A painful display on the Overground the other day.

December 28, 2016 § Leave a comment

I was sat in front of a down-and-out drunkard, both of us minding our own business until he suddenly perked up and tried to ask the people sitting next to him for a favour – if they could just text his daughter for him from their phone, for he had no credit to call her with. The three youngsters, all in their twenties and very cool and liberal-looking, understandably bristled in response, for he was drunk and unappealing.

After the initial lame excuse of “I don’t know how to use that phone,” (well, my friend, he’s not asking you to use it – but to text someone from your own), and as he continued to push the subject, they started getting hostile. Which sure got my heart pounding. Thubthub, thubthub. The man was a self-proclaimed Irish gypsy; not somebody you’d want to mess with. I’m illiterate, and stupid, and I’m not well, and need to contact my daughter, he shouted. He would pay them for their help, he cried, very nearly spilling his drink over the distressed young man beside him. Racists, he called them. Funnily enough, they were two black men and a white girl. It may have had something to do with that – travellers are known to be ostracised from the community. It looked to me more like fear of a violent drunk than anything else, but I did somehow enjoy seeing hip modern youths being accused of racism, a term our generation loves to throw around willy-nilly at everybody but their “open-minded” selves.

Surely in an era of tolerance and acceptance we should all be willing to help an illiterate in dire straits? Hell knows I’ve dealt with my fair share of Irish travellers, working in a pub, and they can indeed be a handful, but here was a fucked-up alcoholic who genuinely could not reach help, and his exclamations of self-deprecation softened me. I’m a gypsy, I can’t read or write, I’m fucking stupid, I’ll pay you if you text her for me.

And I could almost hear them not listening. Why don’t you text her? Whatever! Shut up. I don’t want your money. Basically, completely missing his bloody point. I hear this a lot actually: the sound of not listening. When attacked or confronted, people are driven out of their comfort zone and unfortunately with that goes two-way communication skills.

They say liberals are those
Who give sinners a second chance
They sneer at conservatives’ tough-loving policies
Who then sneer right back at the socialists’ romance

Equality for all, righteousness on call
It’s all fine words when you’re at home
The faceless masses, they need our help
Every day more pesky humans stumble out, all alone

Don’t be racist, sexist, or pro-gun
But it’s a-OK to be kinda dumb
Just hide it well until you arrive at
A real life situation with one of those bums
You keep trying to side with
Suddenly you go numb.

Think before rolling your eyes
At the crude young mum at the foodstore
It’s circumstances your society creates
That make her so irate

If you’re going to stand up for unity
Do it by standing up for the loonies
Don’t wait for them to become part of the system
For they go to phony schools, more like juvies
That produce criminals and layabouts
That we can later complain about

For the record, I put an end to my fellow commuters’ misery and texted the poor guy’s daughter, very nearly getting drooled upon in the process. “Tell her code red.” She called him promptly, giving me time to make my getaway from this slobbering, unrequited friendship and sit at the other end of the train – he was a filthy pikey, after all.

(for the record, that last sentence was sarcastic; I’m not qualified yet to make such risky jokes without a disclaimer.)
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