Is He Still Shouting It?
I use one of those underground-railway-type things to get from the very glamorous trading estate that is home to my office building to the centre of the city - the part that is populated by real people.
As I get to my tube station platform my mini-underground-train-thing-that-doesn’t-to-my-knowledge-have-a-proper-name departs seconds before I arrive.
No matter. They are very good. Only a couple of minutes waiting time normally. And it’s not so bad. This is one of the stations that aren’t actually underground. So. You know. That’s a bonus. I suppose.
There is a fellow staring intently into one of the rubbish bins that are strangely allowed on our city’s tube stations despite the fact that they vanished from real train stations in 1978 so the IRA could not put bombs in them. That scuppered them. I understand that the al-qaeda are also a bit stuck for ideas as a result. Don’t tell them about our underground for Christ’s sake.
This fellow then emits a long trail of saliva into said bin and stares at that intently. He is about 45, wearing a shell-suit (A SHELL SUIT) that does not reach his ankles and appears to be slightly cross-eyed.
Oh No, I think. It is a Mental.
I adopt Mental Alert standard procedure and pretend not to notice him and think to myself Do Not Look Him In The Eye.
I look at the timetable board. I have a few minutes. Hmm. Perhaps a cigarette.
As I take the packet from my pocket he begins RUNNING directly at me, skidding to a halt less than one foot in front of me in a Wyle E Coyote manner.
Mental Bloke: [Very excitable] How. Gie ayes one a theyme.
Me: [Calm] No.
MB: [Forcefully] Gie ayes one a theym. Please.
MB: [Looking quite perplexed at the injustice of it all] I sayed please.
Me: And I said no.
At this point he takes a step toward me.
(The rank amateur would feel this invasion of space and instinctively take a step back to retain their comfort zone. THIS IS A SCHOOLBOY ERROR. Never step back. They’ve got you on the fucking ropes then.)
I too step forward. He blinks. It slowly dawns on me that I am squaring-up to an obvious mental at a tube station. Perhaps not one of my more considered moves.
MB: [Actually very aggressive now, and still pursuing his God-given right to cigarettes from strangers] I’m in the middle of nowhere here.
He is not.
Me: That’s neither my concern nor responsibility.
The combination of foolishly aggressive body-language and use of words unique to non-mental people is successful.
He steps back.
MB: Aye well. [With menace] I’ll see you LATER.
Heads toward the stairs out of the station. On his way, he looks over his shoulder and delivers what would be his parting shot.
MB: If you’re lucky.
I take a drag on my cigarette. MB’s pace slows a little.
He is obviously mulling-over the impact of his parting shot and the relative logic thereof. I get the feeling he does not think it was as strong as it could have been.
MB reaches the stairs, and also some sort of decision.
He turns, and looks me right in the eye. He takes a very deep breath. And opens his mouth.
It goes on for about 10 seconds. It is actually rather impressive.
He walks up the stairs and vanishes. I consider the incident closed. A moment later I hear a disembodied voice:
I smoke some more of my cigarette. Several minutes pass. The tracks start to hum, indicating the arrival of my mini-train-underground-thing.
From far off, like the lament of a lost love, carried on the breeze, I hear:
I am now properly pissing myself laughing. Stood on my own.
There are many people on the platform that did not witness the earlier exchange.
They pretend not to notice me. They make a point of not looking me in the eye.