It is fortunate that the UK does not have the same legislation as the US when it comes to the “crime” of jaywalking.
In Glasgow especially, traffic lights are provided more as a decoration, or as a suggestion, rather than as a mandatory crossing point. Crowds of people will cross the main city centre roads, regardless of traffic volume or colour of light. It is made very easy to position yourself in such a way that you have people to either side of you.
This is a useful tactic, independently recognised and adopted by some of my friends, that ensures if a car does plough into the swathe of pedestrians at least someone else will take the brunt of the impact.
Although I still have, somewhere, in some forgotten box, the badge signifying my membership of The Tufty Club, it seems this was not covered in the road safety advice doled out to schoolchildren in the early eighties:
It is such a common occurrence, and sight, to see people crossing using their own judgement that if it were to be made illegal they would be as well to just wall Glasgow in – given the size of a prison that would be required.
Any time I am with friends who shy away from crossing at undesignated points, or with traffic approaching, I tell them “they’re not allowed to knock you down.” This stems from something I was told once.
I was at a crossroads in the north of the city – where Cambridge Street meets Renfrew Street – and was, using my judgement and then-firm knowledge of the sequence of light changes (I studied in the area), awaiting the green man.
Over the street, a jakey (a young local with a taste for tracksuits and – gauging from his demeanour – tonic wine, cheap cider, and narcotics) began crossing towards me.
A bus turned the corner, narrowly missing him as he refused to let it impede his progress. As it passed he looked at me and confidently told me, with a swagger and in that infamous nasal whine adopted by those of his ilk, “They’re no’ allowed tae knock ye doon, mate. They’re no’ allowed tae knock ye doon.”
I admired his faith. I wouldn’t trust Glasgow’s bus drivers to not knock me down.
As one of my friends later said, when I related the story, in his head the law beats physics.
That was at least six years ago now. To this day, if anyone questions my judgement in darting across streets or in walking halfway across roads and waiting for further traffic to pass before completing my journey, and it has happened twice in the past fortnight, I tell them the same thing: they’re no’ allowed tae knock ye doon.
Strange how a chance encounter can leave such an impression.
A few years ago, when I was still a Glaswegian trapped in Hamilton and before I escaped to the city that is rightfully my home, I used to voluntarily work backstage for most of the local amateur theatre groups. They were largely based in (or performed at) the Town Hall, as it then was. It has since undergone refurbishment and become The Townhouse – a delusion of grandeur that it didn’t really merit. When I went back there to see it, prior to it being reopened to the public, I had it pointed out to me that all the scenery and flight cases now have to be loaded in through a double door made entirely of glass. It looks very pretty, if you like your architecture of glass and steel, but it is exceptionally impractical for a door that will be in such heavy and potentially-destructive use.
While the building was closed for this makeover, and other changes they made included taking all the fun out of flying the scenery – the very thing that caught my interest when I started – one local group took to performing their shows in Motherwell instead. If Hamilton is too small and depressing, Motherwell is worse. Beyond that is Wishaw, and then after that you’re in Wild West country. Here is an example.
I took the bus over to Motherwell that first night of the week’s run, but I wasn’t entirely sure of my bearings – having managed to avoid that town for some years – and couldn’t tell, in the dark and looking through windows thick with condensation on the inside and muck on the outside, where to get off. Naturally, perhaps inevitably, I missed my stop. In the middle of nowhere, or at least in unfamiliar territory, I decided my best option was to stay on the bus and wait for it to make the final stop, turn around, and head back. Then I could admit my error and ask the driver to let me know when to get off.
Eventually, I was the last person on the bus. The driver shouted up and asked me where I was going, as this was the final stop, and I told him I’d long since missed my destination and would jump off on the way back. That was when he told me he wasn’t going back, as his shift was finished. He said he would drop me off though, and told me to move down and sit on the seats directly behind his cab.
I had been sitting maybe four rows into the bus, on the right hand side as I faced forward. There was one seat behind the driver’s cab, which faced the aisle, and another the other side of the wheel arch, and then rows of double seats on both sides all the way to the back of the bus. As instructed, I moved down to this new seat and sat down. The driver switched the main gangway lights off, and we drove on in relative darkness. I don’t know where I was, but it was some winding country road with little ambient light.
About twenty seconds after I relocated, if that, a half-brick came hurtling through the window beside the very seat I had been sitting on. I don’t know if the driver anticipated that or just wanted to be able to put the lights off, but the fact that it arrived so suddenly, and precisely where I had been sitting, right after he told me to move, rattled me no end. The rest of the journey was very cold, on account of the shattered window (the rest of it fell in on the course of the journey), but I did make it to my stop eventually.
I can’t remember, even vaguely, which show I was working on. It might have been South Pacific, but I wouldn’t put money on it. I can’t remember when exactly this happened – other than the early 2000s – but what I do remember, quite vividly, is the time that I missed receiving a brick in the face and a mouthful of broken glass by mere seconds. I’m glad that I was told to move, and happier that I did so. Timing is everything.
This happened to an old flatmate of mine, making it possibly the only story on here that didn’t involve me personally. He is no longer around, by his own hand, and the story entered into legend – but not without corroboration from several sources. Here, then, for posterity, is the story as I was told it, with all the details that were amended or corrected by eyewitnesses.
My flatmate, as he then was, worked for a well-known fast food chain, one that sells burgers, which barely resemble food, at very cheap prices. He was not backwards about coming forwards, and prided himself on his stubborn refusal to serve anybody who gave him abuse – he was large, and often worked at the window taking orders from the excessively inebriated in the small hours of the weekend. He told me once about the time someone called him a fat bastard, so he shut the window and stood there, arms folded, refusing point blank to open it again or serve the guy in question. The guy got angry as all hell, but my flatmate stood his ground, saying he wouldn’t serve him and wouldn’t serve anyone else either until he fucked off. This put the rest of the queue on his side, telling the guy to beat it.
“I’ll see you after work!” the guy shouted at him, and my flatmate just cheerfully said “No bother, I finish at four. See you then!”
Not that he could fight, but he had the courage or – perhaps, given how it all ended – was so involved with his own feelings as to genuinely not give a fuck.
He was at the counter one day, serving. A guy came up to him and placed an order, but chucked in some offensive comment with it. My flatmate refused to serve him.
“You better serve me,” the guy said, “Or I’ll get a cricket bat and smash fuck out the place.”
“Go and get your cricket bat then, ya prick.” I admire how calm and collected my flatmate could be, dealing with this unending sea of arseholes. What he was not to know, however, was that this guy had – at the table, in his holdall – a cricket bat. He retrieved it, came straight back, and took a swing at my flatmate.
My flatmate stepped back, unphased as the bat connected full force with a straw dispenser, shattering it and raining paper-covered straws across the floor. He calmly gestured to three locations on the ceiling and pointed out, matter-of-factly, “Security camera, security camera, security camera. Get tae fuck before the polis get here.”
The guy might have been stupid, but he wasn’t stupid enough to hang around and wait for the cops to show. He legged it.
As for my flatmate, things eventually went sour between us and we parted on bad terms. I regret that, and it is easy to look back now and realise that certain divisive incidents were probably indicative of his depression rather than from any desire to do wrong by us. I went to his funeral, with a lot of others, and paid my respects – he was a good guy at heart, and pretty damn funny. This is my favourite of his work stories.
Here is a wee story about five neds I met while walking up the street one night. I live about four miles from the centre of town, and more often than not I walk home – it is a straight road, and comparatively quiet, so it doesn’t phase me.
This particular night, I stopped mid way for a can of juice, calling into my former local shop from when I lived nearer the town. On my way out, and a few doors up, I encountered these five guys coming towards me. They weren’t spread out, like Reservoir Dicks, but nor were they in single file. Just kind of spread thinly along a short stretch of the street.
The first one asked “Got a cigarette big yin? Buy it aff ye furra fiver.”
I Don’t smoke, but if you’ve got a fiver you could try the shop I just came out of. You might even get ten for that.
The fourth guy excused himself and said “Can ye gie’s ten pee?”
No, ask your pal. He’s got a fiver.
That’s one of those conversations I jotted down immediately, a demonstration of when a little common sense and teamwork would pay off…