I was in the foulest of all possible moods on the train this morning. I was the commuting centre of a vortex of rage: futile, head-throbbing, hopeless gum-gnashing fury at the world for making me have to get out of bed in the dark every day and trudge up a shit hill to a shit station in shit weather; get on a shit train; get off it again; trudge up another shit hill in the shit rain to a shit job and… well. You get the picture.
I am usually quite a placid sort of train passenger; I don’t mind standing in queues, letting everyone else shuffle on before me, waiting light years for old couples to position their luggage in the optimum position and then carefully fold up their coats so they’ll feel the benefit when they get off again. None of it bothers me; but today it was as though a demented experimental scientist with alarming eyebrows had sneaked up behind me and rammed a syringe full of Totally Fucking Fucked Off potion into my arse. Who the BLISTERING HELL did that man think he was having hair like THAT? And that suit with the gigantic gold ring sitting there with a phone clamped to his stagnant face. He looks like one of the smarm-smeared human detritus whose ambition it is to slaver all over velcro-haired S’r Alan. Or is it ‘Lord Sugar’ now? What.Ever.
So I was sitting in a window seat staring infuriatedly at all the flat black nothing that you see through a 7 a.m train window in January, when my irritable eye was drawn to the reflection of a spindly, slumped, thin-haired, pasty-faced boy in the aisle opposite me. Splenetic me took in his Chav outfit, his posture, his lumpen facial expression and made all the instinctive judgements that even the most reluctant-bourgeois makes (despite usually denying them to oneself). This day however, spitting sulphur, I was in no mood to chastise myself for anything and allowed my inner shithead free reign to let rip an internal tirade of loathing which was exacerbated when he pulled out a KitKat and began MOVING HIS JAWS all over it. CHOMPING, for fuck’s sake. HOW DARE HE?
What happened next convinces me that there is no intelligent design and that I am nothing more than a random vaguely sentient pandemonium of chemicals. What happened was that I had a sort of WHUMP sensation, like being woken up by someone smacking a pillow round your face – and the hatred stopped. All of it. Just like that. And it was instantly replaced (imagine it as one of those swipe edits on a shit 1970s sitcom) by this surge of compassion for the boy and concomitantly for every tiny tragedy of everybody in the entire human race. I was like one of those round-faced kind people who sell all their worldly goods and wear a loin cloth and smile at everyone for the rest of their lives. I could see all the little loves and pains of all of the people on the train and I almost couldn’t hold it all inside myself. It was definitely trying to leak out through my eyes, but I wasn’t having that. I had mascara on. When I looked again at the boy, his lumpen face seemed a kind of innocence and his slumped body a kind of insecurity. “Fuck me,” I thought. “I’ve become a nice person. I’ll probably start watching Children in Need and wearing a crapping red nose for good causes.”
Of course, it could be that Jesus had reached down his big benevolent hand and carried out a bit of holy brain surgery on me, deactivating my Festering Fury Cortex and kickstarting my Love Thy Neighbour lobe. Maybe I have had a religious epiphany and didn’t even notice. That would be typical. Thing is, I know it wasn’t that. It was something much more mundane. What triggered off my (temporary) conversion to universal benevolence was that, as I glared in fury at the boy’s KitKat chomping gob hole, I suddenly noticed that he had pulled his chocolate biscuit thing out of a little square Tupperware lunch box. It was that that did it. The lunch box. It made my heart crack open and loads of fucking niceness come out. Even MORE embarrassingly mundane is the fact that the reason I reacted like that is because I’m a MUM. It was the sudden, absolute knowledge that somebody somewhere loved that boy enough to want to pack him a little lunch box to take with him on the train; to make sure he wouldn’t go hungry on his journey to wherever-he-was going. And when he opened it and ate the best thing first because he couldn’t wait, he was – most likely totally unknowingly – indulging in a little piece of happy given to him by someone who loved him probably as painfully, agonisingly much as I love my own slumping, lumpen sons. It was too much for me.
But don’t worry, I didn’t become nice permanently. It was only a chemical aberration. Normal service has now been resumed.