Among the books I truly loved when I was a boy was the series of short story anthologies brought out under Alfred Hitchcock’s name with titles like ‘Stories Not for the Nervous’, ‘Stories to be Read with the Lights On’ and ‘Stories My Mother Never Told Me’; this latter was, in my case, rather ironic, because it featured the kind of stories – horror, gore, murder, mutilation – which my mother loved. Indeed, these books were passed down to me by her, tattered Pan paperbacks, possibly gifted to her by her mother-in-law, who got them off her husband, my grandfather Jimmy Wyllie who read a lot, mainly while at work.
Anyway, among these stories was one called ‘For All the Rude People’; Google has just kindly told me this was written by Jack Ritchie, and Google seems to indicate, bless her heart, that it still has a lively following. It is about a man who, on learning he is terminally ill, travels about the USA killing people who have been rude to him or his family in the past. To be honest, I’d better be hit by a bus while drunk, lest the list of people in my head – most of whose names I don’t even know – meets the same fate.
So Dr Scott and I, as we have happily done for getting on for forty years, went to the cinema on Saturday to see a film called ‘The Worst Person in the World’, a Norwegian movie which, incidentally, was a great deal better than its trailer suggested. Its title proved to be highly appropriate because, as it turned out, one of the worst people in the world was actually present at the performance.
People do behave badly in cinemas, but this one was a corker. She was one seat away from me in a small, sparsely attended cinema, watching a gently paced quiet film. Prior to the film beginning, she removed the voluminous contents of a carrier bag and placed them on the seat on her other side. Then, throughout the movie she ate and ate and ate, consuming a wide selection of noisy and smelly snacks, rustling sweeties, cans of juice and the contents of a vacuum flask, each time propelling the debris back into the carrier. She had, early on, removed her shoes, and sat grazing with her feet up on the seat in front; towards the end of the film she actually sort of lay down on her seat and the one where, prior to the feast, the food had lain. Her astonishing inability to even begin to consider the needs of anyone else in the place made me wonder if she was perhaps, mentally ill. I suppose I used that as an excuse for not gently asking her to pipe down, or else beating her about her person with my own modestly used, very quiet water bottle. Had I been terminally ill….
I know I am getting old. Some people allow their children to behave appallingly everywhere so it is no wonder they grow into terrible selfish adults; in public places – theatres, concert halls, restaurants (though cinemas are the worst) – people seem to think they are at home and talk and eat and belch away; on buses people roar into their phones – honestly, who has these conversations for hours of drivel at major decibels inches from some stranger’s ear? Yes, I am getting old, but please just reassure me that this is getting worse, and it’s not just the prejudice of a different generation.
Last year Mr F and I were having dinner in a pub in Seahouses (called the Bamburgh Castle Hotel, and being nowhere near Bamburgh, as we discovered having booked it). Seahouses is a tough wee town, unlike its stately Northumbrian neighbours, and the Bamburgh Castle Hotel was a sticky-tabled venture, though the burger was very good, which probably explained its popularity on this dark and cold October night. On the other side of the restaurant a young man and a young woman were having their meal while conducting a noisy FaceTime conversation with what appeared to be a number of hysterical young women. Twenty yards away I could hear what they were saying. I kept catching the eye of an enormous middle-aged man at another table, who was getting angrier and angrier, and who, having paid his bill, stopped off at Mr FaceTime’s table, and said, very loudly ‘Thank you for ruining our evening.’. Mr FaceTime squared up. It was clear that a number of men in the room (not including me, for I would simply have been mollicated) were preparing themselves to intervene and batter Mr FT for his rudeness, but – perhaps fortunately – he was pulled back by the young woman, who was, I suspect, to blame anyway.
I was thinking about this yesterday on the 124 home. A child at the back, about three years old, was singing a song over and over again; each performance of this ditty lasted about fifteen seconds and culminated in him shouting ‘Pish’ very loudly. His mother looked at her phone. I tried to read, but felt the ghost of Mrs Janet Wyllie hovering nearby willing me to whack him.
Then a nice thing happened; an older lady got on the bus with a baby in a pushchair and a toddler, also about 3. She sat where people with pushchairs are supposed to sit and the toddler sat in the double seat opposite her. Almost immediately, she reprimanded him.
‘Cameron,’ she said, ‘get your feet off the seat, darling.’
He was out of sight but he must have done so.
‘That’s Nana’s good boy. Good boy. It’s just that people have to sit on that seat. You’ll get a sweetie when you get home. Good boy.’
Ah, Cameron, Cameron, Nana – when I got off she was playing fistbumps with the baby while Cameron sat contented looking out the window; ah Cameron, Cameron, you will I think grow up to be a fine person. Mr Pish on the other hand will no doubt be hoovering up popcorn in a cinema near you and his feet will be precisely where someone will be going to sit. What’s to be done with all the rude people?