I’ll keep this one short.
The tube. A truly magnificent place. No? You disagree? Well one can’t deny it’s effectiveness. I was using the tube to get to Angel Station yesterday evening. Spiderman: Homecoming was only showing at their Vue cinema, the others had called it quits for the night. In typical London fashion people were rushing even though it was past ten in the evening. Several of them were in a rush. When people are in a rush tempers are quick to flare… most of the time. This was one of those times.
I myself was in a bit of a hurry. It was very wet, the first time it had been this wet in quite a while in the London summer. A brief respite to the heat was more than welcome… except this was more than brief. It rained for 24 hours straight. I’d treaded through this rain without an umbrella because in my head I’m some kind of power ranger I guess. Anyway I was in a rush and I moved about the tube as I typically do. Wherever there are steps I will climb them, be it on an escalator or as an alternative to the elevator. I’ve actually always been one to fancy a race with the elevator. With this mindset I moved about Angel Station as I typically do. People usually are in a rush and I am usually a tad faster than they are… Only yesterday I wasn’t. This one guy moved a lot quicker than me. I had no idea what he was heading towards.
Let’s call this stranger John. John stepped on my heel as he tried to overtake me. To be honest it took me slightly by surprise but I didn’t react adversely towards the action. I ignored it and soon noticed in John’s body language that he had acknowledged what he had done. It was eating him up. Proof of that came when a couple of seconds later he doubled back and apologised very softly saying he hadn’t meant to do what he had done and he was sorry. Pleasantly surprised I tapped him on the elbow and said, “It’s all good man, don’t worry about it.” I let it go. John continued on his way up to the next escalator where he walked up a few steps then stopped.
Normally I walk up the escalator steps but in the current situation that would mean encountering John again, John who looked troubled as well as remorseful. He even looked back and met me in the eye. I could tell that he was considering walking up the rest of the steps to remove himself from the place as soon as possible but for some reason decided against it. So as not to fuel his obvious guilt or cause an awkward moment I decided to let the escalator do the moving and stayed in place a few steps behind him. This would be a peaceful night… that’s what I thought at least.
A hulking figure, let’s call him Pete, seemed to be in a bigger hurry than the rest of us. He came bumbling up the escalator like a mad bull. His right shoulder clipped John in the face and he barely turned back, although looking at his body language the impact had registered in his mind but he decided he wouldn’t own up to it and chose to continue running up the steps instead. Now… John was furious. I honestly don’t know what was going on in his life but John was clearly distressed for some reason. Even as he had been standing on the escalator he seemed to be contemplating his life. He was far above the rest of us so he can be forgiven for standing in the middle of the step (standing in the middle is normally frowned upon, you should stand on the right and climb up the left). It’s not often that someone runs up the escalator like I tend to do, or Pete chose to do on this occasion but it happened – and John paid for it. Unfortunately he didn’t like what he was paying for.
John wasn’t scrawny by any means. He had a tough gangster look about him, the kind belonging to someone raised in a tough neighbourhood. But Pete looked like someone who slept in the gym. Either way, an enraged John chased after Pete hurling a barrage of obscenities at him. Pete looked back at John then continued his trek up the escalator, hoping to run away as he had done initially… but John was quick, quicker than Pete even and caught up to him near the very top. They exchanged blows. I half feared one of them would come tumbling down the long escalator. But they moved to the ticket platform and began to shout unintelligibly while Pete held his chest out trying to intimidate with his soft voice… I don’t know what happened next.
Perhaps I should have stayed and played peacemaker. That was my thought in retrospect, a minute after I’d walked away. I had Spiderman in mind and I wasn’t about to be embroil myself in something that could involve the police, not in this foreign country. “Security will handle it,” I thought. Yet the guilt still followed me. Of all the people in that station the best person to defuse the situation was me. All I needed to say was:
“Hey John remember when you stepped on my heel not to long ago? I forgave you when you apologised. Hey Pete, just say sorry to the man. I saw you bump into him and not give him a second thought. Just apologise and let it be over. Nobody wants the police involved.”
Even enraged sense would have prevailed, at least in my mind it would have but thinking about it a minute after you’ve walked away isn’t good enough. I guess if these guys had been slow to anger and quick to apologise they would have gone home with far fewer bruises and a lot more joy than they eventually did go home with.