Encounter With An Angry Woman

Last week was hot in Sydney (record-breakingly hot) and as work has only just started again for both of us a proper routine has not been established for Laetitia and I again, and that has meant that we haven’t travelled home together as regularly as we used to. But we did on Friday. And it was memorable.

Laetitia found me on the usual train and carriage, and she began telling me about an encounter with a deeply aggressive young woman she had spent some time with at the station where the first leg of her post-work journey begins. The woman threw some rubbish on the ground. Laetitia said, “Excuse me, I think you dropped something” and indicated the item. This good-natured opening rhetorical tactic usually shames people into rethinking their litter disposal method, and they often pick up what they dropped. Occasionally it leads to conflict. Not often though, and only ever low-level conflict.

But this woman was different. She said other people litter, so it was her right. She started calling Laetitia names. She called her “ugly” (which is not true, to start with) as is barely beyond the sandpit level of invective. She proceeded to do several ill-considered and selfish things over the next few minutes, including standing right in front of the doors of one train carriage, effectively blocking both those who wanted to get on and get off, and she didn’t respond well to advice which included ideas about getting out of the bloody doorway. Even though it was good advice. True advice, helpfully given, at the apposite moment. No, this woman had had a bad day – she kept repeating this point – and that, somehow, in her mind, absolved her from all misdemeanours involved with relating to other human beings.

On this first leg of Laetitia’s journey, underground, in a rail tunnel, the woman made a loud phone call, designed to be overheard by others, but in particular by Laetitia. The fact that it could not have been a real phone call, as mobile phone calls cannot be made in the tunnels, tickled Laetitia immensely. It was, in fact, a fake loud phone call, designed to be overheard by others, but in particular by Laetitia. It was funny. We laughed. I laughed quite hard when Laetitia described this woman to me. She said, “She wasn’t even good looking. She was a bit overweight and was dressed in a ridiculous way.” We both laughed again, harder this time.

Laetitia read her book and I gazed out the window, unable to concentrate on mine, with the effects of heat fatigue. I heard snippets of a phone call from behind us. A young female voice seemed to belong to someone who had been having a bad day, and who had experienced a similar encounter to the one Laetitia had told me about. It was her. And my estimation of her – not high, it must be said, at this point – rapidly plummeted. She kept talking about this ugly bitch and what her face looked like and it was all infantile and silly, and quite funny, and she was absolutely terrible at insults and nowhere near equipped to say something truly, acidly witty to put down another person. Just this ugly thing, again and again. And she referred to the incidents I’d heard about: the littering (“What are you going to do? Call the Prime Minister?”) and being told what to do, when she was in people’s way, and when Laetitia told her she was ugly on the inside this was reported as being told: “Yeah, well at least I’m not as sad as you”. Laetitia wouldn’t have said that. It doesn’t make sense. I don’t think this woman understood the ugly on the inside comment. You could say she wasn’t very bright.

Perhaps the funniest thing she said was, “So I told her to fuck herself. But that probably can’t happen[1], so she’d better get a dildo.”

Laetitia thinks that she followed her upstairs, and sat as close as possible to us so her conversation could be most easily overheard. I harbour a slightly different scenario, which I hope is how it happened, although it’s possibly wishful thinking. I hope that she just sat down, prepared to put the incidents behind her, and heard two people talking about things which sounded similar to what she had just experienced, and she listened more intently, and when we just about pissed ourselves about her appearance and the dress/huge 1980s T-shirt with a belt thing she was wearing, she had to go back to the aggressive overheard conversation tactic.

She said Laetitia was lucky she didn’t go gangster[2] on her. To her face, earlier, she criticised Laetitia for reading a book, and called her a nerd.

It was funny. Some humans only look like adults.

[1] The ugly thing again.

[2] Or should that be gangsta?

Published in: on February 7, 2011 at 7:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

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