A jolly group of women seated themselves at the back of the train compartment. They were having loads of fun. They were on their way to Antwerp. Their laughter rang out regularly as one funny incident, comment, shared memory was followed by the next one.
They were obviously enjoying themselves. They were looking forward to a shopping expedition. Their laughter and good humour was infectious.
At the next station, two men settled into seats across the corridor and about three rows behind my neighbour and me. The train had not even pulled out of the station, or one of the “Mediterranean types” (as the politically correct term now is) started shouting towards the back of the compartment. His companion aped him.
They obviously had a problem with women having fun. They shouted at the women to shut up. Sitting close to the front, they screamed at the back.
Unfortunately the women did not hear them. Or if they did, they did not heed them. The women’s fun and laughter did not diminish.
The men hung and lay sprawled across their two seats. One was very fat, needing about one and a half seats. The other one had to make do with what space remained.
They called each other “brother”, but this may well have been courtesy. All I understood was, that they intended to get out at Zaventem airport. This was still a couple of stops away.
Every that many minutes, first one and then both started shouting and hollering and screaming towards the back, telling the women to shut up. The rest of the time, the men chatted loudly to each other in another language. They did not bother to get out of their seats and walk towards the women for a quiet, polite chat.
The pleasant atmosphere in the middle and front section of the compartment was plummeting from uncomfortable to upset, irritated, stressed-out. People started to shift uneasily in their seats, each time the screaming started. Then a few small children started crying.
At the other end of the compartment, the fun and laughter did not diminish. The women were totally oblivious to what was going on at the other end of the carriage.
When the fat guy started screaming again, demanding the women to shut up and used discriminating four-letter-words, I had had it.
“If you don’t like fun and laughter, get out at the next station”, I loudly told Mr Obnoxious.
First he gave me a mouth-full. Then he complained about women to a passing rail-caterer. So I told the rail-caterer to search the train supervisor as two men were having problems with women.
This shut up the two obnoxious passengers. Apparently, they did not fancy attracting the full and dedicated attention of train officials. In their native language they chattered about ticket-checking and being vetted.
No caterer nor train officials turned up during the rest of the voyage.
Nevertheless, the middle and front of the compartment settled down again, as stress evaporated.
There was some quiet grumbling, before the two men started snoring. At the back of the compartment, the women continued to laugh and have fun.
Suddenly, I felt a prod in my left side.
The Mediterranean woman sitting next to me whispered “Well done! That settled it!”
“So why didn’t you pipe up?” I responded – not bothering to whisper, “You were just as irritated as the rest of us. You could have settled matters too!”
“I don’t want any problems”, came the answer, “I prefer cowardice.”
I told her what I thought about such behaviour.
As if I prefer having problems!
It’s just I like bullies even less. Especially the variety which hates people having fun, sharing a laugh, enjoying themselves.
Being a coward, looking the other way, not getting involved may perhaps be a nice survival-method when being confronted by problems.
But life is full of these. It will dish out problems to you by the mega-bucks.
Don’t want any problems?!
You might just as well step out of life.