Alternate title: Watch Your Fucking Words
It had been raining on and off all day, intermittent hail storms peppering the city, and heavy grey clouds steamrolling any patch of blue sky that dared show its face for longer than three minutes. We had tried to take a walk after lunch, when a little sun suddenly appeared, but had to turn back ten minutes later. The sky had darkened swiftly and as the rain began to fall, my phone flashed the urgent message from a weather-watching SG, ‘GET INSIDE’. We got inside as the hail began bouncing. I held hope it would all clear up by the time I needed to catch a bus to a class, but that little flame was spat on by the Baltic Weather Gods, and out into utter misery I trotted, umbrella only just withstanding the wind.
The bus stop was shelter to some six or so people with plenty of room for one or two more, but I stayed outside under my umbrella. I folded only when the wind threatened to start playing games, games that always end in some sort of mortifying wrestle with snapping spokes and flying fabric and a resulting useless umbrella. Into the shelter I ducked, umbrella closed. It sprung open a little as I made myself as compact as possible near the corner, and brushed the legs of a man standing with this back to me. He turned around and gave me a look of displeasure. I duly murmured entschuldigung and took a seat. Moments later, he turned back around, face pinched, and told me I had made his pants wet. I said sorry, again, and he resumed standing with his back to me until he felt once more compelled to turn around. This time he said, with significant volume, ‘bitch.’ (Now, it has been a while since I have been called a bitch. In fact, the last time I recall being called a bitch was years ago, standing by an ATM, when I struck an old woman as deserving of the title. It really is a most offensive word.) I shrugged, as if being called a bitch was a daily happening, and didn’t respond. His bus was approaching and clearly he had more energy to expend on the entire situation than I did.
As his bus crested the hill, he began rustling his own, pastel, umbrella. I knew precisely what he was going to do, and as the bus pulled to a stop, his face gleaming with a sense of retributive justice, he opened his umbrella in my face and shook it all over me. I sighed. He was, truth be told, so utterly disbelieving that my umbrella had brushed his legs, he seemed bodily consumed by it. Spoiling for the most pointless fight with a woman half his age, although admittedly twice his size.
‘What the fuck is your problem?’ It slipped out, with an extra Australian twang. Fuck the German, my displeasure is always better expressed auf Englisch.
His eyes bulged. Still carried by the momentum of the moving queue to board the bus, he screeched, also auf Englisch, ‘the FUCK is YOUR PROBLEM? THE FUCK IS YOUR PROBLEM?’
In these situations, it is always a bit tricky to hit the right balance of rueful and unbothered. There is a bus full of people staring at you, a bus queue privy to an unconventional, if one-sided, conversation of which you are the object. It wasn’t like his ravings could be passed off as those of a loon, directed at nobody in particular. I was the only person left in the bus stop and he was very clearly addressing me. So I did what anyone else would do, and dug around in my pocket for my phone, shaking my head slightly as if to say, ‘I don’t know either, guys’ to those spectating.
‘WATCH YOUR FUCKING WORDS,’ rang out.
Oh well that’s rich, I thought, opening Whatsapp.
‘WATCH YOUR FUCKING WORDS.’
How wasn’t he on the bus by now?
I looked up. He was on the bus, just hanging out the yet-to-be-closed doors.
The doors closed and the bus pulled away. I called home.
‘You are not going to believe what just happened.’