Saturday, 3 October 2009

Walk Vs. Ride

I won’t lie to you. My current job doesn’t really float my boat. True, it could be worse and I am thankful I actually have one in these difficult times. But at the same time I can’t say I leap out of bed every morning and skip all the way to the office.
What I can do, mind you, is walk all the way to the office. “Whoopee-do!” you might say with a hint of sarcasm. But in my opinion, this is a real luxury. No longer do I have to let three tubes pass me by before managing to squeeze in between a dolly mix of sweaty armpits, pointy elbows and inappropriately large newspapers. Every morning for over a year now I have been able to avoid this ordeal and happily put on my jacket, stick my earphones in and walk.
But be warned. Anyone who has never walked down a street in London, look out for Pedestrian Rage. Pedestrian Rage is not as aggressive as road or even trolley rage, but trust me it exists. It’s more passive aggressive. Picture the scene. Here I am on Friday afternoon, walking home with a carrier bag of groceries, happily minding my own business whilst listening to the wireless on my mobile phone. A woman is walking towards me from the opposite direction. The path is narrow and partially blocked by scaffolding. Our eyes meet. The game is on: Who will step aside first?
You may be thinking, hang on here, why not be the bigger person and show some common courtesy by stepping aside yourself rather than engaging in such pettiness? And I hear you loud and clear. But in London, not many people think like that. And there are a lot of people on our pavements. If I stood aside for every fellow pedestrian I found myself in this quandary with, I would probably still be walking home now. Because Londoners don’t have time to be courteous. It’s a dog eat dog world and to survive you have bear your teeth once in a while.
A-ha! I hear you cry. Well, if the tube is that bad and walking is so hazardous, why not take the bus? Good idea. Friday evening I did that very same thing, this time on the way to college. Liking the view from the upper deck, I sit myself down at the top of the stairs, put on my glasses and get out my book.
Two stops later a couple of teenagers get on the bus and come up the stairs.
“Yeah my bros’ back in prison innit.” Teenager One says loudly.
“What was it for this time, did he have a gun?” Teenager Two asks, all too casually.
“Nah, it was peppa spray, yer get me?” Teenager Two explains.
They set up camp at the back of the bus, talking loudly enough to make sure everyone can hear how hard they are. A few people get up and go downstairs. I don’t blame them. Not only are they unnecessarily loud, but the faint hearted amongst us could quite easily be intimidated by such talk. I have heard it too many times before to take it too seriously.
Teenager Two finally gets off the bus. Thank God, I think to myself. But Teenager One refuses to let us off the hook that easily. The all-too familiar tinny gangster rap starts to play from the loudspeaker on his phone. He chants along, reciting his own religion, his stance challenging anyone who dare ask him to keep it down.
Finally he gets off the bus. Before I can celebrate a group of young men replace him at the back of the double decker. They are harmless enough I suppose. Just pissed. And loud. Very loud. I stare hard at my page, but it’s no use. I give up.
The journey home is thankfully much quieter; it’s too late for people to be heading off for a night out, but too early for the revellers to return home. Most of the people on the bus are Suits who have only just finished at the office. They are pacified with fatigue. Result. I get my book out and am finally able to make sense of the words on the page. Before I know it I am nearly home. The journey has gone by without incident. Until we get to Seven Sisters Road where a fellow passenger sits down next to me. Which is fine. Except he chose not to ask me to move my bag. Instead he decided to sit on it.
Common courtesy in London? Let me know if you find any.

1 comment:

  1. Pedestrian rage is nothing like tube escalator rage, "stand to the f*cking RIGHT!"
    London is brutal and you have to develop a thick-skin; I discovered that during my first journeys through London Bridge Station in my first week of being here.
    Ah, we love it really ;).