Tuesday, April 03, 2007

How very dare you

When I used to live in Shepherds Bush, there was a selection of characters you got to know and love. The man in the motorised wheelchair who would drink in O'Neills religiously every Sunday from 2 till 4. The bouncer at the Walkabout who I'm sure was Ian Wright. The hobos on the bench on the green. And a little, white haired old lady who spent her days wandering up and down Shepherds Bush Road hissing and doling out venomous insults to anyone whose jib she didn't like the cut of.

The first time I saw her, she was standing about by a bus stop, leaning on her walking stick and looking as innocent as any other five foot nothing old lady.

I heard her mutter something under her breath; as most of us are wont to do if waiting for a bus at rush hour and none are on the horizon.




Mutter mutter ohmygod you crazy woman what the hell are you doing?!

Displaying a remarkable amount of agility for a woman who was in all likelihood born before World War I started, she had leapt forward and started jamming a group of 14 year old girls in the kidneys with her walking stick.

"I asked you the fucking time! Have some fucking respect!"


The next time I saw her I was pottering home down that road after an afternoon beer or two. I found myself behind her, and as the road was narrow and she had that charming trait of weaving all over the damn pavement so I couldn't get past without getting in the road and overtaking her or leapfrogging, I contented myself with ambling home slowly behind her.

A portly chap was coming down the road towards us. He stood aside to let her and I pass, and as she walked past him he smiled at her - the sort of smile you give someone when you're anticipating a thank-you of some sort.

Tap, tap, tap. Went the walking stick on the pavement.

Plod, plod, plod. Goes me behind her, starting to wonder if I'll ever get home to attend to a desperately busting bladder because if I have a beer at two in the afternoon I turn into an eighty year old myself and end up going three times an hour for the next eight.

Smile, smile, smile. From the man waiting for us to pass.

"Well you could do with losing some fucking weight, couldn't you!" Was the parting shot from the elderly lady.

The poor man looked as if he was about to burst into tears. Not being one for confrontation, especially with deranged elders who have weapons about their person, I gave him an apologetic smile and suddenly realised that a pelican crossing was looming, which I ran across in order to get away from the crazy offensive pensioner.

Since moving to Hackney, I've not encountered such rudeness. The people who wait for the bus with me are polite. People in my local shops queue and smile and talk and don't comment loudly on your personal appearance or try and maim you if you fail to make sense of their near-silent mutterings.

Entertainingly, I had a run in yesterday that reminded me with a jolt just how rude people can be, which is what reminded me of my west London acquaintance.

I was in the chemist, waiting patiently in the middle of an inevitable queue of grumbling people who were trying to pick up prescriptions and a bottle of Tixylix. After what seemed like an age of shuffling and staring at the gross lipstick colours and wondering if anyone ever buys powdered glucose any more, I got to the counter. I put the pregnancy test on the counter, spent forever and a day trying to locate my purse in my massive handbag, paid up, took the paper bag and turned round to go to the door. The woman behind me, who bore a remarkable resemblance to the lady in Shepherds Bush in the sense that she was small and white haired and was armed with a walking aid, stared me down in a way that made me wonder if one of my boobs was hanging out. Whatever. I made brief eye contact.

"You bloody slut!"

I had no idea what to say. To their credit, the other people in the queue looked appalled and on the verge of taking her out, which would have possibly been more uncomfortable. What do you even say to that? Should I have embarked on a lengthy finger-wagging lecture about how being old doesn't give you the right to make loud and judgements about strangers? Should I have flashed my wedding ring?

In the end I walked out and fell about laughing at the sheer rudeness of some people. At least they can't be called boring.

To add insult to injury, the damn test was duff, which means I get to repeat the experience all over again. This time though, I might go to Boots, where the staff and clientele are in all likelihood more used to hos like me striding in and demanding sticks to piss on.


Dandelion said...

Yes, you should have flashed your wedding ring. And then told her politely to mind her own business That's outrageous behaviour.

I do love it though when people think they've picked your weak-spot, but they haven't, they've just shown themselves up. Hoist by their own petard.

Interval Drinks said...

Wow, that beats my grabby man incident and no mistake. Old lady or not that's a hoorid thing to do to someone.

Meredith said...

What a great story... I LOVE that lady & wish she lived near me.

Rachel said...

So perhaps I'll cross Shepherd's Bush off my list of possible areas to move to then!!