A funny thing happened on the way to my Journalism class on Saturday.
I was waiting at the bus stop in Lewisham way, juggling with a rucsack and a plastic bag with three newspapers - they all contained free DVDs and they all had loads of supplements, so it made for an unwieldly parcel, especially as I'd bought them from the kiosk in front of the DLR station. They don't normally issue plastic bags so this one wasn't big enough.
I think I was digging out the DVDs when I noticed this boy, who couldn't have been more than twelve years old, sitting on one of those hard-shelled suitcases. I remembered he was the same one who'd been behind me at the kiosk, the woman telling him she didn't need his help today, thank you. I noticed him because he was making loud noises by continually snapping the handle up and letting it spring back onto the suitcase.
I was moving away from the noise when the bus arrived and in my hurry I dropped a £1 coin, which I picked up. '£1 down!' said the boy, in a loud voice, and as I got on behind him I saw he was about to slip a £1 coin into his wallet.
'Hey, did you pick that up just now?'
'Well, it's mine.'
'It's mine now'. He put the case on the rack beside the driver and sat down. Meantime I was putting down my bag, finding my bus pass and telling him off all at the same time. He took no notice at all and the bus passengers looked on, bemused. I was feeling quite annoyed by this time, so started really scolding the boy as I sat on the seat behind him.
'You know, I would really feel ashamed if I were you -picking up money dropped by little old ladies ( I exaggerated a little) If you do that now, what will you do when you get older...' I was really giving him some verbal, everyone on the bus listening in and the woman sitting next to the boy turning round to smile at me admiringly. He was a burly boy, and probably a bit of a bully at school, obviously used to toughing things out. At this point he just got up and climbed the stairs to the upper deck.
I was having a discussion with the woman of the ' young kids today, what are they like' kind when he came down again, collected his suitcase and got off at the next stop. By way of a parting shot I called after him to say I would ask the kiosk woman where he lived and come round to see his mother. The woman in front thought that wouldn't do much good, and I had to agree. Meanwhile the boy, having got off the bus, was swearing loudly.
When I arrived at the class and told my classmate all about it she said I was lucky, really, that I had got away without being injured. 'They go in for all this happy-slapping nowadays and you wouldn't have stood a chance.'
I explained that with a bus load of passengers and the boy only about twelve years old I'd felt safe.
Maybe she was right. I suppose I could have ended up in a heap on the floor, instead of pleased that at least I'd had some kind of reward for my £1, even if it had only been his discomfort.