Three incidents I have recently borne witness to:

One: Bakerloo Line, between Baker Street and Oxford Circus. Two young women are sat down on those Bakerloo Line seats with no armrests. A tourist, a young lad, gets on the train and tries to sit down in what he thinks is an empty seat but is in fact just a larger than usual gap between people. One of these young women starts shrieking at him. "Get off my arm! That's not a seat you idiot!" Turning to her companion: "What a moron, did you see him? He tried to sit his arse on my arm!"

The boy is clearly mortified and remains standing in the aisle, holding a handrail. He's with a group of other people, possibly an extended family. They are South American, probably, from what was yelled next, Brazilian.

The young woman continues. "What, did you think that was a seat? Are you stupid? Can't you talk? What a fucking idiot, did you see him what he did?" She clocks a member of the boy's group talking to him and someone else, clearly not impressed with her screeching. "Oh, are you not English? You're in ENGLAND now, you gotta talk ENGLISH! What, can you not talk ENGLISH? Are you an idiot? Are you a tourist?" She's pointing now, getting in his face. Her friend is encouraging her. She's attempting to intimidate the whole carriage. "Don't talk fucking Portuguese, talk ENGLISH! When you're in England you should be able to speak ENGLISH!"

This continues all the way until Oxford Circus, where this bitch gets off. The rest of the carriage makes conciliatory faces, but know this group's impression of London is ruined, not least by our collective failure to intervene.

Two: my local Co-op. It's not the most efficient of places at the best of times and this day is particularly bad. Two tills are open: one is having a problem and the cashier has had to leave to sort it out. A queue has formed and keeps getting longer. The one remaining cashier, a girl of about 17, is trying to work through it as fast as she can. I get to the front of the queue and a man three behind me starts shouting.

"Why aren't there any more tills open? What's going on? This place is fucking useless." He is getting more and more belligerent. "Where's the other woman gone? Are you gonna ring your bell?" [The bell notifies any other members of staff that more tills need to be opened.] A woman behind him chips in: "She already has rung her bell." The man ignores her – it suits him to berate the cashier. "This place should have more staff on, where are they all?" Others members of the queue are mumbling in dismay at the scene. I can't listen to him any longer and turn around. "Look, she's working as fast as she can. If you let her be we'll all get sorted faster." "Oh it's alright for you," he says. "You're already at the front." "I had to queue as well." He ignores this too. He doesn't want to hear anything that distracts him from shouting at the cashier. "The customer service here is a fucking disgrace, where's the rest of them? Why aren't you going any faster? You're fucking useless as well."

My shopping is complete and I walk out. I don't see how the scene finally resolves itself.

Three: I am outside the John Soanes museum and they're operating a one-in, one-out policy. I only have an hour and don't fancy queueing. I am leaning against a wall reading my A-Z, looking for anything else that could kill some time. A man in a suit comes out of the building. He stops in front of me. "Hello," he says. "Are you lost?" He's smiling, ready to be helpful. "Oh no," I say. I explain about the museum, and that I'm looking for something else to do. "But thank you!" I say at the end of my speech. He nods and smiles, and walks on his way.

It's a small thing, but it helps to remind me that not everyone in the world is an ungracious cunt to strangers.


10 responses to “Ungracious

  1. Kate August 7, 2008 at 10:57 am

    I’m through with London. Being up north for a week reminded me that not everywhere in the country is such a hellhole.

  2. Rachel August 7, 2008 at 11:08 am

    I suspect that if you live anywhere you get to see more of the downsides… and by dint of having more people London probably seems to have more of them. I’m not willing to jack London in though, I wouldn’t trade the anonymity I get here for the provinces. Actually, I can thoroughly recommend having over a month off to reconnect with the city. I’m finding all kinds of beautiful things that are making me fall in love all over again.

  3. Will August 7, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    I blame the parents.
    Or the media.
    Or knives.

  4. Will August 7, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    p.s. London blows.

  5. Nick August 7, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    I’ve had the A-Z to thing happen to me as well. Always very nice.
    People who pick on cashiers though are cowardly scum

  6. Jamie August 10, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Xenophobic slag on the train: Cunt.
    But, to be fair, every Co-Op I’ve been in sucks massively. It doens’t matter if there’s three people in the whole shop, every one of them will be queuing. I used to go in one every day before workl and no matter what time, how many customers there were, it took about 15 minutues to get served.
    I actually was ranting about this when I went to your local Co-Op before your house party. I said “I guarentee it’ll take me ages to get served, even if the place is empty”. Low and BEHOLD, there was about four people in the shop, all at the till with one woman taking forever to serve people. It enrages me. Maybe the offending chap you mention had just HAD ENOUGH – their customer service is sh*t. I blame Portugal.

  7. Jamie August 10, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Like the way I self censored sh*t but still said cunt?

  8. Rachel August 11, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    You? Were ranting? Never…

  9. Del August 12, 2008 at 1:55 am

    I think you’re right about London just appearing worse, simply due to a higher concentration of people, and therefore a higher concentration of angry tools who have to wage war on the world to compensate for their own deep centred self hatred. Whoop.
    And the North isn’t quite so relaxing if you have an estuary accent.
    “Oh you from that there London, then, are ya pal?”
    “*Sigh* Yes…”
    Cue a half hour battering with a chip on a shoulder…

  10. Rachel August 12, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Heh, the accent thing sounds familiar – when I go back I get grief for having lost most (oh, how I wish it were all) of my Yorkshire accent. Cos that does tend to happen when you don’t live somewhere for 12 years. Bah.

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