Monday, March 22, 2010

An encounter with an arse

A young bloke got on the commuter train this morning. I'm guessing 18. You don't see many people that age on the train, not early on anyway. He sat there tearing up an old season ticket and then rolling it carefully into roaches. After a couple of stops he started playing music from his phone. Not through headphones. Just into the carriage. The middle-aged woman sitting opposite him, who was using headphones, asked him to turn it down. He just stared at her, like the very essence of insolence. She asked him repeatedly. "No," he said. "I don't feel like it." Various people weighed in in support of the woman but because nobody was offering to either stop the train or threaten him with physical violence he wasn't persuaded. He just sat there pointlessly spoiling the day for a bunch of people. I don't know what you do about people like that.


  1. I don't know the answer as I am a middle aged woman. Not that middle aged woman. I fancy it would make a good tv programme though. Say, 3 different approaches to dealing with such behaviour, candid camera style. See what mayhem ensues. We might find an unexpected answer in there somewhere.

  2. Perhaps if everyone directed swear words and insults in a very calm manner at him it would fill up the carriage with offensive noise as well. At least he wouldn't get to hear his own offensive noise.

    "Bastard. Twat. Sphincter face. Ed Balls." etc.

  3. I guess 18 is still young enough to be testing boundaries and flexing your personal power. His opening response to the request was a flat refusal. Doubtless he wondered what would happen next, and suspected the answer would be "nothing". He was proved right - nobody was willing to take it to the next level of either direct physical action (e.g. grabbing his phone), or summoning some kind of authority figure (guard, cop, ...). So he won. Guess he learned a useful lesson from that little encounter: stubborn selfishness beats polite reasonableness every time. Not my personal philosophy of life, but it seems to have served him well on this occasion.

  4. I think it's a mistake to try to understand this kind of behaviour. "Testing boundaries" is surely just a more sophisticated way of saying "being a pillock". He wasn't rubbing people up the wrong way as a consequence of his actions. His actions were *designed* to rub people up the wrong way, and in this case he didn't even have the usual excuse of doing it to show off in front of his mates (the overwhelming majority of this kind of behaviour is in company). If you start the day doing that, how much bad feeling are you going to have caused by the end of the day?

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  6. There is certainly a generation of people who have gone through childhood, school and whatever came next and have never had their actions questioned. I think all of us were like this at some point in our lives but somewhere along the way we got slapped down and had the error of our ways pointed out to us; by parents, teachers etc.

  7. I'd sit down right next to him and start getting REALLY into the music. Head-banging, putting my head around his shoulders, encouraging him to "let loose, bro" or something like it. "Are you too young to feel the beat?"

    And always refer to the youngsters music as "groovy" or similar.

    Now, I might not have the courage to actually do these things, but I sure enjoy the idea of doing them.

  8. Me too, Stian. I also find saying 'That's a smashing tune! Is it Al Bowlly?', singing along, or warbling my own, louder version of Bring Me Sunshine works a treat.And yes, I actually DO these things. Makes me look like a mentallist, but they don't like me doing it, so I think I make my point.

    (word verification: subrunly. I wish that was a real word, I like it)

  9. I agree with Stian above. My response to these situations is generally to start singing along, as loudly and as tunelessly as possible.

    Often worth the brief sacrifice of personal dignity that results.

  10. I'm guessing he wasn't playing Sigur Ros?

  11. I'm not gonna suggest what you should do, cause I agree with you. Not a lot can be done.

    Just wanna say, what a lovely structure your missal had.

  12. I'm with stian, clair and JM. Hugh Dennis used to do a running gag in the Mary Whitehouse experience, "Hey! What's that?! It's got a great beat" followed by arse-wavy Dad dancing to shame the most truculent of teenagers.

    Alternatively a cattle prod, administered not to the "youth" but to his phone.

  13. When he grows up he'll become a builder and be dumping asbestos pipes down our Country Lane like the Arse who did that this morning.

  14. Ah. This is an easy fix.

    Construct a time machine. Travel back to 1962. Burn down Abbey Road studios.

    No Beatles hits. No pervasive belief that young people own the Universe. No successive generations of soft left graduates in education and social work promoting a culture of rights without concomitant responsibilities.

    Now. If there are no other problems I'll have my nap now.

  15. Taking the offender by the EAR and speaking very slowly and loudly into it, is quite effective, I have found.

    It's a technique taught to me by example, by my teachers, at a provincial Grammar school - in the 70's, of course!

  16. Has anyone considered WHY phone manufacturers provide this function in the first place?

    The sound from phone speakers is SO tinny, SO poor, that it is essentially rhythmic white noise. The listener CANNOT be listening for their own pleasure. In the days of transistor radios, we held them against our ear to try and improve the sound from speakers ten times the size. This sound is SO poor that I cannot believe people are using it for listening pleasure - it is purely being used as a public statement. (People who want to listen to the music use earpieces.)

    In which case, the manufacturers are colluding in something which is not a matter of privacy, or even musical taste - they are providing the means for public nuisance. Are they not?

  17. Stian's got it right.

    Mind you the last time a lad of 15 or 16 upset the whole carriage on a train I was on I did react rather rashly. He sat annoying most of the carriage smoking his spliff, swearing loudly, intimidating people, upsetting a young couple after they tried the befriending approach, "We are like you we are you mates etc." Well he then decided to sit opposite me, he starred at me for a long time, as if he was about to belt me so I turned around so he could not stare. His music blared out and he was smoking purposely over me aware that I was not happy with his behavior. I had just stopped smoking so I asked him in a friendly and polite tone to put it out, and turn his music down as I had just stopped smoking and I would grateful if he did. He gave me a filthy stare ignored me and kept on with his music and then called me a f+*king bald old C@*t under his breath so I could just hear it.

    Caught in moment of a sudden surge of an "I've just stopped smoking", blood boil I turned around and punched him in the face as hard as I could and that worked really well.

    Astonished he asked me why I smacked him in the face and picked on him? Expressing it was not fair. Holding him firmly by the ear I warmly proceed to share some words of wisdom about fairness and tell him about the ills of bad behavior and the positive life enhancing aspects self discipline and respect. How it might not have happened if he treated people with respect and used the manners he must have. If he did not learn to behave someday someone like me might do more than punch him in the face and that I was like him when I was 15 and was forever glad someone had stopped me behaving terribly before I got into really serious trouble. I was a tough kid and I nearly got put away but I never threatened an adult..Thankfully I listened and did something creative with my problems and I'm glad I have a good career and life. If he had problems he needed to find someone good to talk with them about not take it out on us. So for his own sake he best change or no doubt there will be another one of me someday on the train. I asked him to look at the faces of people he'd upset on the train. Their faces said it all. He said he was sorry.

    I got a round of applause from the train carriage.

    Not a recommended way to resolve things but in this case extremely rewarding.

  18. 18 seems a little old to be "testing boundaries" - my 3 year old does that.

    By 18 you should know where the boundaries are.

  19. I've never tried this, but I think it could be quite effective to take a picture of him.

    Perhaps mention that you've got a blog and you'll use the picture there - It's invading his personal space in the same way that he's invading yours and as much as he may shrug it off, I think on some level it would bother him and make him think twice about his actions.

    At the very least it introduces a level of accountability for his actions, and it's better than resorting to violence.

    It also might make people on the tube feel better that at least this arse-ish behaviour is being recorded somewhere...

  20. Very few people challenge this sort of behaviour, but when they do the reaction is either a) The yoof backs down in dramatic fashion, or, b) someone gets a slap.

    The risk of the latter far outweighs the hope of the former

  21. I've learned my lesson about approaching any child or teenager putting themselves or others in danger. Beyond being anti-social.J ust being bloody stupid and reckless.

    For my trouble I was accused of assault (not guilty but accused nonetheless) and ended up having to apologise to the poor darlings who had broken into my neighbours house/building site for 'upsetting them'. Seems you can't suggest to kids that breaking into a building site is 'a f***ing stupid thing to do and to f*** off out of my neighbours house before I call the police'.

    Never again. I walk on by and let someone else deal with it. I'm never going through that again.

    Is that wrong ? Bloody right it is but I'm fecked if I'm going to put myself in that situation again.