Wednesday, January 18, 2006

finding spaces to work

I’m getting less and less tolerant as I get older. I'm not sure that's always a bad thing, since it does tend to highlight issues which more tolerant people would ignore, and if they don't get highlighted, some of these issues can escalate to dangerous proportions. Like anti-social behaviour, for instance, and the stress it causes for its victims.

One of my older kids was off school today - some sort of open day which didn’t involve her - so I took advantage of her presence to leave the younger ones and disappear for an hour or so. This is a rare event, being able to leave the house without my three and often difficult small children during term-time, so I was in an optimistic mood. I took a writing pad and went to one of my favourite cafes in a nearby town, hoping to get some serious work done.

Within minutes of sitting down with a deliciously steaming latte, three girls in their late teens walked in and took the table opposite. They then proceeded to make the most appalling racket for the next forty minutes, playing intensely irritating 'speech' ring tones at top volume to entertain each other, shouting down their phones at their ‘mates’, yelling at each other across the table as though they were deaf, screaming with laughter, throwing food and generally bringing my blood to boiling point.

The cafe owner seemed oblivious to the sound levels - no doubt the girls are regulars there, whereas I’m only an occasional visitor and therefore unimportant. If I had realised how long they would stay, I would have left immediately. But I hung on stupidly, hoping it was not as bad as it seemed, that they were only there for a quick snack.

Needless to say, my hour was wasted, I did hardly any work and sloped off in the end seething with rage and frustration. If it had been possible to do so without the usual legal consequences, I would quite happily have blattered their teeth out with a baseball bat. Snatched their bloody mobiles and crushed them to pieces under the heel of my boot. Dragged them into the toilets and shoved their heads into ... well, you get the picture. Not much of a pacifist, me. But when your time alone is at a premium and something like that happens, preventing you from working or even enjoying yourself in a civilised manner, you do begin to wonder how such a warped set of values could have evolved, how our young adults can be so completely uninterested in the feelings or needs of other people around them, behaving in public like overgrown toddlers and expecting to be indulged by society in much the same way.

Bring back National Service, that’s what I say! Bring back corporal punishment. Bring back hanging, et cetera.

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