General Brain Spasm

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.

14 thoughts on “General Brain Spasm”

  1. Good on you. I mean, picking a fight with a bogan is stupid because they usually lack the mental capacity to understand…much at all, really, but nothing about his way of thinking is going to change unless someone else instigates it. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the fact that he can’t tell the difference between an Indian and an Aborigine, though. Ignorance isn’t bliss, it’s ignorance.

  2. Dude, I’m totally with you on this one. Nathan said it all, so I don’t really have much to add. Why do we pick fights? I don’t know, but when our character is attacked we don’t take it and we stand our ground.

    The thing that pisses me off is that nobody has the guts to stand up for his neighbour anymore.

  3. Haha, your pretty calm ^_^ I would’ve picked a fight with him ^_^ hum…maybe it’s coz I wanna get into a fight since I’ve never been in a fight before. Anyway, good on you for standing up to him. ^_^

  4. Nathan: doesn’t look like my saying something did much other than piss him off, but eh =)

    Peter: yeah there was a distinct lack of response from others on the train… I dunno, i’m not usually one to favor lynch mobs or whatever, but a little bit of support woulda been nice. I guess no-one else wanted to get involved.

    Fay: lol I wasn’t calm, but I knew how easy it was to get into a fight, and I just wanted to get home (and get some dinner.. it was like 8 o’clock coz of stupid train running late). Trust me, you don’t want to get into a physical fight.

  5. I had a similar experience with chromers 2 weeks ago. All I said were 2 short, sharp lines and they got real mad. I also did get help from people on the carriage. A big Muslim looking dude.

  6. The only fights I’ve ever been in have all ended up with my opponent and I becoming good friends… though that scenario would have been unlikely with ol’ Cletus there.

  7. Wow that’s a pretty aggravating experience… one characteristic of racism is how indiscriminate it is. (Black?) I wonder if you would’ve gotten support in LA—I doubt the guy would have dared say anything like that.

    I’ve never really had to deal with overt racism. Other than knowing some people assume east asians are brainwashed number crunchers, and think less of everyone b/c of it, I haven’t felt particularly targetted.

    Does black typically refer to aborigines in australia? It’s strange that somehow, throughout the world, many groups have such strong racism against “blacks” (wherever the label goes)

  8. ama: those really don’t sound like fights then, more petty arguments >.>

    kahiti: I think there’s a little bit of an air of racial tensions in Sydney at the moment, as there’s an overhang from last year’s riot and some gang tensions. There’s various reasons for it, but even this is pretty uncommon. The guy didn’t look intelligent in any way shape or form, so there’s little chance he considered his words first.

    One might argue that it’s not “many” groups that have strong racisim against “blacks”, it’s just the descendents of the English… ‘blackfella’ is the term used here for aboriginies, but he clearly used it in a broader sense because he shouted at one point “go back to your own country” — I was out the door and just trying to ignore it at that point, because I know in a fight I may have ‘won’, but it would have played into his hands (“I got attacked by a blackfella!” etc etc).

    I’ve had to deal with enough racisim that I know there’s often little point in trying to change it individually. Aussies tend to be a broadly tolerant lot, but some barely hide their intolerance for the sake of appearances.

  9. I can’t even understand that mentality. It’s definitely worse in Sydney than just about any other major city right now (country towns are traditionally awful for it anyway). It’s just us Anglos that seem to have the problem, being the majority and all, but we’re not content to pick on just one minority group – if you think this is bad, Karan should be lucky he’s not Lebanese or a Muslim. This country’s becoming a bit of a “redneck wonderland”, as The Herd so succinctly put it.

  10. Surprisingly, that’s all coming in the major capital cities too. Funny that there seems to be lots more bogans around too….

    I can see the headlines now:
    Bogans and Yobs recruited for new Homeland Security Roles…

  11. What’s a bogan?… a yob? I’m guessing idiot, hooligan or thug.

    Ah yeah, I guess there’s always racial tensions in big cities where there’s a lot of diversity. It’s strange, you’d think guys like that wouldn’t last too long.

    Hmm… I guess. I was under the impression that many asian groups were also fairly racist against “blacks”, but maybe that’s unbased as well as regional (Korean-black relations in LA). Yes, good for you. Giving in to the desire to beat the crap out of someone doesn’t usually help any situation…

    I’m sorry you have to deal with that, but I guess you’re right, there’s not much we can do about the way others already think and act.

    I hear a lot of passing comments and jokes from various people that make me uncomfortable, but I’m not sure if I should just let it pass. You get the “it’s just a joke” line, but sometimes those jokes say a lot about what a person really thinks. I guess that’s just how it is.

  12. Petty arguments that end in bloody noses and black eyes and various other bruises? Nah, not exactly. But the friendship comes around from mutual respect for each other, I think… it’s a weird phenomenon. Ronald and I were discussing this the other day, and he’s had similar experiences. You’d actually have to be in a fight to understand ;)

    Regarding the yobbo, he might not necessarily be a racist. You spoke up in that train, and injured his pride or gave him a reason to assert his “manliness”. People in situations like that grope around for any kind of abusive terminology that would either provoke you into a fistfight or humiliate you. Ever had the term “nigger” or “abbo” or “fkn curry” thrown at you when you were in disagreement with someone? I have. I’ve even had it from a close friend of mine whom you’re acquainted with.

    I think that anyone’s capable of bandying about with racial slurs given the nature of the situation.

  13. kahiti: ‘bogan’ roughly means the equivalent of ‘white trash’, or yeah, ‘yob(bo)’.

    That’s true, racism against the darker skins is prevalent everywhere; i guess I was saying more that it’s the English colonials who institutionalised it.

    Ama: that’s petty, if it ended in handshakes etc. Fights as I mean it you don’t walk away with a respect for the other person. Maybe we weren’t the Gentlemen you were.

    My speaking up may well have been considered an attack on his “manliness”, but his reaction was pure bully – when opposed, go on the attack. It’s no excuse though – it shows the latent racism there. I’ve lived in a country town, much as you have, and there’s no way you escape racist terms there.

    Anyway, that’s getting off track – I just wanted to vent here because I was pissed and I didn’t let it out in a physical sense.

  14. Well, better you didn’t bash something/someone and rant it out here. I get peeved at these things happening, but hey as long as people exist, idiots will exist.

    All you gotta know is that you’ll be enjoying the high life in a mansion/penthouse someday while he probably ends up working for you for a pittance.

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