The driver of the 74 bus looked as though he had been awake for a million hours. I boarded, touched in, and immediately understood why. There was a guy in the aisle playing a guitar and singing loudly in Spanish.
The guy was not great at singing, but wow. He was enthusiastic. The low notes were coarse and fruity. The high notes sounded a little like someone gargling their way their way through a seizure. I considered filming him for a while, but decided that this might interrupt his flow and so just made my way to the top deck, sat back and enjoyed the show. Whenever the guy reached a particularly impassioned (strangled) part of the chorus, I may have given a little chuckle. It was glorious.
Then the guy got off and a six-year-old girl on the top deck started playing a shitty pop song through an iPhone and singing along.
If there’s one thing I really hate, it’s people playing music on public transport – whether it’s out loud, or tinnily through headphones*. Ugh ugh ugh. Rgggghhhhh. Rgggggggghhhhh. I could FEEL the joy draining out of me, my face tightening and puckering into a cat’s arse of pain and disappointment. I put my hood up, slumped in my seat, crossed my arms and glowered out of the window into the encroaching dark.
The singing stopped and I looked up. The little girl looked crestfallen, and it hit me. She had been performing for me. She’d clocked my reaction to Spanish wailing dude and decided that live performance was my thing, and she was performing for me.
There was only only one thing to do. With a superhuman effort, I gritted my teeth, inflated my cats arse, and went all out for a smile.
Because children remember stuff. They might not remember that they remember stuff, but remember they do (as this brilliant piece from last week’s The Onion illustrates). I remember TONS of stuff people around me said when I was young that I will be talking about in therapy when I am an old, old woman. The woman I assumed was the girl’s mother was chatting in Arabic on her own iPhone and totally ignoring her daughter. The girl stared at me. A child on the brink of a lifetime of neurosis.
So I smiled, and the little girl beamed. She BEAMED. Her mouth opened so wide, I thought the back of her head was going to fall off. She started singing again: her mum was still ignoring her, but she had an appreciative audience. She redoubled her efforts. It was horrible.
And I let it happen. I even inclined my head and did a little appreciative chuckle. And, as her mother continued to chat, I got to my feet, said ‘that was lovely!’ and got off four stops early.
BECAUSE I AM A GOOD PERSON AND POTENTIALLY A GOOD PARENT.
* it turns out that live music is fine