A week ago I witnessed an incident on the London underground; the southbound jubilee line to be precise. Commuting in London can be terrible at the best of times, but everyone will testify that the morning rush hour is especially hellish. It is packed tighter than a sardine can and the slightest cough-or God forbid-sneeze could take down at least a hundred people.
Still the trips are uneventful-horrendous but uneventful; nothing to write a blogpost about. Until about a week ago when I witnessed the type of theatrics I usually only see on youtube.
The tube stops at Canada Water. As usual there is an orderly line of people waiting to get in. A young lady cuts the queue and hops on to the consternation of the woman who was in the line.
Young lady who hops on the train-Hereafter referred to as BW (Black Woman)
Miffed off woman standing in the line-Hereafter referred to as WW (White Woman)
WW: *soft whiny voice* Excuse me please, there is a queue. You can’t just cut the queue.
Me: *in my mind* Just squeeze yourself in and don’t make a big deal out of this.
*Five Mississippis later*
BW: WHY ARE YOU FOOOKING TALKING TO ME?
Me: *In my mind* alright sis just leave it alone there’s no need for all this.
BW: DO YOU WANT ME TO RAISE MY VOICE? WHY THE FOOK ARE YOU TALKING TO ME? ARE YOU GOING TO KICK ME OFF OR DO YOU WANT ME TO PUSH YOU OFF? WHO PUT YOU IN CHARGE OF THE LINE? ARE YOU PAID TO MAINTAIN THE QUEUE YOU DUMB BITCH?
Random people on the tube: *whimpering* Hey that’s not necessary.
Me: *Looks around for the exits.* Oh God I hope nothing happens. There is no place to run.
BW: WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THIS WOMAN’S LIFE THAT SHE IS WORRIED ABOUT A FUCKING TRAIN? WHY IS THIS WOMAN’S LIFE SO DULL THAT SHE’S TALKING TO ME ABOUT A TRAIN?
Me: How long before she mentions White Privilege?
BW: …WITH YOUR FUCKING WHITE PRIVILEGE YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT A TRAIN?
BW: YOU HAVE EVERYTHING AND YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT A TRAIN YOU STUPID ASS BITCH!
WW: Silence. Weak embarrassed smile.
Me: God get me to my destination safely.
*Two Mississippis later*
BW: STUPID ASS WHITE PRIVILEGE BITCH WORRIED ABOUT A FUCKING TRAIN
Me: *in my mind* Let it go you psycho!
Random people: Hey stop it…unnecessary…c’mon now
BW: ANYONE WHO TALKS TO ME IS GOING TO (get it? be yelled at? Feel my wrath? Cannot remember exact words)
Voice in the tube: This station is Canary Wharf. Change here for the…
Me: Praise Jeeeessuuuuus! *hops off and sprints away*
The incident occupied my thoughts for the rest of the day and even now I still think about it from time to time. This may not be a memorable incident to some-just another day in the jungle of civilised society. To some, this may be positively banal: “You call that a incident? Why I once saw a woman fight five men, bite off a cat’s head and give birth to her own grandchild on the Bakerloo line from Baker Street to Edgeware road.”
This is surely not the worst thing to happen on public transportation, but as a lifelong scaredy cat and avoider of confrontation this shook me up. Prior to this incident I had seen videos of people being verbally attacked on public transportation-usually a racist piece of shit telling someone else to go back to their country. When these videos are posted, people often ask why none of the witnesses did anything:
“Oh look at all of them sitting down and allowing this to go on”
“Even the few people who spoke up are still complicit because they did not do anything to stop it.” blah blah blabity blah.
I have never been one of those people sprouting these lines. I have always known in my heart that if I was to ever be in a situation like that, I would not be able to do anything. I knew even then that I would be one of the cowards who say nothing; one of the people who sit still and wait for the whole thing to pass quickly. Whenever I watched those videos I wondered what I would do if I was the one being attacked. Again I knew-as I have known for years-that I would not have the courage to defend myself. I would most likely stand there humiliated, attempting to mask the awkwardness with a week feeble smile like the WW. Maybe that’s why I could not get this incident out of my mind.
I wonder if I should have said anything, but what help would that have served? Surely a person who can snap at a stranger like that would not hesitate to let me have it. It is unlikely that my objections would have made her stop her attack: “You know what sis? I was going to berate this bitch for another 5 minutes but hearing your feeble voice has made me change my mind.”
Excuses excuses. I’m not even going to deceive myself by saying I would have intervened if it was a more serious incident.
A friend of mine-much smaller than me- once saw a group of men sexually assaulting a drunk woman and managed to run the men off and get them arrested. My first reaction would probably be to find a safe place to hide and call the police from, or find other people and point them in the direction of the crime. I know if she had been on the tube, she would have said something.
It is a terrible thing to be weak and afraid.