Tag Archives: public-transport

Cowardice on public transport

NaBloPoMo November 2012Travelling home from central London on a train yesterday, a bunch of eight of drunken louts got on our carriage and proceeded to spend the rest of the journey loudly singing racist and misogynist football chants (I say football, but in doing so will possibly now get loud complaints about how it has nothing to do with the culture that pervades football; it is and you know it). And aside from a tweet and the odd grimace, I did nothing.

I spent the rest of the journey home fantasising about how I should have stood up in the midst of their 5th rendition of “I’d rather be a Paki than a Yid”, announcing that I was a Jew and that they ought to be ashamed of themselves, but the fact is I didn’t (I’m not actually Jewish by the way, but I figured I could pull that off more easily than claiming to be from Pakistan). Nor did I do anything when a bunch of kids started abusing my bus driver earlier in the day for threatening to kick one of their friends off for not having the fare on his Oyster card (he actually gave in to them but still got heaped with abuse). Nor did I stick up for the passenger on my bus on Friday who told off a girl for putting her feet on the seat and got verbally assaulted by the girl and her two adult friends (possibly parents) for the rest of the journey.

I like to think I’m not a moral coward, but I’ve not exactly availed myself well recently. The worst I would have got from taking a stand in the bus incidents is a bit of abuse. In the case of the train incident, I’d have risked a physical beating but statistically speaking that probably wouldn’t have happened – and if it did, even then it would arguably have been worth it. At least that way there’d now be facing criminal charges.

Standing up to antisocial behaviour might not get you very far in the short term, but it probably doesn’t take very much to get these people to think twice in future. In the case of the girl and the group of boys, you could see the fear in their eyes – their displays of bravado were because they were terrified not because they were especially angry.

We’re probably just a few harsh words away from making our journeys on public transport a significantly better experience, and yet most of us do nothing. I sort of understand the psychological reasons for that, but ultimately I don’t really find that to be much of an excuse.

Ho hum. At least I don’t have to feel good about it. That’s at least something. Maybe next time.

Remembering 7/7

Was it really four years ago? I have two abiding memories of the day.

The first was my journey into work. I got to Finchley Central only to find the trains weren’t working. Grumbled. Jumped on a bus to Golders Green. Got a bus to Golders Green. Got a number 30 once I reached Baker Street. Throughout my bus journey I was sending snarky text messages about the uselessness of public transport. It was only a little further down the road that I got a panicky phone call from my girlfriend ordering me to get off the bus.

Fortunately it wasn’t that number 30 (indeed I wouldn’t have got the phone call in time if it had been). I carried on my journey to work only to find that the Euston area was completely cordoned off. With no phone reception, I had no idea what was going on at that point. It just seemed surreal.

I do occasionally idly speculate what might have happened if I’d got out of bed half an hour earlier that morning (on a related note, I was meant to be in Manchester city centre performing, um, street theatre, on the morning of 15 June 1996 but decided to have a lie in instead; similarly, I planned to go to the cinema at the Brixton Ritzy on the evening of 15 April 1999 but got sidetracked writing an article – I’ve been a bit of a jammy, if lazy, bugger all told).

Having got to work at last, I monitored the news a bit, spectacularly failed to do anything productive and eventually decided to start the journey home. With the whole tube network out of action, it was no mean feat.

This may not sound like a particularly sensitive thing to say, but my overwhelming sense of the day was quite happy. Seeing the commuting population of a city the size of London walking home, with virtually no traffic, was plain surreal and most of us felt the same way. It was a strangely unifying experience. People were making eye contact and even talking with complete strangers. There was an enormous swell of community spirit.

I’m sure the experience for those more immediately involved in the bombings was nothing like this, but for the rest of us the sense was relief and comaraderie more than panic. It was a unique experience and one I won’t forget.

UPDATE: Hmmm… a little worried this article might make me sound dismissive of all the horror and tragedy of that day. I really don’t mean to sound that way. What I’m trying to get across is that a) I was bloody lucky and b) the bulk of the human race – at least the ones in London – are decent, sensible people who behaved well on that day and gave me a glimmer of hope for humanity more generally.

A lesson for us all, I feel

With the Atheist Bus Campaign now at £38,000 and climbing, Peter Black asks:

Wouldn’t all this money committed on both sides of the argument have been better spent on actually helping people have a good Christmas, the homeless for example?

Allow me to quote Matthew 26:6-13 (lolcats version):

6 So Jebuz was outside in Bethany, inside the house of Simon the lepr,7 Woman popped up wif can of tuna, and poured oilz on his head, as he sitted at cheezburger.8 But when his bfz sees it, thays angry, saying, Y to waste?9 Dis oilz might have been sold for much, and give to other kittehz wif no cheezburgerz.

10 Jebuz thinkz n sez, Y U freekn? she knows I like oilz.11 Always kittehz wif no cheezburgers; but I go bai, k?12 Thatz Y she pour on the tuna oilz, 4 2 bury mee.13 I sez 2 U, wen teh bibul iz told, it wil say wut shes dun 4 me. Shez cool. U suck.

Wise words, wise words.