For your delight and delectation – or possibly just your extreme disinterest – here’s a little exchange which took place on my train home from work last night. Before you read on, please bear in mind that nobody EVER, under any circumstance, talks to any of their fellow passengers on the London Underground unless they know them. There are no “Bless yous” if someone sneezes. No “Thank yous” for offering your seat. No “Your shoes are untied” or “You’re sitting on the half-eaten burger the last passenger left on your seat.” On the Tube, you do not speak to your fellow commuters because that’s Just Not British.
Which means that if you do talk, you’re probably – and how can I put this politely? – a bit barmy.
On this train there was a middle-aged, slightly rumpled-looking woman sitting a few seats away from me. She was muttering away to herself while the people either side of her tried their utmost to show everyone else in the carriage that they weren’t with her.
“You’re in a fucking bad mood tonight,” she shouted suddenly, making everybody jump. Nobody was sure if she was talking to someone real or a person in her head, so we all pretended we hadn’t heard and buried our noses back in our books and newspapers.
“All of you!” she shrieked, as the windows rattled. “You’re all touchy! You’re all in a bad mood! You’re in a fucking bad mood, the lot of you!”
“I’m not,” came a chirpy voice.
It was the businessman sitting opposite her in a smart suit and posh hat, a copy of The Times in his hands.
“I’m in a good mood,” he continued, grinning.
“No you’re not!” cried the harridan, who looked stunned at the challenge.
“Yes, I am.”
“No, you’re not!”
“I am,” smiled the frightfully British traveller. “I am sitting here, reading my paper, minding my own business and I’m happy because I’m going home. So there you go.”
Baffled, the woman shut up.
Everybody grinned to themselves behind their books and newspapers, and then us Brits carried on not talking to each other. But at least we were a little bit happier about it.