I realise there’s a bit of a culture in London for keeping your head down and saying nothing in the face of social disorder, but what I witnessed last night was a real eye-opener.
The Northern Line was down, so after sitting on the number 155 bus to Stockwell (my first London bus experience since moving here. It was…cosy), I got on the Victoria Line and headed towards Oxford Circus. There were two lads in the same carriage, shouting and play-fighting. Not a big deal. But one of them had his feet on the seat opposite, and when the next lot of passengers got on, a woman – maybe in her fifties – asked him to move so she could sit down. He duly did, but as soon as she had, he promptly kicked his feet onto her lap.
Of course, this woman was less than impressed, and told him in no uncertain terms to remove them.
‘No way, mate. I was here first. My seat for my feet.’
Unbelievable. Thus ensued an angry back and forth between the two, before another woman intervened. The situation escalated to the point where the original woman was crying, and this awful shit of a kid was standing over her, threatening to ‘give her a slap’.
There was probably about 30 people in the immediate vicinity, and at least half of them were men. And nobody said or did anything. Yes, I come from the countryside and yes, back in the glorious ‘Shire there’s a real sense of community and respect and yadda, yadda, yadda, but despite London’s enormous size and relative social isolation, I genuinely could not believe that not one single male could get up and help diffuse the situation.
So in the event I got up and put myself between this tedious prick and this poor crying woman.
‘Oh you want some too, do ya?’ he spat in my face. ‘Don’t think I won’t slap you too just ‘cos you’re a woman. Fuck off out of it or I’ll cut you. I know where you live.’
Sigh. ‘Do you? Really? Do you actually know where I live? Are you actually going to hit me, a woman, in front of all these people and on CCTV? Are you really?’
Eventually he sat down and left the woman alone. That didn’t stop him bleating on about ‘knowing where I live’ and ‘finding my family’ and all the rest of it, but at least he’d turned the volume down and had stopped being quite so aggro.
Mine was the next stop. The woman who’d been the catalyst behind all of this whispered a quiet ‘thank you’ as I left, but not one other single passenger dared to look up.
What kind of mindset is this? Is this something that happens to people after they’ve been in London for a while? They just become self-absorbed drones scuttling from A to B with no consideration for others? If so, tell me when I can expect that to happen and I’ll clear off well before then.