak to you. I don't know how people can bear living in the barbaric "outside London" where people confuse respect and friendliness with talking. "I hate London", they say like you're in anyway interested. "No one talks to you on the tube". Take a look around, mate. These are commuters on a tube train. Angry, angry London commuters forced to be sardined together and read the Metro. Who here do you really want to talk to?

I traveled back home on the tube on Friday. The downside of travelling by tube is that you're unaware of the weather, so as my journey went on and I saw more and more soaking wet passengers get on, I started to regret not bringing an umbrella. Not that I ever bring an umbrella. That's one thing you can be sure of about me. I will never have an umbrella. Also, I will always regret not having an umbrella. 

A man sitting in front of me looked at me and raised his eyebrows twice quickly. That's fine. He's clearly not from London and doesn't understand that eyebrow cheekiness is just as illegal here as talking. It's still a form of communication. A few seconds later, I looked over and he did it again. Great. As always, the tube nutter is attracted to me. Why must I always be the most beautiful thing on the underground? A few more seconds pass and he raises his eyebrows twice quickly at me again, this time adding a nod. Well, I now have no choice. I'm going to have to punch him. He has broken all laws of the tube. He has taken an interest in something and that is not allowed. A good punch to the throat will let him know that he is in London now. His nod started to get a bit more... noddy. His eyebrows were frantically bouncing and his nod was insistent. He was actually using his nod to point. At my shoes. 

You know when two old Volkswagen Beetle drivers pass each other they toot their horn or flash their lights at one another as a sign of respect because they're in the same club? Well, he was doing that with shoes. We were both wearing the same Converse shoes. 

That's not the same thing at all, is it? Old Beetles are probably quite hard to come by these days, I imagine. Mass produced popular shoes, less so. It's not like we were going to get into a deep conversation about whether or not we still have the original laces or did we have to go on eBay and try to find the exact insoles from a spare parts shoe expert. I smiled at him though. If he leaves London thinking it was amazing because he saw a man wearing the same shoes as him, then let him have his fun. I hope that will be of some comfort to him on his deathbed. As he got up to leave, he curled out an almighty turd onto the London Tube Rule Book and spoke to me. "Goodbye", he said.

Yeah, idiot. Goodbye. Fucking stupid idiot.

As he got off the train I saw him taking an umbrella out of his bag.

Why didn't I bring an umbrella? I'm an idiot.

I never bring an umbrella. I don't know why I never bring an umbrella but I never, ever bring an umbrella. Maybe it's because I'm just not that uptight about a bit of rain. Maybe I just don't care about anything. Mavericks never care. Maybe it's because I don't actually have an umbrella. There are more and more soaking wet passengers on the tube now. I really wish I had an umbrella.

A man and woman get on and sit near me. The man sits right beside me, the woman sits facing him. They are a couple. I can tell because they are arguing, but at least they're arguing quietly. They both have umbrellas. That's also not a good sign. If they were happy, they'd have one umbrella. Yes, they'd both get a bit wet and look all sexy but at least they'd have each other and who cares about anything if you have that? Is it still raining, I hadn't noticed... etc. 

"I don't want to talk about it", he said in his London accent. See? Londoners get it. You're on the tube: no talking! "I'm not being unreasonable", she replied in her northern accent.

Ah, well. They NEVER understand the tube, do they? This is the London Underground where every carriage is the Quiet Carriage but still their argument whispered on. To be fair, I couldn't really hear what they were arguing about but their faces said everything. She looked tired, he looked furious. I heard lots of "I don't care" and "You don't listen" from him but I couldn't hear her at all and that's fine by me. Like I said, they were breaking the rules but at least they were doing it quietly. Until... he said "shut up". Not loudly. Just louder than before. Clearer. Nastier. "Shut up". 

She responded but every time she spoke he got louder. "Just shut up", he kept saying. People around us felt uncomfortable, she looked mortified. "Stupid bitch", he said loud and clear and everyone around looked at him. I was one of them. "Got a problem?", said the 40 year old teenager. And that's when I broke my own rule: I spoke to someone on the tube.

I thought about northerners. Talking in a friendly, cheery tone. Warm. I replied quietly and with a little laugh, thinking that would help (also, I was a bit scared). "I'm sitting next to a man who just said 'Stupid bitch' on the tube".

He ignored me and the couple went back to arguing. Her quietly, him getting louder all the time. Everyone around us feeling very uncomfortable. He must have said "Stupid bitch" another 6 times before getting his phone and earphones out. That was it. The man had spoken: You're a stupid bitch, the argument is over and now I'm going to listen to Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. I don't quite know what happened next but clearly, after speaking to that horrible man on the tube, I'd got a taste for it. I started talking to the woman. "Bloody Londoners", I said to her. "Always so unfriendly".

Turns out she was from Halifax, which is nice because I've got friends there and I've been a few times so we chatted about that and her work and why she moved to London. It was a nice chat. It was a very nice chat because she was friendly and I could feel him getting angrier. It was a very brief chat though as the tube arrived at her stop and she got up to leave. He stayed seated. "You coming?", she said to him. "I'm going home", he replied". She said goodbye to me and left. 

The horrible man and I sat there for two more stops. Sitting silently and uncomfortably, like all good Londoners. Then, once again, he broke the rules. "You don't know what she's like", he said. Again, I was northern friendly and northern cheery in my tone (because I was still a bit scared). "I know I don't know her", I said. "But I know a bit about you. You're a bloke that calls his girlfriend a stupid bitch in public". He leaned into my face and invited me to go fuck myself. And then he got up and left.

I understand the barbarians of "outside London" a bit more now. We don't like talking to each other in public places in London but maybe the "outside London" weirdos don't like it either. Maybe they've just figured out that if we're all a bit friendlier then it's much harder for people to be horrible. Being horrible in London is easy. It's normal. But being horrible in front of people who are friendly, warm and welcoming? That's tough. And look where our commuter isolation gets us: being told to go fuck yourself by a man who considers his girlfriend a stupid bitch.

Oh, look. He's forgotten his umbrella.






www.twitter.com/michaellegge

2 comments:

lee woo said...

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#shelter
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