Monday, January 02, 2006

Only in South London

The 453 bus between Deptford and Marylebone has got to be the most eventful bus route in London. The last time I was on it, a woman had her mobile phone snatched as she was sending a text message, or playing snake, who knows. The hooded fellow grabbed the phone and ran out, just when the bus was at a stop and had its doors open. In a true display of London community spirit, nobody as much as yelled, "stop, thief", or gave chase, or gave succour to the damsel in distress. Everyone kept listening to their ipods, playing Su Doku, or just plain staring blankly at the poor woman. I was tempted to get up and go after him, and recreate Clint Eastwood's "Do I feel lucky, punk"* scene. Alas, I don't own a gun, and the damsel in so-called distress chuckled at the fact that someone had just robbed her. Somehow I didn't see the need to chase down a mugger who was brave enough to mug someone on a crowded bus, especially if the victim herself thought the event was funny. Besides, I was too chicken.

Today on the 453, a man walked onto the bus shouting and spewing forth obscenities. I'll show you a smidgen of what he said. The language is not for the faint of heart, and I merely paraphrase - "What's up to all my niggas, fuck all white people. White people tried to kill me. They put me in jail. I've been to New York, white people put me in jail in Rikers Island. I don't give a fuck. I'm a Christian, but fuck it I know I'm swearing. But God will forgive me. I'm not a church nigga. Fuck white people, I hate white people. I'm gonna be rich." I'm sure you get the message. This went on for the duration of the fifteen minute bus journey. In any other part of London, or civilised British society, passengers would have gotten off the bus with discomfiture and waited for another. Not in south London. Encouragingly or alarmingly (depending on your viewpoint) the people on the bus began to talk to him and engage with him. They were obviously laughing at him rather than with him, but nonetheless they were talking to the man, and probably helping him loosen a few more screws.

Another south London incident. I was waiting in the queue at a petrol station in Peckham, when a man suddenly ran out carrying three crates of Coca Cola. He didn't get very far, dropping it just outside the sliding doors. The attendant looked up and told us that he had seen him hanging around the station all morning and had been a bit suspicious. What got me though, was his motives for stealing. Was he hungry? Thirsty perhaps? What kind of thief who steals out of necessity steals Coca Cola? He didn't steal the sandwiches (which he'd have gotten away with), or the loose bottles of drinks in the fridge. Maybe he wasn't particularly hungry but had invited a few too many people to a dinner party at his house that evening, and thought he'd pop out for emergency supplies.

The petrol station incident reminds me of a joke by east London (via Ghana) comedian Kojo. Whenever a beggar says to him, "I haven't eaten all day, bruv. I need 50p to get some food." Kojo tells them, "What? You know a place where you can eat for 50p? I'm coming with you, bruv. You've got to take me there!"

*In Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood plays cop Harry Callahan. He's pointing a gun at a baddie after a shoot out, not sure if he's run out of bullets, or if there's one more left:
I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?


Anonymous said...

Very well observed musings about London, very true too. I've witnessed many similar incidents in this town, I tell you, and one similar to the phone theft one. What never ceases to amaze me, is the complete, voluntary paralysis of the observers, so that the victim almost feels apologetic to those around, for having suffered a loss, or worse!

Yeah, and I know Dirty Harry. The 'punk' is a black guy. To Dirty Harry's famous question, the 'punk' replies: 'I gots to know'.

Jeremy said...

that deptford bus journey is notorious. Someone had their eye pulled out on the upper deck a couple of years ago.

Anonymous said...

mines a bit different, some miscreant (obviously someone i know)upon not having a validated oyster card, gave my name , address and DATE OF BIRTH to a ticket inspector on this same bus route, which i dont think i have ever been on in my life, i dont even have an oyster card and lo and behold i recieved a court summons. thank God i was able to show that i wasnt in England at the time. awon alakoba