Before I get to my point about a very real threat to the equilibrium of society, I need to explain what I look like - because appearances are both important and deceptive. It doesn't matter that I've got a degree, or am from a loving family, or that I can put on a decent voice from time to time to betray my working class roots.
I've got a shaven head (because my hair is falling out, not because of any daring fashion choice), I'm covered in tattoos and I can usually be found wearing a hooded top and a baseball cap. I dress this way partially because I'm trying to grasp onto my youth (I'm now 34 years old and growing old disgracefully) and partially because I've always dressed this way and a hat is a good way of matching my trainers and a hoody keeps my massive ears warm.
I was recently on a the Tube heading into central London. I had my headphones on, listening to an audiobook about psychology. Because I'm a polite young man when I'm not onstage, the volume was low and I was enjoying learning as I dozed in the early morning rush hour.
After a few stops, a fifty-something year old woman got onto the train. Clad in tweed and carrying a wicker shopping basket, she looked like exactly the kind of person that the Daily Mail would use in an advertising campaign to drum up support for their publication: All scrubbed up, rosy cheeked and straight out of the background of an insurance advert voiced my Michael Parkinson.
Despite a plethora of seats being available, she chose to sit next to me. This was initially quite nice, as the description I've provided you with above normally keeps people from sitting in my vicinity. I wear a lot of aftershave in order to try and rectify any smell that I may give off, but that may also have an effect. All I know is that I take it personally when the only free seat is next to me and the 90 year old on crutches that has just got on would rather stand that sit with me.
As soon as she sat down, the woman tapped me on the knee. I removed my headphones to hear what this sweet little lady would say to me... and was greeted with:
"Don't think you intimidate me. Switch down whatever horrible music that you're listening to right now".
She didn't even say please. I explained that I wasn't listening to music and besides, the volume was miniscule but she then followed with "no, I know your sort, listening to filthy rap music".
Now who doesn't like a bit of "Shake Your Ass" by Mystikal from time to time? I know I do. But at this moment I was preoccupied with the fact that I had no answer to the sheer cheek of the woman. Not a thing. Why was she talking to me like this? Is she some kind of iPod based vigilante let loose on North London?
I blame the Daily Mail, as always. Last week they ran a story about working class kids going to university with an image of two youths getting drunk in a bar and fighting (because that's what us working class chimps like to do). They continue to employ vapid so-called "journalists" such as Liz Jones and give column inches to middle-class idiots such as Samantha Brick. They constantly vilify anyone who isn't from a leafy suburb and they might be an easy target for comedians like me (once I had one of their journalists in the front row of a gig and it was the easiest 20 minutes of my career) but their influence into the chattering classes is deep and significant.
I don't have an issue with class. I'm working class but work in an industry that is certainly middle-class based. Without sounding like a modified Jim Davidson in the dock, many of my best friends are middle class. What I have an issue with is women like the one on the train, middle class, middle aged people who have a mistaken sense of entitlement and believe that they can talk down to anyone that they so choose.
Here's my point: Middle class people with a misplaced sense of entitlement are often ruder than the sweariest of scruffy stand-up comedians. And why? Because they genuinely believe that they can act like that, and that every single person who looks like me is an idiot that is beneath them and their Waitrose shopping list.
It's not ALL middle class people, either. In the same way that for every one Jeremy Kyle-alike from Mansfield (that's the accent that most of their "guests" have) there and 1,000 decent working class people, it's the same for every type of person. For this one rude, nasty, judgemental woman there are 1,000 decent middle class people that enjoy football instead of rugby and only pretend to like hummus and olives.
I'd never done anything to upset that woman, but she immediately irritated me. Across from me a middle-aged man in a suit rolled his eyes, almost like he'd met her before. Maybe she regularly gets on that train and hits chaps like me with umbrellas.
I eventually managed to stammer out some words to her. I think I said "sorry".
Then with a smile I put some Pantera on my iPod and switched the volume up to eleven.
If she's going to underline my prejudices, I'm sure as hell going to underline hers.
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