I had a very pleasant afternoon on Sunday. I hosted a Guided Pub Tour, which went well, then I set about visiting all 16 pubs participating in the Gloucester Heritage Pubs Beer Festival. I didn’t drink in all of them, but I did have the odd half here and there. At the end, therefore, I was pleasantly relaxed but (unlike Saturday evening) not totally plastered. It was in this happy state that I found my way to the bus and things took a turn for the worse.
In front of me in the queue was an attractive young girl probably in her early 20s and, travelling separately, a chap of about the same age with a young child. Being drunk to a sociable level, I struck up a brief conversation and it transpired that they were none too happy about one of the passengers further back in the queue and, in particular, their use of bad language.
Now I’m now angel when it comes to bad language, so I just nodded sympathetically and though nothing more of it. Once on the bus we all made for the top deck and sat down. A short time later, the person that they had been complaining about also arrived on the top deck, with a friend, and sat toward the back of the bus.
The guy in question looked rough. He was heavily muscled in a way that suggested more than a passing acquaintance with the gym, and he wore a vest all the better to display the over-pumped biceps and rippling shoulders. His friend was less physically intimidating, but no less rough looking.
As they sat down the young chap got up with his son and headed downstairs, loudly proclaiming that he had to take his son away from users of such bad language. This gave me the opportunity to hear the language first hand. As I say, I am no angel in the swearing department, but I have to agree with them – this was totally unnecessary. I have rarely heard such a tirade of F and C words strung together into a (barely coherent) sentence.
And it wasn’t just the language that concerned me, but also the malice and anger – and, somehow, the righteous indignation: who was this f***ing c*** to tell him how he f***ing should or shouldn’t f***ing talk.
At this point, rather ill-advisedly I thought, the girl leapt in to support the man and heap in her own condemnation. This brought about a renewed tirade; they obviously had no qualms about shouting at a girl. And this went on for some time; shouting finally giving away to ranting, then a loud, incredulous conversation between the two men and finally a low-level grumbling.
So, what was I doing whilst all this was going on? I was keeping a low profile, that’s what. And I hated myself for it. I didn’t hide under my seat or put my head down and stare at my shoes, but I failed to leap to anyone’s defence. I tried to maintain what I fondly thought was a confident and assertive but non aggressive demeanour and let the thing play out.
Of course, what I wanted to do was tell them to shut up, mind their language and leave the poor girl alone. Perhaps pick on someone their own size. The problem is, whereas I assessed they were unlikely to resort to physical violence against the girl, I was less confident that they would have any qualms in using such violence against me. Had they resorted to violence I would like to think that I would have attempted to intervene, but who knows how you will react in such a situation until it presents itself.
It is at times like this that those movies flash through my head: characters usually played by the likes of Jackie Chan, Jean Claude Van Damme, Jason Statham or, the original, David Carradine, would sit quietly, biding their time, then, once sufficiently provoked, beat the living daylights out of the bad guys without breaking a sweat. I would love to do that. The trouble is I am a middle-aged, middle-class civil servant with all of the fighting skills that description suggests. Discretion, therefore, is generally the better part of valour.
I am annoyed though that these idiots with muscles everywhere, most notably between their ears, can bring my pleasant afternoon crashing down and make me feel like a coward. It’s like being in the playground with the school bully all over again.
We shouldn’t have to put up with these people – Blakey would have sorted them out!
Right, where’s the nearest self defence class…?