I was on the metro recently (standing) and an elderly woman and her son were travelling together. He was about my age and she was possibly in her 70s and looked very unwell. She was leaning heavily against the wall for support. Nobody got up to give her a seat. I looked very disapprovingly at the eight sitting commuters in my line of sight. I didn’t say anything because her son was with her and I thought that, if he didn’t say anything, then it was hardly my place to step in.* My deepest disapproval was reserved for a young man in his 20s with no visible handicap who was sitting comfortably while talking loudly on his mobile phone and casually surveying the rest of us. I gave him my look of utter disdain. I have had some practice with the look of utter disdain. I once had to employ it against a range of men in their 50s and 60s who felt it was perfectly acceptable to warmly squeeze the shoulders of young women who came within their ample range. I have to say that in that context it was not particularly effective and perhaps my friend D’s approach would have got better results, she suggested that I say to the next squeezer “touch me again and you pull back a bloody stump”. She told me that she had had good results with that in the past. I opted to go for her sister’s approach of refining my look of utter disdain. I spent some time curling my lip while she (the sister) sighed despairingly and said “no, no, that’s a come hither look”. I had always felt that she was entirely wrong about that. However, the other day when eventually, the metro emptied out, I ended up sitting beside the loud young man. I gave him my concentrated look of utter disdain and he winked at me. Well, that does explain a lot about the squeezers.
*Being helpful is sometimes not very helpful. Witness the man who very helpfully rushed to help me put the boys’ buggy on the tram this morning. He refused to let any passengers get out wrested the buggy from me and started pushing it forcefully on to the tram. In his enthusiasm, he managed to wake both boys (who had been sleeping peacefully) by somehow collapsing Daniel’s side of the buggy and poking Michael in the eye with the parasol. Both woke up and began to howl in understandable indignation. Struggling to make myself heard over the bawling, I thanked my helper through gritted teeth. There’s no pleasing some people.