The story of the 2,000 Year Old Heckler
makes me angrier than almost anything I've heard on the news recently. Because it's a symptom
, isn't it, of the disease that affects our political culture, and more:
Walter Wolfgang, of London, was ejected after shouting 'nonsense' as the foreign secretary defended Iraq policy.
Party chairman Ian McCartney later apologised to Mr Wolfgang, calling the manner of his removal 'inappropriate'.(emphasis added)
Older readers will remember that, not long ago, I suffered the indignity
of being treated like cattle at Luton Airport, as two passport control officers slowly worked through about 6 planeloads of passengers' passports, glancing (cursorily) at each one, forcing people with children and hand luggage to stand for over an hour in a cramped arrivals hall.
That night, the woman standing behind me completely lost it and started shouting - and she wasn't the only one. Police were called, and they joined the many other
airport staff who were standing around enjoying the spectacle of tired and angry people being forced to wait. The police stood there with their "riot" expressions on; you know, looking as mean and angry as possible while the people who pay their taxes to pay their wages were being herded slowly through. It didn't help that nobody was queuing, that it was every man for himself, so that those of us with young kids were being squished and pushed around from all angles; but neither did it help that the police who are there to serve us
were looking at us like criminals.
Anyway, the woman who was heckling from behind me was accosted by a fat not-laughing policeman as soon as she finally got through. I didn't wait to hear what the tosser said, because it was near midnight and the kids and we were tired. But the first thing he said was, "RIGHT..." as he stood in front of her, arms folded, and a Ray Winstone Angry Face on him.
Fuck off, I thought. Fuck off you shitfaced jobsworth no-empathy bastard, fuck off and die.
But I didn't say anything, oh no. As Bruce Springsteen once sang, "You end up like a dog that's been beat too much, spend half your life just covering up."
A few years ago, when our oldest was just a baby, we were once stuck in the queue at the Channel Tunnel, waiting to board. And were in a moving queue of cars to get on the next crossing. And this had never happened to me (before or since), but as we reached the front of the queue (where the traffic light is), an official stepped in front of us and stopped us, waving some motorcyclists through who had arrived a long time after we had
We'd already been waiting quite a while, and the baby was in the back of the car getting restless, and, well, I was absolutely livid
I find the whole queuing-to-get-on very stressful. It fills me with anxiety, and I hate being behind faffers. You know, people at the queue to check-in, who arrive at the front of the queue and appear not to have anything
ready. No booking reference, no credit cards, no passports. You see them arseing around in their cars looking for things, and then asking lots of questions. "We'll be going on a train will we? And it will be under the sea will it? And is it a steam train, a diesel, or electric? How does the electricity get under the sea?"
And so on. So I get stressed by that. And I get stressed by the Mr Casuals. The ones who get out of their cars and wander around in their chinos and then are not in their cars
when the queue starts to move, so that you have to wait for them to get slowly in, fumble with their seatbelt, look for their keys, start the engine find the right gear, etc. Which is why - when you've been behind Mr Casual, and you finally get to the front of the queue, and you see him waved through and then you get stopped by the guy in the reflective coat - which is why you get angry.
So I lost the plot, on this occasion, and got angry, and shouted something at him. Like what the fuck is going on? Etc. And immediately regretted it, because the tosser decided to punish me for getting angry. He shouted at me to get in my car and got on his radio and was trying to get me chucked off. It was obviously touch and go - we could have been removed and banned, and the whole holiday would be ruined, and it would be my fault.
We're not a nation of complainers, are we? Your Watchdog
programmes on the telly encourage you to stand up for your rights and complain when the service or the treatment is bad; and we have laws to protect our rights as consumers. But when it comes down to it, if you send your meal back in a restaurant, you might as well get up and leave, because the kitchen staff will spit in your food.
And if you make a fuss in any public place, you will be punished. The delay you've been complaining about will be made worse. Your humiliation will be compounded.
I lost it in the Doctors surgery once. We were getting married, and we needed some signature from a doctor for some reason. I can't remember if this was because we were getting married in France, or if everyone has to do it. So we had an early appointment to see some doctor - it was 9:15, so you'd think 2nd or third appointment of the day? We were kept waiting till 10:35. Again, I lost it. "How can you be running an hour and a half late
after fifteen minutes?" Words to that effect.
Oh, the looks.
I appreciate that the staff in these situations must sometimes fear for their lives and safety. Angry customers are scary, I'm sure. But then all the focus is on how wrong it is to be angry, and there is never any focus on what caused the anger in the first place. Sometimes anger is the only appropriate response.
So when the foreign secretary is up on the podium uttering a load of cant and bilge about the Iraq situation, a cry of "Nonsense!" seems polite in the circumstances.
And shouldn't our political leaders be occasionally confronted with people who disagree with them, don't believe them, who think they're doing a pretty shoddy job? But express dissent and two burly security guards with Ray Winstone Angry Faces come and forcibly eject you from the hall.
of his removal was inappropriate, was it? How about the fact
of his removal being deeply wrong? How about it being a sign of dishonestly and corruption, to silence dissenters like that for no other reason than that it might not look good on the 6 o' clock news to have a disagreeable voice on the soundtrack?
Well, too fucking late, and too fucking bad.