I have promised my readers not to speak too much of my job on the London Underground as it is a bit dull. However, one of the reasons I like or loathe my job is it gives me the opportunity to perk through the windows of parts of society I am unfamiliar with outside of work. I see mental health issues, issues around the welfare state, family problems, the concerns of the middle classes and the richer members of London society who regard the Tube as little more than a fairground ride.
One day a little while ago, a teenager approached my ticket window with his mother. He neglected to say please to me and his mum corrected him. “I was going to say thank you at the end!” he protested. His mother rolled her eyes and said nothing more.
On other occasions I have encountered young people with virtually no aptitude, compassion or initiative at all. One was about 16, in a group, who wanted his Zip card updated. Egged on by his mates he then fired an insult at me, saying how I am so ugly I’d be grateful for his dick. “Do you speak to your mother in that way young man?” I asked incredulously, “as I reckon we must be similar in age. Is that how your mum brought you up? To speak like that?”
“Don’t bring my mum into this…” he protested, “you fat cow.”
Needless to say I called back up from colleagues and the police, to whom he had to explain the abuse he had given me.
Some young people still need help with simple directions. A typical conversation would go thus:
“Excuse me, how would I get to Oxford Circus?”
“Take the Piccadilly line eastbound platform 1 to Green Park, then the Victoria line.”
“Sorry can you say that again?”
“Piccadilly line, platform 1. Take the train to Green Park. From there, get the Victoria line to Oxford Circus”
(Young person digests this for five seconds, then talks)
“So where is the Piccadilly line?”
(Losing will to live here)
“You see the ticket barrier? Go through there, down the escalator and find platform 1”.
“So from Platform 1 I go to Green Park?”
“And what do I do at Green Park?”
“Jump on the Victoria line. Listen, if you get lost, press the green button on a Help Point.”
“Ok. So how do I get through the barrier? ”
“With your ticket, Oyster card or contact less bank card.”
“Oh. I’d better buy a ticket then.”(After transaction is completed, he asks) “So could you tell me again?”
A colleague of mine, who had an 11 year old son, despairs at teenagers who can’t get a drink from the fridge without getting a parent out of bed first. Having allowed her boy to help himself to breakfast every morning, and go to school alone on the bus, she says she has been training him to look after himself since reception class. Too many of her friends kids cannot or will not use their initiative as their parents have always done everything for them. “It’s just the way things are with some families,” she tells me.
My sister – in – law worries constantly about my niece and nephew when they are away from the house playing. I grew up in the same village as they have and was allowed out alone aged 8. But as paedophilia has had more press over the last 30 years, my sister in law has been more cautious. My niece has a mobile phone, and she is responsible for her younger brother. I feel sorry for them, sometimes, for not having the free and easy childhood I had. Not just my sister in law, but many parents have heightened anxiety.
I now live in Old Smoky and I am training my daughter to take care of herself. Just a little bit about road safety, personal safety and the transport system. She can’t go out by herself yet, her Dad isn’t confident to allow her, but I know she will be a sensible sort. I hope she won’t turn out like those youngsters who have nil manners, no common sense and no initiative.