You know what really grinds my gears? The lack of spatial awareness people in our fair city have.
Why the christ do people think the best place to stop and gather their bearings is invariably at the mouth of an escalator, in a doorway, at a shop checkout or underground ticket barrier, or on the edge of the curb at a zebra crossing? What is it about these architectural bottlenecks which whispers to them: “whoa there, busy little bee, where’s the fire? Slow down, relax and pluck a precious moment to contemplate life’s rich pageant.”
If you’re reading these words, I imagine the only acquaintance you have with the following concept will be from having seen the film Anchorman but, like the slave to fashion that I am, I’ve recently taken up a no-doubt ephemeral fad called ‘jogging’, or ‘yogging’ (I believe the ‘j’ is silent). Essentially, you just run around for an extended period of time.
It’s almost impossible to go for a run in East London without gangs of mangy youths loudly questioning your sexuality, fleets of white van drivers trying to pebble-dash the pavements with your entrails and hordes of tattooed dog-owners launching their bull mastiffs at your genitals.
But the obnoxious bastardry of these loveable rogues is entirely deliberate and there’s a certain honest nobility in that. You know what you’re going to get and can deal with it accordingly.
For instance, my housemate Al told me of an occasion when he was out running and a bunch of spivs caculatedly arrayed themselves so as to block his path. Now Al is generally a pretty affable fellow and nine times out of ten, his response to such pubescent posturing would be to stop and politely ask if he might be granted safe passage but he’s also a hulking heap of mobile muscle and on this occasion he just thought “fuck it”, put his head down and scattered them like blunderous bowling pins.
It’s not often that I find myself in agreement with Big Al on matters of civic policy but for once I think he’s got it spot on. People won’t learn to mind their surroundings unless you fist them into insensibility.
So I’d like to propose an amendment to the social contract. Specifically, the clause which apparently grants people the right to say “I’m going to stagger about blindly, flinging my limbs, jowls, buttocks, pets, children, etc. into random pockets of air and if you should happen to fill that air, it’s your own fault.”
You remain, of course, perfectly entitled to dither about the place like some drunken tramp with an ear infection but if you choose to exercise this right, you must henceforth expect to have your limbs snapped off and used to pummel your jowls and buttocks into haematomic purée, your pets stabbed to death and your children set on fire.
I’m not a human wrecking ball like my housemate but, as that old lady who ill-advisedly went for the last packet of chocolate digestives in the Bow Road Tesco Express last week will tell you (if she ever re-enters the realms of the conscious): when I hit you, you know you’ve been hit.