I met a lady at a bus stop the other day. She had the most magnificent false teeth. I could tell they weren’t real because they made that plastic clacking sound. I couldn’t stop looking at them, they were sort of otherworldly. I was in a fowl mood, which I was feeling guilty about. I was annoyed at myself for going to the public swimming pool at prime kid splashing and dive bombing time. I hated all of the children, particularly the one who belly flopped right next to my not-yet-wet head.
On top of my irritation and newly wet hair I then felt all of the guilt for having so much rage toward small people. Guilt is just the worst.
Bizarrely, I visited Homebase on the way home and bought a box tree for the front garden. (I use the term ‘garden’ very loosely here.) You know, those little round ball trees you can sculpt into giant squirrels, or rabbits, or cocks? Well, I then had a bit of a meltdown that I had become the type of person who buys topiary for their front garden. Frankly, I’m annoyed about the very existence of Homebase, or at least I like to think that I am, so it’s baffling to me that I chose to spend 15 minutes of my life in there choosing a box tree.
I digress. The lady at the bus stop. Her voice was like a cup of Ovaltine. Really quite nice, and definitely comforting, but you’re not sure quite why. She asked me if I was also getting annoyed about the bus running late. I didn’t feel like telling her that actually it was children and topiary that had made me feel like a thunder cloud so I agreed and engaged in chat about how you can’t rely on buses these days.
I was quite taken aback by what she said next. She looked at me square, and said “I think everyone has become despondent.” She might have still been talking about Transport for London, but I took it to mean something along the lines of “Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump are about to destroy humanity because of ego and money and we’re sitting here with a box plant waiting for the 123 feeling annoyed at innocent splash-happy children.” I felt a lift in me when she talked. It may have been because she was talking to me at a bus stop which doesn’t really happen ever. I felt a sudden burst of joy about the realisation that I wasn’t alone in this. She talked about Walthamstow and how it used to be. She said everything has changed. Everyone is angry at each other, no-one communicates properly anymore.
Working as a support worker for older adults, I heard this kind of thing quite a lot. They felt left behind. They have seen their communities change and grow in funny ways and they don’t like the way the world works anymore. Fish & Chips cost a tenner when it used to be thrupence, their best mates have died and music halls no longer exist. Plus buses, much like their bowels, are irregular.
I wish I had told her, that she just needs to keep talking to people at bus stops. You can’t change Walthamstow on your own, not unless you’re the Mayor, and even then it’s a bit tricky. But you can do little things. You can make topiary bushes into cocks. Hey, I’d smile if I saw one – my heart would feel somewhat lighter. You can greet your bin man (or woman), they’re always remarkably nice. You can notice the loveliness of a persons nose and tell them. And, you can talk to people at bus stops.
Yes, I want the big stuff to change too. I don’t want Donald Trumpy Pants or any other person with ill-advised hair and terrible policies to run the world but I just don’t know how to stop them. I am at a loss. So, in this age of despondency, let’s forgive ourselves for buying topiary. Let’s aim to make dull moments more enjoyable, one bus stop chat at a time.