The youth of today

December 20, 2009

Last night I went to a gig in London and caught the 23.10 train home. It was looking like a long, uninspiring journey as my iPod had run out of battery, I was quite drunk, I didn't have time to buy coffee before I got on the train and it was stopping at every dreary backwater known to mankind.

The train was pretty full, and I was sitting in a block of eight seats by myself. Suddenly, just as the train was about to pull away, I was joined by nine blokes, all aged between early and late twenties. I offered to move so they could all sit together, but they said 'no, stay and talk to us!' so I sat down with them and started chatting.

They'd been drinking in and around Leicester Square all day. They were constantly taking the piss out of each other: one of them was wearing a turquoise scarf, which the others described as a girly pashmina. Another was slumped in a corner looking pretty drunk; they threw rolled up paper balls at him. One lad was surrepticiously trying to send texts to his girlfriend every five minutes, a practice that was loudly ridiculed whenever it was spotted.

They asked me my name and where I was going; when I told them they cheered loudly because that was where they were going too. They told me that they'd met at school, one of them worked at Gatwick, another for Direct Line, another was a teacher. One of them had an iPhone with quotes from The Office on it; it was passed around and the quotes "Oooh, kinky!" played over and over (probably to the annoyance of the rest of the passengers on the train, but I couldn't care less). The one who was a teacher told the others off for swearing and threatened to throw them off the train at random intervals. The others responded by mockingly calling him 'Sir'.

They asked me which one of them looked the most gay, I refused to tell them before relenting and selecting the one with the goatee. This was greeted with hoots of laughter and the guy in question was referred to as Gay Boy for the rest of the journey. At one point he mentioned his girlfriend Sarah was picking him up from the station; one of the others replied without missing a beat, "That's his pet name; she's really called Big John". A little later in the journey, the drunk one went to lie down on the next row of seats, but remembered to take off his shoes before putting his feet on the seats. It was funny and raucous and my face ached from laughing by the time I said goodbye to them at the station.

As I walked home, I reflected on the fact that had I been on my way home to Milton Keynes or Stourbridge, and found myself accompanied by nine young men alone on a train, I would've been quite scared. I would particularly have been scared to be walking home alone. But last night I wasn't afraid for a moment. They were perfectly friendly despite their exuberance. They were never aggressive or spiteful; they were just having a laugh. I wish I could ring up their mums and tell them how lovely their sons are, and yes I do know how old that makes me sound.

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