What with the relative preponderance of Rubbish People anon, it is of little surprise that I encounter them with intolerable frequency as, I’m sure, do you. My most recent experience with the crud at the bottom of the dredgepit was on a Thameslink train home last night. A plump young woman with scraped-back hair and piss-yellow plastic earrings was gabbling voluminously with her equally sans-elegance friend. Accompanying them was the former’s scrapenhaired and bepainted daughter, of about eight years.
Because they were Rubbish People, of course, their conversation was broadcast to all and sundry. I am well aware that when arguing with, say, a Coxall, my train-party can be a vocal lot too. Even so, for every tut of a Daily Mail reader, we’ve also received interested comments or amused raised-eyebrows from our involuntary court. And when one is with Coxall, make no mistake, one is holding court, be the venue a Eurostar First Class Carriage or the Brixton KFC (wherein he loudly, and without due consciousness, recounted the original name of the swarthy dog in Dambusters. A terrifying moment, as you might imagine).
But this Thameslink group was no court. They were not discussing old films, the finer points of predicate logic, nor the failure of Third Person Shoot-em-ups. Instead, the horrible estuary that sloshed into our unwilling ears contained an unedifying semantic sludge which testified to no less than the mother’s approval of and connivance with a schoolyard bullying in which her daughter was the primary effector:
“You were righ’ to kick that stupi’ li’lle cah! She was askin’ for it! I don’t care if ‘er dad died – she shouldav ‘ellped ya wif your ‘omework when you asked, snotty bitch!”
“Yeah, she was so fat and I kicked her in the stomach an’ nobody likes ‘er stupid fuckin’ slut!”
“Too righ’! Tell your teachuh’ that if she ‘as a problem wif’at, I’ll kick your fuckin’ teachuh’ in the gob an all!”
The mother, of course, then lit up in the non-smoking carriage. No, she didn’t self-combust, sadly, nor become illuminated with a sudden-found divinity, but lit up a particularly nasty filterless cigarette, and with her exhaust jet, took particular care to ensure her child had the best chance at lung cancer a mother can give without shoving asbestos down their darling’s throat. Everyone else on the train pretended to be in a parallel universe of stasis, except for another Rubbisher, an Adidas tracksuited fool who was yabbering on his mobile phone about just how very drunk he had been recently; clearly he had the deep need to communicate how inherently entertaining the mere acknowledgement of same must be. Ooh. Alcohol. I think he mentioned that he’d been sick on a doorstep. Classy! A real man, to be sure, whose very sinews are masculated by ethanol.
At moments like these, I have to admit to a certain eugenic tendency; but nothing nasty and Nazi – all I ask is a plusperfect-ontology machine, so that I can flick a switch, and such people would never have had come into existence in the first place. It could be dangerous, though – my itchy finger would be flicking the switch at every annoying sneeze and unconvincing drawl, possibly disrupting delicate social ecosystems in ways I can’t imagine. After all, the abolition of wasps would probably similarly cause all sorts of calamities in the more acceptable links on the Golden Chain of Being. In the world of my switch, the Nice might simply become swathed in Rubbishness; social darwinism, I’m sure, adhering to some equivalent of Le Chatelier’s Principle. Still, one can imagine.
Another switch-worthy occasion happened on another recent train-journey, this time to Hastings to watch some incendiaries. At one of the London stops, a group of physically and mentally disabled people (spazzes and mongs in old parlance) were wheeled onto the train by their minders. They sat near us. One could feel the tense bristling of every member of the carriage on their entry. The care-ed had clearly been out for an exciting day in London, and were still keyed up. One of their number could only express his excitement by the frequent exclamations, at the top of his voice, of “gayyyy!”, intermingled with “harrry??!!” (possibly reflecting the name, if not the proclivity, of one of his minders). The timbre was that so fluidly mocked by any school-child and, I have to admit, I began to find it funny. I’m sorry, but I did. I enjoyed each outburst for the fact that it was clearly an expression of some sort of exuberant pleasure, and that it was so deliciously disrupting the social norms of the train carriage, but in a refreshingly harmless way that a bunch of, say, boozy football fans isn’t. The increasing frequency of the outbursts was proportional to the number of displacement activities performed by the other members of the carriage: conspicuous newspaper ruffling, loud snack engorgement and, my particular favourite, an increasingly urgent discussion between two elderly passengers about rose-cuttings, supinely “unaware” of the hail of “harrryyy!” and “gayyyyyy!”s that fell through their horticultural safety net.
The disabled entourage eventually alighted at Tonbridge (poor them), and I was mildly disappointed to see them go. I certainly would not have flipped my ontology switch on any of them, who seemed to be enjoying life despite their hindrances, and committed none of the wilful Wrongness so abundant in the truly Rubbish. A stop later did, however, reveal candidates prone for a finger-flipping nothingness. A group of scratter-teens slunk on to the train, stinking of cheap fags and cheaper meths. More than one of them had about them that bad-skinned, peculiarly eyelidded, protruding-front-tooth gawpy idiocy that gives visible testimony to the last time his family’s DNA had adequately been refreshed – probably during the Norman invasion. They had about them not just the normal teen abundance of listlessness, but some deeper existential mire, as if each one of them had constantly to contend with the fullsome disappointment that shall be their summation unto death. Poor souls. My switch would be a mercy.
The practicality of an ontological button, sadly, is forked by the two prongs of immoderacy and impossibility. Something marginally more attainable has been suggested by my friend Verdurin. In his Grand Plan, the scratterish and unentertaining, the dully bovine and the fecklessly nasty proleish shall be deported. Here’s the genius: rather than banish them to some barren island on which they have no desire to live, let their exile be on a barren island which they’ll enjoy – Tennerife. True, there’ll be some negotiation necessary with Spain. Perhaps we could swap for the silly rock about which they’re so obsessed. Once ensconced by their Canary Paradise, each Rubbisher could enjoy a charmed life, even subsidised by the non-Rubbish People. They could live lives of simple Shaz and unencumbered Trev. Utilitarianism never tasted so sweet. But what to do with all the Rubbish people who don’t happen to people the Underclass? Mustique, perhaps?