and the day started so well…
* * *
I’d had a long day at work, with the weekly meeting running way over time. I’d rushed to the station, only to find the train had been delayed 10 minutes. It didn’t get better, as the train was stopped at a later station for nearly 15 minutes more before we actually were getting anywhere. I still had work to do at home, a conference call, and I was just tired.
So when I smelt something burning, I didn’t really think about it much. Maybe there was a fire outside, somewhere – we were after all just about to get to my stop, and south of the train line is a giant Army area, often used for training. I hear the rat-tat-tat of machine guns on some weekends, it’s that close. But as I emerged from the lower deck, I saw this guy smoking, inside the carriage. He was a pinch-faced rough looking bogan – I don’t know how else to put it. I wondered about the benefits of speaking up. I would have shrugged it off, under other circumstances, perhaps.
If there’s one thing that annoys me, it’s smoking. Smokers can feel free to do it in private, that’s their own choice. But smoking in a public area, and a confined one at that, is something that we don’t accept in society any more. I spoke up, fool that I am.
“Hey mate, can you not smoke on the train?” I said. I was standing a step down, as there were other people standing between the stairwell and the door (you have to know what Sydney trains are like, I guess).
“What? I’ll smoke where ever I want to!” he shouted back. Perhaps I should have looked the other way, but I was annoyed.
“It’s the law, mate. You can do it outside, but not in here.”
“I’ll smoke wherever I fucking want to. Fuck off.”
I shrugged and looked away. It clearly wasn’t worth it, and my stop was nearly here. However, this dick obviously was spoiling for a fight.
“I’ll fucking smoke where I want to. If you’ve been inside as long as I have, you’d fucking smoke too.” Oh fuck off, prick. What did you get in jail for, beating up your wife?, I thought, but now I was over it.
“Don’t you black fellas tell me not to fucking smoke. It’s not your fucking country. It’s my country and my train and I’ll smoke if i want to.”
Oh that’s it, bitch, I thought. If there’s one thing that annoys me more than smoking, it’s idiots claiming it’s their country, their train.
“Fuck off, it’s not your country either dickhead,” I said.
That was enough to set this guy off. He handed his shopping bag to his friend, who realised what was about to happen. He was swearing and generally going off his head about ‘black fellas who think they own the place’ and other racist crap. He got in my face and dared me to touch him as I moved to keep him away, the stink of smoke and god knows what else clinging to him. At this point I was just wanted to get off and leave him behind. If I’d been standing one step up, I’d have towered over the guy. His friend called him back, telling him to leave it.
“Just let me get off,” I told him as the doors opened. It wasn’t the most noble escape out, but by that time I’d had it. He continued to shout abuse at me as I climbed the stairs out of the station.
* * *
Occasionally you wonder why you pick the fights you pick. Was it tiredness, annoyance, or just general brain spasm that made me say the first words? Smoking in a confined space annoys me, sure, but I was getting off and other people could have dealt with it. I could see there was no way he’d put it out just because I asked him, there were no cops or ‘transit officers’ around to enforce the law, and saying something wasn’t going to acheive anything. But still I did it. I guess I get a concerned citizen award or something for that.
But the second one, the one that really set him off, I don’t shy away from. What makes this idiot assume he somehow owns the country is simple – he’s in the majority. It’s that fucked-up, baseless, ignorant, arrogance combined with a disregard for rules that fucks people up, in the end. I certainly know my life is going to be easier – and longer – than this guy’s. Either way, racisim like that in a packed train carriage? Fuck off, there’s no way I’m not going to reply to that.
It’s a hundred things that make the difference, but one thing like this that makes you go back to the stereotypes and run with them. Prick.