I was waiting for the bus this afternoon in broad daylight when I saw an urchin running full pelt towards me.
When I say I saw him – I didn’t really see him until it was pretty much too late. He leapt at me, waving his arms and screaming something in Punjabi and then after he had bounced off me, proceeded to flail his fists against me, alternating that with several head butts, still profusely cursing me as if I had insulted his mother.
When I say cursing me, I couldn’t really tell whether it was shouts of appreciation, greetings as if we had been a long time parted and only just reconciled, or whether they were deeply felt insults which he had been storing up since he got up earlier that day. Whatever the motivation, there was no doubting the intent of his antagonism (if that’s what it was).
His friend who had been a few steps behind eventually caught up with him, all breathless and apologetic and tried to reason with him.
When I say reason with him, I couldn’t tell whether or not he was actually goading him on or trying to placate him as all the irritated young man went into do was to kick me as hard as he could, several times over, each time with an increased level of venom than the time before. The friend – if that’s what he was – just ended up shrugging and puffing on his French cigarette.
Now, I know that the bus service in our neighbourhood has been prone to all sorts of disruptions in recent months but I think the young man’s emotional outburst was uncalled for.
And when I say I know this about the service, I don’t mean that I know it as incontrovertible empirical fact: I just I mean I know it because it’s what you hear when you spend a lot of time hanging around for the bus like I do. And being the believing sort, I do tend to soak up a lot of commonly held opinions and accept them at face value, especially if a lot of people are saying the same thing, often over months at a stretch.
But what I know or don’t know is neither here nor there. What I was left with was some panes of shattered glass, a spray painted posterior and blood smeared all over my CCTV camera which had been tracking the poor boys every unfortunate move against me.
I may know everything and nothing about waiting for the bus; I may claim to know when the next bus is due to arrive but be unable to guarantee it; I may look the type who can communicate that information with some degree of authority only for that authority to crumble when the bus doesn’t turn up when it should do; and I may pretend to know many of the poor unfortunate souls who regularly line up every ten minutes for the next shuffling wheezy machinic transport into the next village when in fact I know nothing of their hopes and fears for that day’s bus journey: but one thing I can be sure of is that whoever was operating my remotely controlled CCTV camera this afternoon, sure got their money’s worth.
Video nasties have nothing on what bus stop surveillance systems can show, even if it is broad daylight on a mid afternoon in a sleepy little English village in the middle of nowhere.