By: Charlie Charles
Anyone that spends time around people will watch what those other people do, but how often do you actually notice the people? I have been guilty of looking at overweight, tall, ugly, frilly or bright colour wearing individuals and sniggering inwardly at my far superior choice of clothes or diet. However, I am, I think, equally guilty of looking at how they sit (heavily) or stand (tall-ly) or dress (badly). In fact I am so guilty, the bracketed are secondary to my other judgments, which go well beyond the superficial.
It is always nice to have a case in point, and even nicer to say it; so, case in point, I was on the tube, venue for all and sundry, and packing my iPhone away for alighting when a brash voice rang past my earphones ‘…getting off here…’. I decided the correct response was ‘yes’ for some reason, even though it did not sound like a question.
Despite the fact this chap was dirty, with poorly combed afro, wearing a red, lumberjack style shirt over monkey-wearing-headphones t-shirt, army trousers and fake Doc Martins (noticeably lacking bright yellow stitching, or stitching at all), I was more taken aback by his appalling expression when I did not move out of his way to let him off the tube first.
I thought it was amusing, which increased his furrowing and subjected me to a bit of a nudge as he stepped onto the platform behind me. ‘Ah well’ I thought, ‘and on with my evening’; but not quite. After all I had all of his attire to observe and Fate, it seems, thought it best I did.
Unknowingly I chose the same carriage as him, or more precisely he chose the same carriage as me, on the next line. Being first to the door he tried to push past me and a lovely looking lady, to swipe the best seat. We all know the best seat is the one on the end by the glass; one less person, one more head rest, the down side being the reduced arm room to the side.
He hovered between two seats before some much larger and bag laden gent sat down on the nearest (and the one on the end) leaving our lumberjacking soldier to sit in the lesser, fully surrounded seat.
I love a free newspaper and am eternally disappointed that the London Lite, and specifically the Far Side cartoons, are no longer in my life. Lieutenant Lumberjack likes the freebies too and spied a business man sitting reading an Evening Standard, with a second on his lap. We have all done it, taken a second copy for someone at home, a flatmate, the bloke in that shop or the ill neighbour (unlikely to be the latter in London, anywho…). Mr Business Man was called, actually shouted, upon to relinquish the second copy, with arms a-groping at him, which he quickly did, to a torrent of head shaking and audible disappointment from Sergeant Social.
Sitting forward in his seat, knees spread to support his reading elbows and with aggressive page turning, the second copy was read, quickly. Too quickly to actually be read. I think the pictures are easier to understand; perhaps I’ll try it next time.
A lovely story of love and hate, a snigger and a business man. The point was that it made me think as I watched the paper being watched: why on earth did he think that was the correct way to go on acting? I think he was right in some ways. I was in his way and could have continued to be if I were not disembarking, the seat may have been the wrong seat if he sat in that one, and the paper may well have not been read if it were not for his heroic warbling and fumbling. Lucky paper.
On the flip and, arguably less insightful, side: was he attention seeking? I doubt it. His clothes were not attention seeking so much as people repelling, and there are better ways of getting attention than being mean.
Mean is easy though, so was he a bit dim? Probably not Phd material, although I don’t know of course, but he seemed to be quite a thinker if not in the ‘right’ way at least.
Annoyed that a free magazine was not available to him when obviously surplus? Probably, although more a reflection of him being unable to admit that he should look after himself. He obviously boarded expecting there to be a free paper, as opposed to just making sure he had one beforehand. Responsibility? Not for him; it was that guy’s fault he had no paper. Obviously: the shirt-monkey told him so.
He may have felt a bit oppressed, he was after all outwardly stomping out his ground. So animalistic then? Maybe. Entitled to be where he was? Rightly so, of course.
Possibly just not eloquent or socially capable enough to express his entitlement? Perhaps, but then he seemed to be content in putting others in their place.
Seeing as he was more likely to show disappointment with others’ behaviour, I resolved to think he genuinely thought he was doing the right thing.
Content with this conclusion and pleased with the resoundingly obvious fact that I could at least express myself enough not to be mean and intrusive to others, I stood up as the carriage was pulled into my stop and I wandered out with that wry smile which let slip that I was a much, much more polite person.
As I stepped out of the doors at my stop, my long, suit covering overcoat blew up in the underground wind as I checked my gold rimmed wrist watch to ensure I was still on time, my iPhone switched classical song and my freshly polished leather heeled shoes clicked into step and I felt a hard bump from the right as I drifted into the stream of queuers for the escalator. Surprisingly perturbed, I moved my shoulder with a pointed and exaggerated shrug and clouted a lady full on in the bag, so she had to whisk her feet back. I was entirely grumpy I had to encounter one more of these people haters and had, fairly my mind was telling me, retaliated.
It turns out she had slipped over slightly and her bumping into me was completely unintentional and, suddenly and without any real idea why, I was wearing a checkered shirt and my sleek shoes became heavy, broken, fake and unstitched, and a much smarter man walked past with distant distain and smiled at himself.
Shame on me, but at least I have taken notice and will be paying as much attention to myself as I purport to pay to others.