Monday, March 27, 2006

Manic-Depressive Neighbour

There was a buzz on the intercom and then a mysterious invitation to a meeting later that night.

'I don't like surprises, K,' I said, 'What's this about?'

'About your neighbours. It's in your best interest to hear what I have to say.' He crackles.

So I go, later, prepared for the worst.

He explains that he is a manic-depressive, but on good medication. He goes on to explain that because of his condition he has a unique insight into personality disorders. And because he is a (industry) contractor he is also an officer of the law.

I look confused at this and he tells me that all jobs ending with 'or' are officers of the law. I think of the rhyme, 'Soldier, Sailor, Tinker, Tailor', hang on, I think, what about a machine operator?

He goes on... and because he has this insight and authority (he comes to the point):

'L (another neighbour), is a psychopath, and I think he wants to harm me and my family.'

I consider this. L is a mild mannered young man who looks like a vegetarian Buddhist. I find it hard to believe that he is a psychopath.

He provides examples that are, perhaps, a bit of a stretch.

I let is pass and promise that I'll be careful. We move on to the recycling bins that he has recently thrown away (all of the building's). He justifies this firstly by saying that it is messy when they are left outside, then by saying that recycling is worthless and most of it ends off on the normal landfill anyway, and then finally by getting out a sealed envelope containing a lurid magazine calendar featuring gimp outfits and naughty nurses. It is, however, not obscene, merely rude and slightly disturbing.

He found this in the recycling, and this could fall into the hands of a five year old.

'So,' he says, 'what are a few bean tins compared to the corruption of a five year old?'

I have no answer for this. 'It's not my magazine,' I point out, 'and my recycling doesn't contain anything corrupting.'

'But I just told you, recycling is pointless!'

I don't feel included to argue. I make excuses, but he has something else to tell me.

'I want to offer you some advice, and you should take it, because I'm old and I'm an officer of the law...' (etc, loop) he goes on, 'when you see a little girl in the street, you must ignore her. Don't even look at her. Because she belongs to the father. And when you see a little boy, you must do the same, except you may look into his eyes for a few seconds before looking away. Because I saw you saying hello to that baby girl the other day. You mustn't do that.'

I splutter, 'Why on earth are you telling me this? What baby? What, our neighbour's baby? I didn't even know it was a girl K! I've only even seen it once in passing!'

'She was wearing pink when you saw her,' he says, as if that ends the argument.

'Fine, fine, I say.' Getting up.

'Ah, you're a sensible lad, taking my advice.'

'K,' I say, 'believe me, I'd rather get on with you than not. Anything for an easy life.'

He erupts! 'An easy life! For evil to triumph all that must happen is for good men to stand idly by! This world is full of fucking evil!' Tears are forming in his eyes. He shakes with rage.

I shake his hand and say goodbye.

'I've done my public duty!' He shouts as I leave.

Back in my flat I lock the door securely. Very securely.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Push my button

I don't know why, but two of the things that really get me worked up (and shouldn't) involve button pressing.

1. Pelican crossing.

For those of you not British, a pelican crossing is one where you push a button, wait a while, and then cross when the green man says it is okay (as opposed to a Zebra crossing where you can simply walk out into speeding traffic and demand that they stop).

Note the use of buttons. Now, granted, some busy junctions will automatically change and show a green man if you wait there for long enough, but on straight roads, away from junctions, you could wait until the end of time and the green man wouldn't appear.

Why then, do crowds of people stand at Peilcan crossings without pressing the button? Brighton train station is a classic example. It's often full of people standing there waiting, and no-one has pressed the button. I walk up and do so and instantly the lights change. The zombies standing around notice the effect, but not the cause.

2. Buses

On a bus, in England, if you wish to get off at the next stop, then you press a button and the driver is alerted to this fact. When you press the button a ding noise is heard quite clearly, and a sign very clearly seen througout the bus lights up, saying 'STOPPING'. In big letters like that.

Why, oh why, oh why then do people continue to press the button when it has already been done? When approaching a bus stop it can sound like a pinball machine, the amount of pinging that is going on.

Really, I think I'm upset that so many people don't seem to be aware of their surroundings. Going through life oblivious of the details.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Badly-designed disabled toilets

The only seat left on the train was the one next to the badly-designed disabled toilets. Badly designed? Yes, very. The door opens and closes electronically at a pace that tears at the soul. So you step in side and press the close button. And wait, whilst people stare at you, as the door creaks and creeps shut. Most people at this point get frustrated and foolishly try to press the lock button before the door has fully closed. This is a mistake. If you do this then the door finally closes and then starts to open again. Then you must then wait for it to fully open, and press close again and repeat the process.

Damn thing.

Anyway, this particular toilet was obviously out of order (all too common, that) and had been flashing as occupied since I got on about 30 minutes ago.

Now arrives the tall, lanky drunken man. He jabs at the button several times. Nothing happens. He goes to the other button round the side and jabs that too. Nothing.

He starts to hop from foot to foot. 'Shit, shit shit.' He mutters, and jabs the button again.

'I think it's out of order,' I say, causing him to whirl around and stare at me madly, jiggling.

After staring at me for a while he starts to jab the button again. He is making sobbing noises now and holding his penis like a little boy. He stood in full view, cursing, sobbing, jiggling and massaging his packet for some minutes. The door didn't open.

Eventually, he limped off to the next carriage.

Croydon Knife Crimes?

On my way home last night I passed through Croydon train station where the police had blocked off all the platform exits and erected large scanning devices of the kind more normally (for now) seen in airports. A sign nearby proclaimed that they were making my journey safer by checking that people travelling on the train with me aren't carrying anything nasty. Like knives.

I passed by without being hassled, but on an impulse turned around and approached two police nearby.

'What's the law concerning carrying penknives then?' I ask.

They squint at me, obviously thinking, he's got a knife!

'Two point, what is it?' Says one.

'Two point seven, I think?' Says cop number two.

I assume they are talking size of blade, and inches. But they don't know for sure, which is worrying.

'Unless it locks.' Says cop 1.

'Yes, unless it locks.' Parrots cop 2.

'Ah, I say,' pulling out my small locking penknife. They stare at it, as if it is a bomb.

'This is small,' I continue, '...but locks. So I can't carry it then?'

'No.' Says cop 1.

'You shouldn't have it.' Says cop 2. Cop 2 looks like she wants to take my knife away.

'So,' I say, putting it back in my pocket, 'I'll just take it home and not carry it again, eh?'

They stare at me as I walk backwards and escape.