On Thursday I got the bus home from work, and found myself sitting just in front of a bunch of schoolboys. They were probably aged around 10 or 11, were very boisterous and loud in that way that boys around 10 or 11 generally are, particularly when they’re in a group. And naturally, they really pissed me off, not because of the volume or the boisterousness (not at first anyway) but because I envied the young little sods, riding buses without a care in the world.
I decided to ignore them, turned my iPod up a couple of notches to block out the noise, and focussed my attention onto Twitter on my phone.
And then they started chucking stuff around.
And one of the things they were chucking around – an empty fries box, I think, I didn’t really examine it – landed on my lap.
I sensed a silence fall upon them. I turned and gave them all my best disapproving look. The one teachers used to give me just before reciting the “You’ve let yourself down…” mantra. I picked up the fries box, thought about throwing it into the nearest one’s face, decided against it, and placed it on the seat next to me.
Shortly afterwards, they all began to leave the bus, so I could unclench my teeth and relax a little.
On Friday, I walked to the usual bus stop, which is on the High Street of the not-so-sleepy little North London market town where I work. Being Friday it was quite busy, and I felt my shoulders sag as I saw how many people were congregated at the bus stop, especially when I noticed that many of them were school kids.
My heart sank even further when I spotted the schoolboys from the previous night’s journey home. They were, of course, completely oblivious to me; one of them was too busy doing keepy-uppies with a tennis ball to notice me anyway.
And then, as I got closer to them, intending to pass, something happened. One of those moments that men of a certain age – ok, men of my age – dream of.
The lad lost control of the tennis ball, and it was heading towards me.
Without breaking stride, I chested it – ok, stomached it – down onto my left knee, knocked it back up again, before volleying it with my right foot back to the boy, who caught it, his mouth agape at the awesome skills that he had just witnessed.
Part of me wanted to run the rest of the way to the bus stop with my shirt pulled up over my head, Shearer-hand raised to the crowd, but I decided the world wasn’t ready for that vision just yet.
The bus arrived, I got on, the same group of schoolboys followed shortly afterwards, and of course sat behind me. The boy with the tennis ball stared at me as he walked past. I knew then that the journey home would be less eventful and stressful than the one the previous night: I had earned his respect.
And then an empty box of fried chicken, empty, that is, apart from some bones and a tomato sauce sachet, flew past my ear, and struck the seat in front of me, showering its semi-gnawed contents all over me.
I turned up my iPod.