Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Nice Conundrum

I have noticed a correlation between certain things. Not like the sun rising and the air getting warmer, or someone eating fish and chips before taking a Krav Maga class...and then power spewing after the warm-up.

No, this is the type of correlation between how polite, nice and lovely you are to someone…and how much of a bastard they are in response.

Normally this type of correlation doesn’t happen overly much. In the UK it’s an accepted sign of etiquette and breeding to say “sorry” or even just “ ‘ry “ if you bump into another pedestrian while circumnavigating Oxford Circus in London on the 24th December at 4pm.

The correlation is the difference between how “nice” you are to someone who’s already being a twat/ cunt/ bastard and their reaction to you.


While off duty, while employed as a Special Constable with the City of London Police (volunteer cop) in 2005, the following incident occurred on a train.

A week or so before Christmas and me and some pals were on the Piccadilly Line heading out of London at about 11pm. It was busy and standing room only, being a Saturday night and a lot of people were coming back from the pub and some appeared drunk. A middle aged, rather shy looking, bespectacled woman was sitting in the same carriage and a group of about six people got on the train and stood near to her and they were laughing and talking loudly. After a few minutes I heard one of them say “come on leave this poor woman alone” and was attempting to pull one of the group, a blonde female away from the seated woman. The blonde was holding onto the horizontal bar above the seats with both hands and trying to talk with the woman who looked visibly scared and started to cry.

The blonde wouldn't budge so I walked over.

“Excuse me you need to move away”.

The blonde and her friend both rounded on me.

“Who the fuck are you?” the friend said. Well dressed, apparently in her 30s she appeared to be drunk as did the blonde.


“Let's see your badge then” she challenges.

“Sure” I get the badge out and show her.

“That's not real”.

“Yes it is”

“It's not Met” she observantly points out.

“I know it's not Met, it's City of London

“That's not real”

“Yes it is. At the moment there's no problem here, but I don't think this lady wants to talk to you” I glance down at the woman who is now holding her face and is still crying. The blonde continues to glare at me but says nothing. The one man in their group then realises what's going on and moves towards me.

“Are you causing trouble?” he snarls “what are you interfering for?”

“He's trying to pretend he's a copper” the woman who asked me for the ID tells him.

“I am a Police officer and like I said at the moment there's no problem but it you don't back off and look after your friend I'll pull the handle and you can be escorted off by Police at the next station”. In my best Betari's Box mode, as per Training, I am standing facing them with both arms raised and my palms up, the thumb of my right hand holding the wallet open to reveal the warrant card. One of the other women in the group reaches over to take the badge, I move my hand away.

“That's not a real badge” the woman insists again.

“If you want to think that that's up to you” I reply “but like I said I can have you arrested at the next station. No problem at this time but just back off ok”

“What's he so fucking nervous for?” another asks nastily, looking at the blonde.

I think 'because I'm fucking shitting myself facing six pissheads on a Saturday night with only my badge on me' but reply “like I said just leave her alone ok?”
They swear and mutter a bit more and finally get bored of me and move away slightly, turning around and talking amongst themselves, the conversation forgotten. I turn to the seated woman, still blubbing but now into a crumpled handkerchief. “You alright luv?” I ask her.

“Yes, she didn't say anything horrible she just really frightened me” she replies sniffing.

“Do you want me to get off at the same station as you? I can walk you off the train if you want”.

“No I'll be fine, thank you” she smiles and puts her tissue back in her handbag.

“Ok, but do me a favour, get off at the door near me and not this one, because if you do you'll have to walk through them”.

She nods and I move back to my friends.


So as you can see, could quite easily have gone tits up at any moment. I had been trained to act exactly how I did and while they backed off eventually, it was still unpleasant, prolonged and stressful.

Compare to this incident, a few months later.


While in training with another force as a Regular Constable (paid cop) this happened:

I was sitting on the train home in sweat dampened, winter sports clothes reading a book while waiting for it to move off when about ten teenage school kids got on the same carriage. They looked reasonably normal, didn't look like they had gang affiliations and didn't look even remotely intimidating. They did in fact look very normal. Kind of like most kids looked when I was at school. They were quite loud but not overly so and I carried on reading while they took up positions further along the carriage.

About five minutes after the train pulled out of the station they began acting up.

First of all it was increased volume. Well, that's up to them, not hurting anyone.

Then it was leaping about and shoving each other into things. Well, that's their choice as long as they keep it amongst themselves.

Then it was foul language at the same volume as the previous shouting and I could feel my temper fraying. Cycling in the freezing cold to complete a journey of over two hours that in London would take about an hour if that, can make you a bit crabby particularly if it's pissing with rain.

One or two of them are eating and dropping litter on the floor. I still ignore them and try to focus on the delights of Nanny Ogg's cat Grebo in Terry Pratchett's 'Witches Abroad'.

They are spilling into the area I'm in which contains three other people.

Two of them, while laughing then try prising the doors of the train open. We are still moving at what feels to be about 50mph.

I snap.


They freeze. The one with his fingers still in the crack in the door slowly turns to look at me. They all turn to look at me. They are all quiet.


They say nothing. They look scared. They are clearly not used to grown ups making it clear that they've even seen them, let alone taking offence at their tribal stupidity.

One of them then starts grinning and looks right at me. He chuckles.

I glare at him.


He blanches and goes white in the face. His bravado slips and he looks away. They all go quieter still and simply stand there. When I'm certain they are going to remain like that I ignore them once more and go back to the book.

Two minutes later we pull into a station. As they are still gathered near the doors the chuckler who tried laughing at me is bumped into by a lad holding a bicycle. He turns round and catches him a left hook across the face. The lad retaliates. The chuckler then grabs the kid's head under his arm and begins punching him in the face repeatedly. The bicycle goes crashing to the floor of the train. I get up, throwing my book on the seat and grab the chuckler round the waist and yank him free of the other boy. The freed kid tries to go at the other lad so I swing him away and stick my right leg out, shoving the other kid back with my foot.


The kid freezes. The rest of them are watching on in silence.

Still holding the lad round the waist I turn to a guy sitting on the other side of the carriage to where I was, who is watching this. “Do me a favour mate and pull the handle will you?”


“Pull the handle. I'm a Police officer. Warrant Card's in my pocket. Don't worry I'll take responsibility”.

He gets up and yanks the handle. The doors are still open as we have yet to pull away from the station. A few seconds after he's pulled the handle the warning alarm for 'doors closing' bleeps. The doors try to shut. Still holding the lad I stick my foot out prevent them from closing. They open and try to close again. I stick my foot in them a second time. They open and this time remain that way.

I let the kid go. “Right” I tell all of them “you and you are in serious trouble” indicating the two scrappers.


And finally to this one that happened a few months ago in a local supermarket in an especially chavvy part of town.


A long queue. One cashier. Finally another till opens. As the woman in front of me goes towards it a guy from the back of the queue hurtles forward and dumps a 4 pinter of milk and some bread on the conveyer belt. He doesn’t even glance at the people behind him.

The woman whose place he’s just taken says politely “excuse me there is a queue here!”

Bloke glances up irritably and snaps “I know that love but I’ve got a taxi waiting for me!”

She repeats again (just as politely and calmly) “but there is a queue you know!”

His face twists up in anger and he raises his hand in “hand puppet” gesture, opens and closes it like a mouth and in a high pitched mimic goes “YAPYAPYAP!”

I lose it.


He falters and says “I was only…”


He clearly thinks I’m offering him out for a scrap and stands there looking confused.


“err…I was going anyway!”

As he leaves, the other people and the cashier all laugh. The woman turns and smiles and says “thank you.”


The moral of this story is….

While a polite “excuse me” works with the well-mannered. A hearty “FUCK OFF!” achieves a lot more with horrible cunts.

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