… probably didn’t have 15 in mind. I was suffering flashbacks to my teenage years this evening on the train home when I made the mistake of shifting over a couple of seats so a family could sit together for the journey. However, the mother didn’t take advantage of this, choosing a seat across the aisle instead and, after five minutes in the company of her two daughters, I could see why. Once they’d had the sort of argument where one person wants to discuss something her sibling has done while the other person just keeps turning the music up on her iPod, they settled down to a sulky sort of silence and daughter number one decided to put her feet up on the seat in front of her.
‘Don’t put your feet on the seats,’ her mother said and daughter number one promptly put one foot down, while declaring triumphantly ‘you didn’t say I couldn’t put my foot on the seat’, which the mother chose, wisely, to ignore. As did I. If I’d wanted to get into the child-disciplining business, I’d have had some of my own. More to the point, this was exactly the sort of smart-arse answer I would have given at that age, and I know precisely with what contempt I would have greeted any intervention from a stranger.
And besides, she got her come-uppance anyway. Sitting with just one foot up isn’t very comfortable, as she quickly discovered. She couldn’t put them both up and break the letter of the law. And she couldn’t put them both down and afford her mother and the whole unfair petty conventional adult world a victory. So she was forced to keep swapping legs every few minutes from Putney to Vauxhall – where I got off – and undoubtedly beyond.