Tuesday, 21 July 2009
Society offenders who might well be underground
I am walking down the main street on my way to a cafe to spend some time with a friend. Usually I'd drive but decide to walk, so as to get fitter and to toughen up for my forthcoming trip, and to help break in some new shoes. My handbag is on my back, backpack mode. Inside it is a heavy jar of Seville Orange jelly, which I am giving to my friend. To lighten the load I hook my thumbs through the straps. This results in my elbows protruding slightly from my body. However, I am walking in a straight line, and keeping to the left.
All of a sudden a man on a bicycle whisks by. He turns his head and yells at me " You nearly poked my eye out." Of course he is way past me before I think of the appropriate response, and I feel livid. He has approached me from behind. He makes no noise as he approaches and passes me. In other words, I have no idea anyone is close by. He is obviously dangerously close to me and could have knocked me over. What is more, he is riding illegally on the footpath. Yet he thinks I have (almost) done him an injury! Bloody cheek.
All of which demonstrates how ready some people can be to take offence. (I should probably include myself in this category. Mea culpa.)
Unfortunately there is daily evidence of people failing to give due consideration to others in the public sphere. Once upon a time, in Australia, where we drive on the left side of the road, we also walked along the footpath on the left side of the road. ( I am told that in the UK, notwithstanding that they drive on the left, when walking they keep to the right. How confusing!) Keeping to the left is so ingrained in me that when I go to Italy I have to stop myself from walking on the left side of the road. Walking to the bus stop is a hazardous procedure. First of all you have to dodge the chairs and tables of the outdoors seating of the numerous cafes. These take up half the width of the footpath. Then you have to dodge the mothers and little children who meander all over the footpath, as well as those who stop to have lengthy chats without getting out of the way first. I am reasonably sympathetic to them, as I know that getting about with small children prams and shopping is difficult, but it is also evident that sometimes they could take more trouble. Additionally you have to deviate from the left because people -mostly men - barge through on the left. It never seems to occur to them that foot traffic would move more smoothly if people did not get in each other's way.
At the bus stop there is often rubbish on the ground - takeaway coffee cups, food containers, and cigarette butts, despite there being a rubbish bin several metres away - too far away! The school children who pass my house each day evidently come from families where no breakfast is provided - although perhaps they are having a second breakfast. Generally they are munching on hamburgers or something else from Subways, or pastries from Baker's Delight, and are drinking large Cokes or other soft drinks. They are certainly not munching on fruit. Naturally they do not take the rubbish to a bin, but dump it on the street, or in my tiny front garden. When they finish school each day, they are in urgent need of more takeaway sustenance. Similarly mothers collecting their children from primary school immediately stoke up their children. They must all be spending huge amounts on takeaway food, irrespective of economic recessions.
Once on the bus, if I am lucky enough to get a seat, there are times when I have to sit beside a man. Usually he is bigger than me, and his legs are spread comfortably apart. He is taking up more than his fair share of the seat, and is invariably remarkably reluctant to squash himself up a bit, perhaps in case his crown jewels or tackle get damaged. His subconscious - and indeed his conscious - clearly believes that he is more entitled to space than any mere female. If there are vacant seats available, I watch where women choose to sit. They won't sit next to a man if they can help it, as they know full well that there will be a failure to share space. Instead they approach the spare space next to a woman, who automatically and obligingly will move over. The other interesting thing I notice is that when I am offered a seat, it is far more likely to be offered by a young woman than by a man.
While I am happily grumbling away, let me also mention, in an indignant and injured tone, the ubiquitous and deplorable practice of cafes and restaurants playing revolting music at a volume which seriously inhibits conversation. Do they not understand that people meet in cafes to see friends and to talk to each other, and in order to do so they need to be able to hear the voices of their companions? It should not be necessary to have to ask for the music to be turned down. Reluctantly they comply, but often they turn it up again. So everyone has to shout, and thus the noise gets even worse.
In large department stores such as Myer's different sections play different music , all competing at high volume, resulting in an absolute cacophony. Shops broadcast loud pop music not only within their premises but to the outside as well. The din is horrific and makes me want to screech. Presumably lots of people either don't mind or - appalling thought - like the din. Many take their loud music into parks or onto beaches, and blast it into the ambient air and the unfortunate eardrums of anybody and everyone who is within a kilometre radius, never pausing to consider whether it is right and just to inflict their musical choice on the rest of the populace. I think it is not. I just want to crawl away into a sound-proofed hole and lie there shuddering until I recover.
I am off to bed now, and will listen awhile to soft and beautiful classical music. Goodness me, everyone would get a shock if I took a ghetto blaster with me into public spaces, and broadcast Wagner, or Mahler at top volume at them. I reckon it would not only be fun, but payback! I am seriously tempted!