The CloserNovember 1, 2009
I’m having a regular run at the moment as a temp designer/artworker/mac monkey after months of fitful working or no work at all and it feels strange to be back in the bear pit that is commuting. I forgot how depressing it could be to fight within an inch of your life to get on that train, or miss it and be late for work. I also forgot that you get to play alter ego Sardine man/woman as you butt up against faces, armpits and my personal favourite, crotches if you’re lucky enough to be sitting down.
Now in a pressure cooker situation like this you see people losing the plot at least a couple of times a week. We usually reserve it for tourists who amble along or gather in big groups and block our paths because they decide to try the delights of London at the busiest times of the day. Sometimes, we go for each other. On Thursday I was witness to an excellent piece of power play. We had just packed ourselves onto the train at Bank and instantly became Sardine man. Squashed as I was, I became aware of two women to my left. They were both young and white, which made it an equal match, or so you’d think. They had a short exchange, which went like this; American woman, “Stop pushing me!” English woman, “But I didn’t!” American woman, “Yes you did – thank you!” and that was it. Conversation over. In fifteen seconds you got a measure of who was in control and it was not the English woman. Listening to that conversation, if I were a betting man I would’ve said that American woman was going to win the fight from the start. She sounded strong and she was clearly going to take no prisoners. English woman on the other hand sounded apologetic when she tried to protest her innocence. American woman, smelling blood, went for the kill by saying “thank you” at the end of her riposte. “Thank you” became the full stop. It was the end of the story. There was no chance of a comeback. As far as she was concerned, she’d said her piece and that was the end of it.
That is the kind of thank you we could all do without.