I used to be such a shy, retiring type. After enduring my first year of high school in Aberdeen, Scotland with kids sniggering every time I said a number like 'Eighty eighty' in class with my 'strine accent, I spent the best part of school keeping my head down. Even as a voted-in school rep I was never willing to endure the public humiliation of standing up in front of the assembly, and in my uni student years I dreaded having someone who was Not-A-Full-Can-Of-Fanta profess their undying love for me in Rundle Mall.
Blogging goddess Redcap has politely spoken to some escalator hoggers, who, unfortunately, snapped back rather nastily.
Fellow blogger, Rosanna has recently put up a post about how a bloke quite literally PUNCHED a woman on a packed train, for accidentally slipping and knocking against him. Even more shockingly (or perhaps not?), no-one on the train did anything to censure him or see if the woman herself was OK.
Somehow though, as I've got older and less concerned about how others perceive the cut of my jib/jeans/hair/cake/career/car, I've also become either far less tolerant or more willing to speak up. Perhaps some people would consider it as 'sticking your nose in' and, if any of you have been lucky enough to clamp your beadies on my schnozz, you'll realise that it is fairly large. Put it this way: if mortgage payments ever become a struggle, I could earn some cash by renting it out as a portable warehouse.
That said, I have gradually become less willing to sit back and ignore things that I think are unfair or uncomfortable. So far I haven't yet got a punch in the proboscis because there are certainly ways to quickly decide how safe the situation is and how far you can take things. For example.....
The 35-weeks-into-pregnancy stage. I was experiencing 24/7 morning sickness and was still getting over the day before's embarrassment of having my dress blow up over my head down the windswept middle of Melbourne's Collins Street. That evil gust unbecomingly revealed my bulging belly button, x-large nanna pants and pantyhose that ended mid-thigh, making my legs look like mushroom clouds. As such my tolerance level was operating at minus the power of ten.
As with Redcap, I was walking up the escalator out of Spencer Street station, counting down the seconds I needed to get to the office and throw up before the day's work could begin. In front of me, entirely blocking the way, were two suited businessmen, in earnest conversation.
"Er excuse me please."
They didn't even turn around. My bile was rising, in both senses of the word. I tried again.
"Excuse me please, I need to get past."
One deigned to turn around and saw only a billowing maternity dress worn by a minion.
"Oh, like you've got somewhere urgent to go," he said sarcastically.
I saw a colour of red that not only burned with rage but also the back of retinas and yelled back, "Unless you want me to throw up on you, get the hell out of my way!"
They did. And I didn't, unfortunately, manage to send any peas and carrots their way.
A year ago, Love Chunks, Sapphire and I were on our way to a week of sun'n'sand'n'skin cancer in Queensland. The bag nazis were out with a vengeance and all three of us felt well and truly violated by the time we got to hand in our boarding passes for a flight several hours late. Sapphire was starting to whine, I was regretting the inhalation of entire packet of apple mentos and Love Chunks needed the toilet. We two oldies had the regulation-sized bags, crammed full of Sapphire's jumpers, books, biscuits, games and stuffed toys. My zipper was squealing in protest.
There, in front of us stood a bearded bloke with no partner or child, holding a suitcase. Yes, a friggin' Samsonite that could have housed us three Locketts comfortably. The bored Cabin Boy waved him through, but I wasn't going to let it pass. No, the inner-Gandalf broke through the sensible polar fleece outer layer and piped up with, "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" Well, actually I said, "Hey! Hang on a minute! Why is HE allowed to bring a bloody wardrobe on board the flight?"
The Cabin Boy broke from his glazed, screen-saver mode and called the guy back and stood him aside. "Thank you," I said primly and walked through. Love Chunks' was gasping back tears of mirth: "You cheekly little beast - he'll kill you." Thankfully, Beardy Boy didn't have time. Precisely ten seconds before we were due to take off, he staggered aboard, red faced, shirt out and flustered and clearly the recipient of a thorough cavity search. But dammit, he still had the suitcase with him and shoved it in the overhead lockers to the sound of slow hand clapping.
Perhaps though, the best effort was on the 106 bus, trundling home from work on a cold winter's night when it was dark and raining. Said bus picks up a sometimes motley bunch of characters from the stop near the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Apart from the usual medical staff, office workers and students, we often tended to see a few newly-stitched or newly-dried out members of society blearily climbing aboard, muttering to themselves.
This never fazed me because I never managed to get a seat and normally had to grab at the edge of a seat nearest the exit door in an effort to not topple over or get punched in the face ala Rosanna's poor heroine. On this particularly dark and busy night, a fifty-something bloke with a face like a bruised sandshoe stumbled aboard. Reeking of a barmaid's armpit and standing about as steadily as a roller coaster rider during a hurricane, he found the only spare seat: one of those sideways ones that are generally only favoured by the elderly or the pram-weilding.
Across from him was a woman in her forties, unremarkable in her attempts to wear a blank face and not look in the drunk's direction. She immediately took his fancy, and he gave her a cartoonish wink from the remaining eye that wasn't black or swollen.
The Lucky Lady put her head down, hoping he'd shut up and go away.
He didn't. "I said, Hello Darlin'. I think you're beautiful."
She then decided to try the option of turning away to stare out of the foggy, reflective window. "Whassa matta, darlin? Dontcha like your fellas on the rough side?"
By this stage, all eyes on the bus (except for the driver's, I hoped) were on the courting couple. "Aw come on darlin, I'm givin' yer a comp.... a comple... a sign that I like ya. Whass your problem? Are you a lezzo?"
An elderly gentleman sitting next to Lucky Lady spoke up, disapproval oozing out of him like the rain from the umbrella at his feet. "Look mate, she doesn't like it. Leave her alone."
Busted Sandshoe wasn't prepared to be told off by someone his father's age. He got to his feet and, as he did so, the bus stopped suddenly at the traffic lights causing him to fall into the back of another lady hanging on to an overhead strap. Now the bus driver decided to step in, calling out, "Settle down back there or I'll kick you off."
"Gesssstuffed..." Sandshoe muttered, slowly getting to his feet and again heading towards Lucky Lady.
I felt so sorry for her, and for the drunk. What had life dealt him to end up this way and why did the lady have to put up with being humiliated in public without any escape?
It was then I noticed that Busted Sandshoe had two tatty plastic bags on the floor. I can't believe I did this - but I truly did - I dashed forward, grabbed them both, kicked open the side exit doors and flung them out into the street.
Sandshoe was flabbergasted. Flabbergasted in that slow-motion, drooling way that only the thoroughly-pissed can be. "Whatha' hell didya do 'at for?"
He lurched towards me, but I knew that I'd be more than his physical and sober match, if only by stepping aside and revealing the exit. His own momentum carried him down the steps, through the fling-back doors and into the gutter. I turned to the front. "DRIVE!"
Mr Bus Driver did. The passengers applauded and whistled and I basked in their impromptu gestures of appreciation.
Lucky Lady glared at me and dinged the 'stop' dinger. "That was MY stop", she hissed. "Now I'll have to get off at the next one and walk in the rain."
Oh. You're welcome.