Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Is civility dead?

I’ve discovered the reason why I can be deemed a Grumpy Young Woman. It really is so simple that I don’t know how I didn’t realise it before. I used to think that it was just the actions of other people that naturally left me seething, but I’ve come to the conclusion: I have the ability to soak up fury. Like some dodgy lotion that should be avoided because of the chemicals it contains, the bile seeps into me and settles into my organs.

This is why my aggravation is always worse when I am forced to use the London Underground. What is it about public transport that makes people act like lunatics? Why would anyone feel the need to do battle for a seat during a journey to a location where they will spend the day sitting down? In fact, the seat is so precious that it cannot possibly be offered to anyone who needs it more. In my experience, the culprit is invariably male and clad in a pin-stripe suit.

To make matters worse, men love to spread their legs in a concerted effort to occupy the seats either side of them, apparently to accommodate their substantial balls. Well, they have to do something now that the recession has made it uneconomical to fill the Porsche/Hummer/whatever with petrol.

“Apparently, it is easy to confuse public transport with your own living room.”

For the most part, the utter lack of common courtesy doesn’t appear intentional; it stems from an inability to recognise that there are other people around them. Egocentric somehow doesn’t seem to provide an adequate description. It is the only explanation for why anyone would open up a broadsheet in a position where it covers the book that their neighbouring passenger is reading. Apparently, it is easy to confuse public transport with your own living room.

Those who don’t make a mad dash for the seats can be equally annoying, but just in a different way. It is clearly too much trouble to stand out of the way of other passengers. Standing in the aisle and blocking empty seats is much more preferable.

Now I don’t remember myself as a teenager – it was much too long ago – but I’m sure I wasn’t as loud as those who seem to live at the back of the bus. Not only do they love the sound of their own voices; they think everyone else also loves it so much that they think nothing of singing aloud in public. Can you imagine – whole groups of teenagers singing? Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if they were tuneful, but even Simon Cowell’s botoxed face would form a frown if he heard it.

It doesn’t get any better when you decide to walk anywhere, because you have to contend with drivers who show little courtesy towards each other and even less for pedestrians. I’m sure the Highway Code says that a pedestrian has the right of way if they are in the process of crossing the road. It doesn’t say blow your horn at them and attempt to intimidate them with the car bumper.

In fact, the spirit of entitlement and selfishness is so bad that, not long ago, in a supermarket close to where I live, a man died after being attacked over an argument about a place in a queue. Had all parties involved remembered their manners and dealt with the matter in a civilised way, the whole tragic mess could have been avoided.

There are some glimmers of hope, though. A teenager held the door open for me at Wimbledon’s Centre Court. This is despite the fact that I was several steps behind her and she was perfectly within her rights to let the door go, but she saw me, stopped and held it open. Of course, I thanked her; I’m sure she thought it was only for the door, but it was actually for renewing my faith in youngsters!

The normally hateful chore of supermarket shopping was made a little better when an assistant offered me the opportunity to pick apples from a brand new pallet when he saw me attempting to choose from the shrivelled crap that was on the shelf – bless him for helping me get my five a day. I thanked him twice and skipped off to the checkout.

There are still signs of life – quick, pass the defibrillators! Read more by Shermaine.