Friday, January 22, 2010

uncontrolled aggression

Last night I was sat reading my book on my journey home, the train idling at a quiet platform - when I saw out of the corner of my eye someone running alongside the train. I heard his feet land heavily on in the carriage as he leapt through the closing doors, and then his bag land heavily on the seat opposite mine. He slumped after it, not red-faced but out of breath. He was young, handsome, in his mid-twenties, with long hair and a close-cropped, fashionable beard. The train pulled away and he began a familiar mime; patting his pockets, shifting in his seat, flipping open the lid of his canvas bag. It’s a spectacle I put on myself near enough every morning when I see the ticket-inspector approaching, wondering where I’ve put my railcard.

His movements shifted up a gear. I recognise that, too. It’s not just in a different pocket. It’s not here. I left my wallet on the bedside table, my telephone at work, my book on the bathroom floor. He began to search frantically, repeatedly, replaying the sequence as if he were a caged animal obsessively retracing a route. I fought to restrain my mouth from twitching into a smile, not because I took pleasure in his discomfort, but because I know the feeling all too well, and sympathised. Then he brought his fist down hard upon the plastic table, and swore. His bag, now thoroughly searched, turned inside-out, he flung hard into the adjacent seat. He swore again. And again. That flicker of a smile had long since disappeared and I tried to immerse myself in my book, shrinking backwards in my seat. Great.

His temper did nothing to abate. He thumped the table again, and punched his bag. He tilted his head back and let out a volley of curses. I began to wonder what he had lost. He pulled a mobile phone from his pocket and held it to his ear. So, not that. A moment later, he was talking, hissing, words tumbling out. His opening conversational gambit was “I’m really fucking angry”. His wallet, I suppose, or an iPod. House keys? He kept swearing.

As he muttered on, still occasionally slamming his head back into his head-rest in frustration, I fluctuated between interest and revulsion. It was a remarkable display of petulance from a grown man. It made me think how controlled I am. Over the years I have lost a quite absurd number of vital or expensive things, from spectacles to mobile phones to expensive gadgets. I don’t recall ever doing more than closing my eyes in frustration and musing over how careless I am. I honestly don’t think this guy was far from punching a wall. Or someone else. His girlfriend, if that’s who he was talking to on the phone, must have moments when she really wonders at his capacity for aggression. I’m not saying I don’t understand temper, and possibly he’d just had the worst day of his life, but it was incredibly unappealing.

In the end I learned from his call that he was upset because, running for his train, he had pulled his ticket from his jacket pocket and unknowingly dropped a £20 note on the station platform. I got off the train ten minutes later, glad of my even temperament.


Dan said...

What a tosser..

At the risk of sounding 'Daily Mail' it used to be seen as shameful to display aggression. All that for £20! It's a fair bit of money but most people I know would simply react by putting their heads in their hands and yelling "Oh no!" That would be it.

From the confort of my chair I'd like to think I would confront him. Its always harder on a train.

Jonathan said...

Yep - you're absolutely right to say that he needed someone to tell him to get a grip and get some perspective.

But I really wasn't exaggerating when I said he looked on the verge of hitting someone. I haven't seen someone that angry in years.

Ben said...

I remember losing £20 and being disconsolate. That said, it must have been around 1991, I would have been 13 and it was money given to me for Christmas that I'd lost...

Must confess to getting a bit angry when I lose things, out of pure frustration with myself - discomforting for others, though, agreed.

Ali said...

When you say 'you haven't seen someone that angry in years' does that still apply since Saturday night when I told Anita I was going to go back to London? x

Jonathan said...

This guy shades it because his behaviour was so surprising. Anita's temper, while volcanic, is at least predictable.

I'm glad you made it out alive chicken.