I was on the tube on Friday travelling to Finsbury Park from Waterloo, normally a pain-free and relatively hassle-free experience. I was sat, after a short break, with my suitcase wedged between my legs and my back on my lap. The carriage was empty, commuters long gone for the day and the party revellers not yet embarked on an evening of mayhem and merriment.
As we reached the first station the carriage filled up with commuters who’d worked late and tourists clearly unaware this tube was for Finsbury Park. We were wedged in, barely room to move. I pulled my belongings close to make room for the couple sat opposite me and they exchanged a fleeting glance that said “who the fuck are you and why are you looking at me, you dick.”
We continued along until we arrived at the next station where travellers were swapped and mixed up. Amongst the new throng was an elderly lady with a stick who asked the lady sat nearest the doors if she could sit down. The lady dutifully stood up while those crammed in the centre of the carriage nodded our approval. This was society at its best, protecting the weak and vulnerable, offering a seat, appraising the situation and finding the best solution.
However one woman was not happy with the situation, not happy at all. She glared at me across the carriage before saying in home counties RP, “Are you not going to offer that woman your seat?”
Silence passed over the tube compartment and the other passengers stared at me, awaiting a response.
“Yes, I will” I said, slightly thrown by her aggressive manner and starting to gather my bits and pieces, bags and newspapers together, offering my seat to the lady who had sacrificed her seat to the elderly woman with the stick.
“Well are you going to move then?” crowed the unhappy bint RP woman, clearly reveling in her position as guardian of the underground and protector of seats.
It was at this point I got pissed off, a little too pissed off, and, well, I’m not proud of what happened next. I mean, how dare she pick on me, I wasn’t in a good position to offer my seat, I’d got on first, I had bags, I was wedged in, I was neither the youngest, most male or closest person to help, but she’d picked on me! Sure I am a fit and healthy human being, but so were about 9 other people nearer her, a couple even had trainers on. I have a beard for fucks sake, I need all the help I can get, I clearly aren’t going to be the fittest of our species. What the hell. Something had to be done, this mini-Hitler of the underground had to be put in her place.
The crowd stared at me, waiting for me to move as I scrambled to get my bits together.
“Well?” she demanded, a look of contempt in her face.
“Sorry” I said staring at her straight in the eye, “I would be faster, but I’ve got really bad problems with my hips”.
A gasp rang through the carriage, eyes darted from me to the unhappy bint RP woman whose color faded from her face. 40 pairs of eyes landed on her, the woman who was mean to the poor injured man with a suitcase and bag.
And so, I stood up, slowly, creaking with every fibre of my body, and hobbled down the coach, wincing with every step – I even stifled a cough (a suggestion of some unnamed degenerative lung ailment that I also don’t have) – surrendering my seat, taking Lady Stalin the posh voiced idiot and putting her firmly in her place.
The kindly woman who’d stood for the elderly lady thanked me, assured me it wasn’t necessary but it was kind of me to make the sacrifice.
I arrived at my stop and limping from the train took one final glance into the carriage. The unhappy bint RP woman was stood, visibly shaken by how things had gone down, the rest of the carriage proud to have witnessed a heroic act – clapping with their eyes, the fear lifted and their faith restored. Even the couple opposite smiled at me.
I say I’m not proud of what I did…