The even tenor of my journey home was interrupted this evening by the muffled sound of an Englishman trying to have an altercation with a foreigner. The SouthWest Trains guard, backed up by another SouthWest Trains person of uncertain status (but a lot of chequered braid on his hat), was telling the Russians* behind me to get their feet off the seats. The Russians were refusing, on the grounds that there weren’t any signs saying they couldn’t have their feet on the seats. The guards then tried to kick them off the train at Queenstown Road but the Russians weren’t having any of that either, and just sat their with their arms folded and their feet (temporarily) off the seats, laughing at them. After a certain amount of ‘get off the train’ ‘no’ ‘get off now’ ‘no, I have a ticket’ ‘come on get off’ ‘no’, the guards discovered some other urgent task that needed their attention far away from any pesky (and rather burly) foreigners and the Russians put their feet back up and got off at their leisure at Vauxhall.
Much as I hate people putting their feet on the seats, I couldn’t decide whether or not they had a point about the sign thing. On the one hand, some trains do have signs up asking you not to, so I suppose that could be taken as meaning there were feet-putting-up carriages and non-feet-putting-up carriages the way there used to be smoking and non-smoking ones. But then again, there aren’t any signs up asking passengers not to spit, or vandalise the train, or murder each other and that’s not generally taken to be tacit permission to do so. Do we need to have signs up about absolutely everything? If I was in charge there wouldn’t be room on the windows for everything I’d like to outlaw: putting your feet on the seat, littering, not moving your legs out of the way when people want to get past, putting your bag on the seat, phone sex, being openly fifteen … the list is endless. Perhaps a set of icons could be drawn up like they used to have in swimming pools – no dive-bombing, no petting, no boasting about your ski-ing holiday. Or perhaps one big all-purpose ‘don’t be a w*nker’ sign, with a suitable illustration, although I can’t imagine what that would be.** Meanwhile the guards should probably brush up on their kicking-out skills in readiness for the new regime, or else learn from parents or anyone who has to deal with small children: choose your battles.
* Well, Russian-ish, anyway. They were speaking among themselves in a language that sounded as though it ought to be Russian
** Suggestions on a postcard to someone else, please.