Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A less than gracious city….. Sometimes

London is, I suspect, typical of any big city in the rough and tumble to be had on its streets.

People at a superficial level have no time for one another and can come across as very rude. Happily in the face of big challenges or emergencies the mythical "blitz spirit" (sometimes an overused phrase) emerges and we all help each other out.

However there are times when I think the rudeness is getting the upper hand and is worse than it used to be. Maybe I am just getting older to think like this!

Here are three recent examples:

1) In suburban London, near to where I live, a middle aged woman found a discarded training shoe on her drive. I was walking past on route to the station and watched as she methodically kicked it down the drive way and into the gutter. There was something mildly shocking about this at that moment. It seemed to sum up a wider social breakdown. While she would no doubt belong to the large group who bemoan the behaviour of "hoodies" and similar, here she was showing no respect for someone else's property. The tale behind how the training shoe had got on her drive way was unknown but it presumably belonged to someone. The priority here was not a lost trainer but the aesthetic integrity of her suburban house. It seems the tyranny of property makeover programmes is now limiting our ability to be good citizens. Twenty years ago or even less I suspect the same woman in the same street would have picked up the trainer and put it on a nearby wall so that if the owner passed by they could see it and collect it. Now the trainer gets kicked in the gutter.

2) Walking through the City, to work, a man in his twenties storms off a double-decker bus. He walks up the road a few paces and gives the driver a "one finger salute". There was apparently some dispute about not letting him off while the bus wasn't at a stop. The bus was sitting in traffic at the time. The rights and wrongs of getting off the bus are unclear to me but the solution to the dispute was rudeness- in this case a rude sign.

3) In a card shop in the City just before Valentines Day. The shop is crammed with people ahead of this rather cheesy commercial fest- albeit one that some of us are obligated on ! The atmosphere is tense as City workers jostle round a dwindling stock of "acceptable cards". A woman calls to her friend, "Why are you standing there ?". Her friend replies "Because I'm getting fed up of people elbowing me in the back everytime they go past". This is in preparation for a celebration of love in London.

I will end this brief series of social observations on a positive note. Walking through a local park, we pass a middle aged couple who have just stumbled across a lost glove. The woman picks it up. The man debates whether to run after a a group of women pushing prams. He decides against it for reasons of embarrassment as there is absolutely nothing to link the glove to the group. His wife suggests leaving it "on top of that red box". The red box in question is actually a special bin for "dog waste". Deciding against this they settle for placing it on top of a wrought iron fence so it can be clearly seen and kept out of the dirt. The effort is more than likely to be futile but it is reassuring that even in London some sense of community remains and not everyone is out only for themselves.


W said...

This article i read with interest. I should say that i admire your style, observation skills and civil attitude! I think it is more important issue than the fights between the candidates to be the future US president which could be or probably are dirty as well from all the sides.


Luis said...

thank you very much W ! The references to the US presidential campaign are just in passing !

cw-patriot said...

Very interesting and well-expressed observations, Luis. Thank you for sharing them.

Occasionally my husband and I will have to sit for a time at the local shopping mall (generally we’re waiting for friends), and we always find it fascinating to watch the antics of the passers-by. We've often commented that it would be fascinating to simply sit there from opening to closing, observing people, and then write an essay on what we saw.

I believe the common everyday observations such as the four you listed in this essay (three negative and one positive) are simply microcosms of what's wrong with the world in general.

The woman you saw kick the shoe into the gutter, the man who made an obscene gesture to the bus driver, and the behaviors in the card shop might all be expanded to represent conflicts and arrogant, self-absorbed attitudes among/between nations.

You are a keen observer (a rare quality these days). I hope you’ll consider writing more such essays. They are fascinating to read.

Continued best to you and yours ...

~ joanie

Luis said...

Thank you Joanie.

It has been a while since I stopped by my own blog this month but it is always good to hear from you.

I continue to observe the people around me but will do my best to write some more about it soon.....