Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Brief Encounter

Coming out of the station this evening I was confronted by a young man coming the other way. Track suit. Hood up. I know you have the picture. There was limited room between a lamp post and a parked car and for some reason I didn't let him through first. Consequently he had to check his step for about a third of a second. I could see he had made a comment. I took off my headphones and said "I'm sorry?"
He turned and said, with some venom, "watch where you're fucking going!" He didn't mutter it. I've rarely been talked to in a more aggressive manner.
I wasn't going to start a fight. He would have killed me. I was surprised but I managed to smile and say "very nice to meet you".
He went off. It didn't go any further.
What could possess a young guy to front up like that against a middle-aged commuter in a suit? How angry is he and about what? If he can get that cross about having to check his step, in an incident that involved no physical contact whatsoever, how is he going to deal with the other small frustrations that life will put in his way? How will he react to a baby who won't sleep?


  1. You know better than to get your Dear Readers started on this one, David. But all I'll add is that this is a generation who just want what they want, and bugger everyone else. If your new mate had met an identical bloke, they'd have ended up stabbing each other.

    Good on you for the witty reposte.

  2. This idiots parents are probably part of the first generation that have gone through a period of almost endless adolescence,
    with no defined transition or rites of passage from teenager to adult. So surly scowly teenagers become surly scowly teenadults. And like some teenagers, in a permanent strop as 'it's always someone else's fault' ' it's so unfair' ...........

    I wouldn't imagine he goes home and listens to Norah Jones or Nick Drake. Unfortunately the music he'll listen to, the tantrum TV he'll watch - documentaries and dramas, and the behavior he'll have picked up from his parents will confirm and validate for him that his behavior is normal and acceptable.

  3. He's probably realised that with his "issues"; (a) he'll never have a decent job, so, (b) he'll never have a house, (c) etc etc.
    He's fucked himself up and he knows it. You were just a convenient kicking post, unfortunately.
    Anyway, you should have shot him for that, or coshed him with a bag of pound coins like a latter day Charles Bronson in Deathwish 18.
    As your local cabbie will tell you, it's the the only language they understand.

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  5. Teenagers! *tsk* Thank god we were never one or, if we were, we always behaved with perfect manners towards our elders and betters.

  6. He wasn't a teenager. He would have been about 23.

  7. Something similar happened to me just makes my blood boil, there's always been people like the guy you encountered, but now they are not the exception unfortunately. It's best to move on and ignor, or lord knows what might happen!

  8. I had a similiar incident once in the fine city of Liverpool. I use a stick and I was entering a record shop and a guy was coming out of the door as I was going in he said "If you don't want the other leg broken get out of the fucking way". Now I'm the kind of chap that lets people in or out of doors first anyway and that was what I was doing at the time. He said it in a calm measured voice (which was more sinister than if he'd been aggresive) and I obviously got out of his way.

    I have no idea why he was so vicious. Maybe he'd had a bad experience with a disabled person when he was a child. Or maybe he was just violnet little twat.

  9. Anonymous8:59 am

    "Very nice to meet you" is always the right response. When some unreasonably deranged fellow motorist honks at me in traffic for no apparent reason, I always try to flash him (it's always a him) a two-fingered Woodstockian Peace Symbol. Oh, the beautiful confusion on his face! Mind you, I always make sure my car doors are firmly locked.

  10. The attitude of meeting every encounter with aggression must be quite draining. I've had reason to work with youth groups from time to time and they see their local area in totally different way to most of us, the whole of the borough is map out in weird "barrios" full of percieved violent encounters with other lads.
    Another problem is it's unlikely anyone ever say's anything nice to him as he has such a horrible attitude thus reinforcing his.

  11. Anonymous9:36 am

    A clip round the ear and a dressing down is what that young man required. I'd have sent him on his way with a boxed ear, I'll be bound (having obtained the name and address of his guardians in order that I might write a stiff letter regarding his surly behaviour).

    We must not let this threat linger! I carry a willow cane with me at all times should I ever be called upon to punish a disrespectful scallywag.

  12. There's a current thinking that if people apologise for doing something wrong, they'll be perceived as weak. Hence this man's rudeness. There's no real need for it, just that he had to have the upper hand.

    It's awful living in 2007.

  13. Anonymous11:15 am

    Jesus, have I been shipwrecked on Daily Mail island?

  14. It's hardly the Daily Mail, Peter. Most people on here seem to be at least trying to undestand why this young man was so angry. The Mail would have them rounded up and put on a prison ship. All 23-year-olds, that is.

  15. Anonymous4:30 pm

    I was just wrongfooted by the slight hand-wringing nature of this thread's comments. Perhaps I'm just an indifferent Londoner, or perhaps the leap from Hannah Montana to the collapse of civilisation was too large.

  16. you should have stabbed him. Biro in the neck, the only language etcetc

  17. I teach youths a few years younger than the gentleman you encountered David, with what is currently termed Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (EBD) amongst other problems. With new pupils at this time of the year, you find yourself wondering how they got to be so angry/fragile/anti-social. Sadly, as the year goes on and a picture of their upbringing and home life emerges, you're often left wondering how they're not even worse.
    (By the way, yes, I read the Guardian and Independent.)

  18. He's right, you know. I must be getting old, but when I was a nipper (sometime back in the 1780's), it was a rare kid that didn't get some kind of love at home. Now it seems it's a commodity in rare supply.

  19. What I like to watch are these numbskull thugs cross the street - especially when they get pissed off about the traffic getting in their way.

    When cars have to brake hard, I've seen the rancid twerps scream, shout and even kick the cars.

    The drivers should just turn on the wipers and put their food down. That way we'd all benefit.

    ....and relax.

  20. Nick,

    I understand that there are some angry young people out there. My sister works in the same kind of environment as you. However, there have always been children brought up in conditions that are not good but today (although my incident took place ten years ago) some young people don't seem to have any civility. I don't really 'blame the parents' either. It is society. We are told to go out and get what we want and damn the consquences. Our 'role models' (footballers, X Factor contestance, rock stars) behave dreadfully and are lauded in the press for doing so. So to a section of our young it becomes acceptable to behave as if they are the most important thing in the world and the rest of us can go f**k ourselves.

    I have never, ever read the Daily Mail and am in fact a whinging pinko bleeding heart liberal. Hanging's too good for me.

  21. I agree completely, Marmiteboy. My comment was just one observation on an aspect of the matter, not an attempted summing up of the problem and its causes.

    I must confess to having a bit of a Daily Mail moment recently. I'd just got home from a bad day at school, which had included running a football club session full of whining, cheating and aggression in which sportsmanship (and fun) was impossible. I turned on the TV to see a children's programme based around a design competition. One team of children was announced the winners, and they immediately set about goading the defeated team - losers, ha ha etc, etc, clearly encouraged by the programme makers.
    Admittedly not a tipping point in the breakdown of society, but it broke the camel's back and so I wrote a stiff email to the programme's makers. Here's a bit of the pathetic, depressing and very revealing reply:

    "Over the years there has been a substantial change in the style and presentation of children's programmes. However, such changes tend to be a reflection of changes in society. The BBC must remain in touch with its audience and responsive to its needs. If we were to fail to do this, we would soon loose[sic] our viewers to other broadcasters..."

    "It is precisely the elements that grown-ups object to in today's children's programmes that make them so popular with their intended audience."

    In some ways this reply is like a Tiswas custard pie slapped in the face of Mary Whitehouse (a very appealing concept). But the idea that TV can only reflect society rather than influence it positively is a massive underestimation of its power and potential.
    Or is it just that I've now completed a metamorphosis from Jonny Rotten into Bill Grundy?

  22. Well said Nick, I applaud you for the challenge.
    The inane BBC reply, however, summarises the problem that arises when those of us who value - and love - the BBC run into big trouble when we try to justify and defend it.
    "What's the difference between a BBC programme and any other" people say, "except that the BBC version costs us XX per year on a compulsory basis".
    As if subscription implied editorial ownership...
    There are 100 plus other digital channels who need to do no more than 'reflect the world they find' and 'respond to their needs' (whatever misguided needs they might be), in order to fill airtime.
    But for the BBC to capitulate like this is clearly unacceptable and is quite probably in contravention of the BBC Charter.
    A demonstrable committment for the BBC would be to set about providing the kind of service (and yes, square alert! square alert! whoop! whoop!) that others cannot or will not supply, and raise the bar in all areas from creative to morality.
    Because if they don't no-one else will. And if the benchmark is taken away, any residual 'standards' from others will disappear like dew before the sun.
    If the BBC really need another reason, then consider the 'me above all' attitude they pander to now; will that generation of viewers be willing to pay a licence fee in 5, 10, 15 years time? I doubt it.

  23. Yes, I'm a staunch defender of the BBC too, or at least the BBC ideal. The most disturbing part of the programme maker's reply for me was the implication that to "loose[sic] our viewers to other broadcasters" was the worst possible scenario and to be avoided at any cost.
    It's like some deluded older relative trying to impress the kids by swearing (and struggling for what today's programme makers would term "relevance").

  24. I imagine he was angry because he was listening to that crap Radiohead album his Dad told him about and regretting the loss of 45 pence he could have spent on 50 cent, if you get me.

  25. On the other hand, you may have come across as jumped up pantry boy who didn't know his place.