Friday, April 22, 2005

Old ladies versus 'youths'

It seems to me that an inevitable part of living in a city is not merely the fact that you encounter large numbers of strangers on a daily basis, but that the relationship you have towards them shapes your very understanding of human worth - both theirs and yours. Take for example the indignant reaction of people in queues when someone pushes in. Previously a line of individuals unconcerned to communicate with each other, but then transformed by exchanges or mutterings about the taboo that's just been broken. Even if such exchanges fail to shame the person to go to the back of the queue, they are still very important because they reassure you that by and large the social norms that keep us civilised are being kept to because anyone that breaks them is chastised. You might cast a judgement on the person who pushed in as inconsiderate and selfish and in distinguishing yourself from such behaviour such incidents help to reiterate your sense of self worth because you wouldn't behave like that!!

So imagine the blow to my ego when an old lady the other day accused me of having bad manners. I was trying to get a newspaper from the counter of a shop and didn't realise until I had it in my hand that this old lady's purse was resting on it. As I slipped it out from underneath realising in the process what was happening, I said "Oops sorry". The response was a decidely frosty - "Be careful you don't knock my money to the floor."
"I said sorry", I pleaded but she wouldn't listen. "Bad manners, that's what it is", she muttered. I tried harder this time - "Look, I'm sorry, I was tired and not concentrating properly, I apologise" but she wouldn't turn to look at me and just walked off.

I had barely recovered from this assault on my perception of myself as a decent human being when I ran into some more trouble shortly after getting off the bus as I walked home. A male 'youth' sped past me on a bicycle, dressed in tracky bottoms and a hoody (you know the type) and I could hear his friends behind me making barely intelligible noises which indicated that I was in their way. Refusing to have my right to walk on the pavement taken away from me I just continued walking. As these kids managed to navigate round me I was greeted with, "Wots the matta, you def or sumint, didn't ya 'ear?" I'm afraid I find it very difficult not to respond in these situations and so I yelled after them "You should be riding in the road, not on the pavement!!!" to which came the following reply eloquently shouted from across the road - "Wot d'ya say BITCH!.......Wot d'ya say BITCH!......."

By now I was seriously starting to have reservations about humanity and wondered if the incident with the 'youths' was some kind of divine retribution to make up for the incident with the old lady.

Today however I managed to have two pleasant exchanges with elderly women and so my faith in myself has been restored!!! One was a kindly lady at a bus stop who obviously deemed me approachable enough to ask me for the time ....."Oh, is it really that late love, oh I've spent too long in Ilford, can't go where I where I was thinking of going now, no it's too late, oh isn't it windy, it's too windy isn't it, it was too hot the other day, now its too cold, I'm waiting for the 145, what bus you waiting for love? Oh we must've just missed one....Oh it is windy isn't it?" and so on and so forth.

The other old lady I spoke to less than an hour ago and greeted me with the words "Hello cherub" and so now I'm positively glowing with delight. OK so this one was my nan so I guess it doesn't count, but it's still nice to hear!! My nan's lovely, I miss my nan.


At 3:50 pm, Blogger meg said...

Another friendly old lady is Becky with talc in her hair. She seemed to spend half her childhood with talc in her hair. That's something we should look into when considering whether to continue being friends with her.

At 3:02 pm, Blogger I'm Over The Moon said...

That was just a rude old lady! Honestly some people have no grace in thier souls. to err is human etc....

At 10:54 pm, Blogger Katrina said...

Hmm....grace and souls. Would you like to define your terminology?

At 12:54 pm, Blogger Minnellium said...

I think it's a London thang. People are just sooOOoo miserable there when it comes to going about their daily lives. I know it's old hat to go on about this north/south thing, but (since I moved up north) people seem to have so much more time for you. But hoodies are hoodies, the country over.

At 3:39 pm, Blogger I'm Over The Moon said...

Except in Bluewater, where they are banned!
No, i'd really really not like to define my terminology! I'll just accidentally start some theological battle on your comments by mistyping something and inadvertantly offend eveyone by trying to be funny and forgetting there's no tone of voice in print!

At 8:25 pm, Blogger Katrina said...

Well, you meet friendly and unfriendly people wherever you go and I get annoyed by this stupid perception that Londoners are unfriendly. It all depends where you go in London and what time of day it is. Obviously no one has time for you during rush hour, but those very same people are probably the nice ones I meet on a Weekend or during their lunchbreak. I don't work up in town so I think I probably get to see the nicer side of Londoners - there is almost always someone at a bus stop who lets me on first, strangers seem to like sitting next to me on benches and engaging me in conversation, there was a nice man who helped me up off the floor when I fell over getting off a bus and a nice chap who made sure I was alright once when I narrowly escaped being run over! In return I watch out for women (or men sometimes) who need help carrying their buggies down stairs or on and off buses, run after parents whose babies have kicked off their shoes on the street, and try to smile at people when I pass them. Of course there are the not so nice people too but I don't think London's necessarily much worse than other places. If I did it wouldn't be such a shock to me when people are not so nice - the exceptions prove the rule as it were.

At 11:15 am, Blogger I'm Over The Moon said...

I think you're both right. People do have more time for you when the London's not getting to them so much, be that because they're not trapped in rush hour, because they're not in London, or (i found on friday when a south african girl on the bus gave me six music/media temping agencys' addresses) because they've not been here long enough to get sincerely bored of it! vive la foreigners overrunning the city etc etc!


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