Brace yourselves but I have become a grumpy, middle-aged woman who’s perversely proud of her ability to always find something to complain about. No matter how big or small the issue I can be guaranteed to whip it up into a monumental storm that puts the WikiLeaks row in the shade. So how did I go from being a fairly mild-mannered, easy-going kind of woman to being narrow-minded with a tendency to blow things out of all proportion? I blame the man who blew cigarette smoke in my face when I was heading towards Clapham Common station.
We were walking in opposite directions on the same side of the street when a massive fog of smoke from a Marlboro Light hit me full in the face. I wouldn’t have minded so much if he had made an effort to apologise, but he didn’t. He thought it was perfectly normal to foul the air with nicotine clouds and beads of spittle from his smoker’s cough. Back in the days when I used to light up twenty Silk Cuts a day it wouldn’t have bothered me, but as I’ve been clean for sixteen years all I could see at that moment was pure red. I followed him up the road, called out: “Oi, you,” and after fixing him to the spot with an evil eye expression, lectured him about the evils of tobacco and how it would be his fault if I contracted lung cancer. He didn’t say much at first although after a few minutes he muttered a vague apology and then sauntered off. Victory is mine I thought, until I heard him shout:
“Why don’t you get a f**king life?”
“I would if people like you didn’t make it so difficult?” I retorted.
I don’t know how long we stood on the pavement trading insults at one another but his parting gesture of a two-fingered salute brought the matter to a close. I decided not to pursue it partly because I was in a hurry to get home but also because a fellow grumpy who had witnessed the encounter congratulated my stand against “addicts who kill the environment with cigarettes.” I felt marginally better although he ruined the moment when he said I deserved a Nobel award!
My friends Mickey and Charlotte, who are so unreasonable they should be exiled to another planet
So far nothing else has happened on the scale of the Clapham Common incident, although I’ve come to realise that my intolerance levels are pretty good when they’re compared to those of my friends Mickey and Charlotte, who are so unreasonable they should be exiled to another planet. Apart from them, no sane person would want to live in a society where the state removes the assets of anyone caught spitting on a pavement or which punishes crime with the guillotine.
“Isn’t that a bit extreme?” I asked them over lunch.
Mickey arched one of his bushy eyebrows in surprise: “Of course not,” he said indignantly. “In case you haven’t noticed crime is going up. No-one feels safe anymore!”
“There’ll always be people who never feel safe no matter what you do to protect them,” I replied. “But I can’t see why parliament would want to introduce the guillotine. Apart from the fact that beheading is messy it isn’t exactly humane or sensible!”
“Well strictly speaking that isn’t true.” Charlotte drawled. “People usually get to see things from our point of view once the message is sold to them in the right way!”
My stomach did a sideways lurch especially when I saw the conspiratorial way they winked at each other.
“What are you two playing at?” I said “I know you’re up to something. What is it?”
They hesitated but after a few minutes Charlotte handed me a bundle of papers she pulled from her briefcase.
“This is our manifesto” she said “Mickey and I wanted to stand as independents in the last election but we couldn’t get a deposit!”
It didn’t take long to see why. Whilst I can understand their frustration at falling standards of behaviour, the uncontrolled greed of some bankers and the superfluous number of traffic markings on the nation’s roads, I don’t think that condemning people to a life of hard labour or forcing traffic wardens to work as fruit pickers in Mongolia is the answer. I’m not sure what is but I know for a fact that it isn’t anything these two have to offer!
They were disappointed that I wasn’t ready to sign up to their cause even with the promise of a membership discount.
“Well if you change your mind you’ll know where to find us” Mickey was ready to fire off one last volley of persuasion but stopped when he saw the lunch bill “Would you look at that” he hissed “I haven’t even touched my wine and yet they’ve charged me for it!”
“Let me see that,” Charlotte snatched the bill and scanned it from over the rim of her glasses. “And they’ve added on the service. That’s a right bloody cheek considering it took them fifteen minutes to get the table ready. Hey you”, she beckoned to the waiter.
That was my cue to leave. I knew that once these two had the bit between their teeth there would be no stopping them. They would cause such a stink that the restaurant would probably give in to their demands rather than have them disturb their other customers.
There’s nothing wrong with being a grumpy, middle-aged man/woman. People do eventually come around to our way of thinking once they realise that some of our complaints are actually valid. It only becomes a problem when grumpies start making a noise because they’ve got nothing better do with themselves. When that happens all hope is lost. Thankfully I haven’t reached that stage… yet!