We have enjoyed one of the best summers on record in London. I’ve had few reasons to use public transport. That was until my last week when I decided to make two journeys – one by tube and the other by bus. Both journeys reminded me why I choose to cycle.
Swimming is another one of my hobbies. The idea of cycling uphill to get to the swimming pool just seemed silly to me. It would inevitably leave me with too little energy for the swim which was the actual purpose of my trip so I jumped on the bus and sat at the back – window seat. The bus had just started to move off when another woman at the back took out a back of freshly cooked chicken drumsticks from the Sainsbury’s rotisserie section. She then proceeded to chomp down on those poor buggers, one drumstick at a time with absolutely zero regard for the smells that were now invading every inch of the back of the bus. Add this to the potent combination of heat from the back engine and the general poor air quality in London during summertime and it was just a little too much for me. I stayed put, knowing that the chicken would not live much longer the way she was devouring it. I don’t know her story so I can’t and won’t judge her for her eating habits. I just wish she would have had a little mercy on the rest of us and taken care of business before getting on the bus.
Five minutes into this now too long journey and the smell of chicken is still strong. An elderly man to the right of me decides that now is the time to inject a little music into this delightful scene. The air is obviously not lively enough and another invasion of territory is called for. There is an attitude which prevails a lot on buses these days. It goes a little something like this:
I am not happy with just me listening to my music. I want you all to join in the fun with me. Yes, that means you too, miss, don’t think I didn’t see you trying to hide away in the corner. My music is the dog’s ………. and you need to know this too.
So, I and my fellow passengers were treated to the sounds of some reggae tune that would probably have been better appreciated at the Carnival than it was on that bus. Now a part of me feels like a killjoy but I don’t understand when people lost the key to the door called ‘common courtesy’. There is little left of the two CCs on public transport these days. In the past 5 months, I have had to ask 3 men (one over the age of 30 and the other 2 in their 40s) to lower the volume. Not to turn their bleeding racket off, but just to lower it so I and my fellow passengers could fall into the bed of weariness which our bodies were motioning us towards.
I didn’t feel like asking another man to turn his music down so I took myself, my grumbles and my swimming gear to the top floor. I had about a minute of peace before a young girl decided to come on the bus and tell the entire top deck about her dead cousin who’s grave she swears on and the argument she was having with someone else and yadda yadda yadda who cares.
When you are in a small space, you have two options: endure the bullcrap or get the heck out of dodge. Actually, the third option which was to confront the individual who has no regard for anyone else is also a viable option but not always the wisest. London is a city where one wrong look can turn into a funeral (a slight exaggeration but you get my drift). I know that oftentimes it’s not what you say but how you say it that makes the difference. I could have been nice and asked politely that she shut her mouth and give the rest of us some peace but I just had no patience.
My final grumble was like something out of a comedy sketch:
It’s a Friday night. Sally-Ann is on the tube returning from a long journey up north. She takes the first clean seat she come to on the tube. A few seats away from her, a man looks like he has poured double cream all over his mouth and she wonders if his mind has gone or whether there is another explanation for this sight on a London tube. A few stops later, three barely 20-something year olds board the tube – two men and one girl. High in spirits and probably weed too from the smell of one of the men who sits next to her. They begin talking about Insecure quite loudly, loudly enough for Sally-Ann to have to re-read the last line of a newspaper article five times. They ask a passenger whether she has watched Insecure before then they spend a few minutes talking about the programme and laughing loudly.
That I can manage. But then the conversation moves on – to ‘fuckboys’.
The girl in the group asks one of the boys how many girls he’s currently having sex with. He says four but that’s fine he continues, because the girls are also allowed to sleep with other guys if they want. They then begin to disagree about what exactly a ‘fuckboy’* is. It’s at this point where things become a little surreal. The height of their voices is just a little too tall for me given my fatigue so I move seats. They stay put and begin canvassing opinions – from other passengers!!!!
‘What do you think? What’s a fuckboy?’, one of the men asks a random passenger who I was sitting next to just a few minutes ago.
‘A fat boy? F-A_T?’, she asks
‘No, a fuckboy’, the man repeats.
At this point, one a passenger who is standing up begins to laugh. Hard.
I’d do the same but I’m not finding it funny. Fatigue makes me grumpy in the same way hunger makes some angry.
I don’t flip out, or intervene and nor do I need to. The third in the group, a weed boy, who’s been pretty quiet throughout the journey, begins to try to calm his loud friend down. He tells him he’s taken it a little too far and almost seems embarrassed – an ‘I don’t know you’ kind of embarrassment. Throughout the whole exchange, he’s been pretty quiet. I think it’s the weed, which he is reeking of but maybe I’m wrong and maybe it’s just his nature.
Either way, this is the final straw in my tube nightmare and all I can say as I get off the tube (internally of course), is ‘ Thank God for my bike’.
- apologies in advance for the vulgarity but like Childish Gambino might say ‘This is Lon-din-nium’
** if you know what on earth it is (though it seems a little obvious), well done sticker for you.