Something about the summer heat turns polite British people into monsters.
Maybe it’s the lack of AC. Maybe it’s the fact that for eight months out of the year it rains almost every day. Maybe it’s the constant sunlight – right now, the sun rises at 5am and sets at 9:30pm. Or it’s temperatures climbing to 85ºF (30ºC for the European sticklers around here).
I’ve never seen so many people on edge or just on the verge of losing it. It’s like a cage match, fought with sharp barbs and that ‘delightful’ sense of sarcasm I’m now recognizing as distinctly English.
Just today, I saw two fights break out on the bus.
I was on the upper deck of the 38 Bus to Piccadilly Circus – already a bad decision as the second floor was a downright sauna. A woman with a young child was waiting to go down the stairs. The kid had been whining for the last three stops that he was sweating (so were we all, but trust me kid, it’s not much better on the ground level). They were waiting for the bus to stop in order to descend (walking down those stairs when a bus is moving is like drunk-surfing in heels, with your eyes closed). A middle-aged man looked back at them, because the kid was causing an absolute scene. This was apparently the wrong decision, because the mother absolutely lost it. She went off on him for a slew of offenses – from looking at her kid, to turning his head, to paying attention to another family. I chuckled to myself, because the whole fight was ridiculous (you better believe it, the sweaty old man was shouting back. It was a proper row as they say here). I kept on reading my book. The incident made Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian read like Paddington Bear.
M and I went to the Sex and the City popup in Piccadilly without a hitch and then doubled to the British Museum to see the China exhibition and to enjoy the free AC. And to see the mummies. You never leave the museum without seeing the mummies.
On the way back, I sat on the ground floor of the bus, because I don’t love my thighs sticking together like two pieces of taffy. An old man across from me decided that it was the perfect opportunity to clear his throat with reckless abandon, gather the spittle in his mouth, and spit it out in a plastic bag (that was not empty. there was…more in there), then gently plant the bag on the seat next to him. I didn’t want to give up my seat, and also I’ve seen many a shushu hurl a snot rocket across a great distance. The woman behind me, however, was more bothered. She spent the remainder of the bus ride telling the man off for his spit using more colorful language than I feel printing here. Tensions were high. The spittle bag was minutes away from being hurled in her face. I got off the bus two stops early, because I felt like leaving during Act IV of that tragecomedy would be the wisest choice.