Monday, 11 October 2010

Large Groups of Language Students. Discuss.

Now that summer is officially over, I can finally breathe a sigh of relief and go about my business without the tiresome chore of avoiding tourists. Whilst I may be fortunate enough to live in a charming city, I certainly pay the price.

During the warm and sunny months I hide away at home and only dash to the shops when in dire need of sustenance as hoards of marauding tourists swarm through the city ingesting it whole and leaving nothing but a shuck for the residents to pick at in their wake.

Every time I dared to leave my house, normally only when we were down to our last crumb, it didn’t go well. I would step out and take a deep breath of pure, picturesque city air and mount my bike. Then, before long, as I peddled forth, I would inevitably start to encroach upon a mob. The hoards ahead of me would swerve about on foot, dipping off the pavement at random times just to freak out the approaching cyclists. Turning into a side street, it’s normal to find a group standing in the middle taking photos. I repeat: in the middle of the road.

I’d ring my bell; no movement. Followed by stopping and glaring; no movement. Ah, so the ‘I’m-terribly-sorry-softly-softly-English’ approach doesn’t work. Time to throw my manners out of the window. So barging through, shouting expletives it is. And then they would all get out of my way.

On one particularly offensive occasion, I parked my bike and entered the shop feeling faint from hunger and thirst. As I tried to negotiate the aisles with my basket to find the teabags, I came across a large group of language summer school students. Nowhere is safe.

They are the absolute worst. I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t say this but just the sight of their matching, branded, brightly coloured rucksacks drives me mad. Therefore, I have to make it known that I think they are all total dorks. I can’t help it – my inner prejudiced psycho rises up and I cannot contain my total loathing for matching, branded rucksacks. The children upon whose backs they reside are equally annoying but as they are human beings I cannot, apparently, loathe them as much. So I unleash my hatred onto the bags.

The bags hover around in clusters and do not move out of the way for anyone, least of all people trying to get to work. I sometimes wonder if a grenade would move them. But I am informed by several sources that this isn’t allowed. I see different groups of bags about – they are all as ill-behaved as each other, no matter the origin. For the life of me I cannot understand why it is so hilarious to sit on the pavement in multiple groups, eating McDonald’s and singing various pop songs, badly. I am obviously too stupid to understand the joke – maybe I should sit down and tuck in to a BigMac underneath a well-known tourist attraction and join in. Although, I don’t have a matching rucksack so am obviously never going to be part of the ‘cool gang’. And I can’t sing in French/Spanish/Italian/Portugese/American/German (delete as appropriate).

I am further disgusted by the hyper-excitement that all the rucksacks exude – being away from the bags from whose loins they sprung, being abroad where you can behave totally inappropriately because it is ‘abroad’. I never understand this (and this goes for the Brits abroad as well). Why do people behave so badly when they go to another country? Every rule of etiquette and social grace seems to fly right out of the window.

From mid-May until some time in September, the whole summer season is an operation in tactical tourist avoidance. I stupidly parked my bike somewhere central so I had to fight my way through a coach load of Americans to reach my poor set of wheels, and then try to scuttle through a group of Japanese tourists before mounting and riding off. At last I was cycling home – nope, screeching to a halt I waited and waited for the blue bloody rucksacks to move. Nothing. My blood started to boil as these children chatted each other up in the middle of the street. Seriously, you all have braces, spots and limbs more gangly than Inspector frigging Gadget, give it up. I decided to revert to being a teenager and started to rhythmically ring my bell. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding.

A bag turned round; she looked me up and down. Ding. Ding. Ding. I wheeled out the biggest weapon I could think of – I raised my right eyebrow. Slowly, sardonically, I challenged the bag to a bike-on-pedestrian fight. No matter that I was about 12 years older than her and really should have gone around her little group of pimply admirers. I had taken enough crap from the summer parasites getting in my way and, worst of all, dithering about with fast food and guidebooks.

Ding. Ding. Ding. I glared. She glared. Slowly, drop by reassuring drop, it started to rain, a sure sign that summer, and my ordeal, were coming to an end. The bags started to scurry around, panicking, they all ducked for cover. The city was momentarily saved as the streets cleared of all tourists, bags and all. Round 1 goes to the residents. Relieved, I cycled on and rejoiced in the purifying rain, washing the streets of unwanted baggage. Read more by Naomi.