I may have just had a close encounter of the third kind. No, I'm not talking about being beamed up to a UFO and probed and poked, although that would make for an interesting story. This encounter was with one of London's most elusive characters. The Gentleman.
During my three years living and working in London I've become more than accustomed to all the cut throat tube door entrance shoving, discreet elbowing, guerilla hand bag maneuvering and tactical eye contact avoidance that comes with the daily tube and bus working day commute. The mantra most repeat to themselves is it's every man and woman for themselves and keep calm and carry on.
But tonight, chivalry was the order of the hour and Mr Darcy himself made an appearance, this time not in the form of the pages from a jane austen classic or from one of my silly daydreams.
I was stuck on the C11 bus with many other tired weary souls who just wanted to get home and out of the sea of traffic which had somehow snaked into one of the world's worst traffic jams. The bus was already packed to the rafters, and I was one of many standing. It was a perilous choice, either lean my face away from one commuter's musky, sweaty armpit only to end up pushed up against someon's back which was already damp and slimy with back sweat. Hardly the setting for a chivalrous act to say the least.
When the girl hopped on the bus, she looked bedraggled and I barely noticed her. She looked how I felt. Her hair was wet from the drizzle, she had far too many sainsbury's shopping bags and her handbag was dragging along the ground. I saw her stumble near the first row of seats then make her way to the standing section where we were all trying to maintain our balance and ridicuous bubbles of personal space at the same time.
Suddenly a man who until now had looked completely sane and normal in his work suit and tie stood up in the first row of seats and shouted at her "Are you going to apologise for that?"
The whole of the bus averted their eyes, but turned down their ipods in mild interest.
"I said sorry, what did you expect your leg was in the aisle?" she replied back.
"You don't just step on someone's foot like that, show some respect," he shouted back at her. Shouting for no reason at all really, as the bus had fallen completely silent by now.
"You saw me struggling but you didn't move, I just tried to get past," she replied and shook her head to dismiss the ongoing conversation.
He was practically going purple in the face with anger by now and blurted out "Stupid fucking cow," and sat back down shaking his head.
The rest of the bus seems to be in a bit of mild shock and I must admit I too was shocked that a stranger would speak to someone else like that, let alone a man to a woman.
I looked around at the other men on the bus who were swapping looks of outrage with each other when one man raised his voice, "That kind of language is uncalled for when talking to a lady, I think you should apologise for that," he said clearly and evenly. To which many on the bus retorted with 'Here, here".
The purple faced suit man stood up and turned around incredulus and said "The stupid cow deliberately stepped on my foot. No need for that kind of behaviour on the bus and I was sick of it," he responded, clearly not ashamed of his outburst and more than happy to go into bat for another argument.
To which the gentleman replied "Regardless, no one should be spoken to like that. Show some respect for all the women on the bus. Imagine if she was your sister or mother, you wouldn't want someone talking to her like that. I don't care if her heel ended up chopping off your wee little pinkie toe. It's uncalled for you should be ashamed of yourself,"
I swooned as did many other women on the bust. That's right, I swooned for this ordinary, hum drum looking fellow, with a wedding band (I noticed this when he first spoke up) who hadn't struck me as overly memorable five minutes earlier. Chivalry is sexy, boys please note.
The angry man went to pipe up again and the girl interupted and said this particular passenger does this everytime she gets on, if its not her, its someone else who has pissed him off and he has a go at them.
The angry man was starting to rant now and have a go at The Gentleman saying "I fucking deserve to be left alone on my home from a hard working day and not have to put up with rude bitches on the bus.." and he was going further when another bloke piped up and said:
"All those who think this man shoud shut his mouth or get kicked off the bus raise their hand now,"
And wouldn't you know it, the whole bus put up their arms including the bus driver who tapped on his microphone and said "For those of you who can't see I've got my arm up too, so you, mister trouble maker big mouth you can shut it and let us all get home in peace or get off"
The bus broke out into a random applause and the purple angry man sat back down grumbling and kept his mouth shut for the rest of the journey. What added icing to the cake was every person who went past him on the waiy out said "Excuse me, Excuse me"and made a big deal of being overly polite when they went past angry purple faced man. One woman went past and said to him "Now you have a lovely evening now, smiling is better for you then frowning," and it made the rest of the passengers have a bit of a giggle.
By the time I got off the bus, The Gentleman had well and truly departed and when he did, he did so to a round of applause from the rest of the remaining passengers.
All in all a heart warming brush with chivalry and it has left me wondering if there are other gentlemen out there in London, I know I've had many account with many masquerading as one and if any abide by a universal code of conduct, such as this one (Gentleman's code of conduct).
And most importantly, does Mr Darcy ride the C11 bus?