All is right with the world.
I got on the Central Line eating a very dry breadstick. For some moments I was diverted by the task of negotiating a handhold on the vertical pole (the roof bars are for taller people than me – I have to get over-close to people’s laps to reach them). This involved displacing a man who thought it was acceptable to lean his entire body along its length and as you can imagine it took a bit of tactical manoeuvring. I was feeling quite aggrieved when I was suddenly I was brought sharply to attention by an even more aggrieved-sounding voice saying:
“EXCUSE me. I’ve got nothing against you eating but could you PLEASE stop dropping crumbs on me because that is SICK.”
Me, sick?? A black-hooded man in fetish boots was looking at his black drainpipes. I couldn’t see a crumb, I thought that “sick” was an overreaction, but I dare say that crumbs had indeed made contact with his lap because it was a very dry breadstick. Moreover could I be entirely sure that they hadn’t fallen from my mouth as I out-manoeuvred the pole man? Had he been alert enough to realise, that would have been poetic justice for him: pushy woman in her efforts to assert herself over one passenger inadvertantly deposits masticated breadstick on a second. What a horrible thought. I’m almost certain not.
Me, somebody’s problem on the London Underground? I was very happy he had spoken up. I didn’t mind at all – in fact it was only proper. He looked as if he was in a very bad temper. I felt stirrings of empathy. I took out my earphones, said “I’m very sorry about that” and smiled on him beatifically (as I moved my elbow to prevent pole-man from crushing my hand between the pole and his body). He took out his earphones and muttered grudgingly that it was alright. Then I carefully necked the rest of my breadstick as he peeked at me irritably from under his hood. At Mile End he was away like a hare out of a trap and I sat in the seat next to his and ate about six more over my bag.
On a different but related note, Matt came across a programme on BBC Radio 3’s Twenty Minutes about noise in the quiet carriage. I think the way the presenter describes the tension of the abstention from noise in the QC as a pane of glass with a rock hurtling at it, is spot on. He is so right. When I’m in the quiet carriage I’m all ears for noise, it’s ridiculous. And the irony is that you can, as he did, get pulled up for wearing noise-cancelling earphones.