Posts Tagged ‘students’

The time I told a man off in the street

For a few years, I volunteered at a legal charity in London. It was on a road with lots of important looking buildings that were law firms and chambers and inns of court, etc. All very suits-and-ties. It’s a quietish road during the day as the solicitors and barristers are busy in their offices squirreling away. I worked at a desk which faced out onto this street.

One day I heard some people talking loudly. I leaned over to see what was going on. A cyclist was getting a telling off from two guys in suits standing next to a very flash car. I had cycled in that day so was inclined to be on the cyclist’s side, if there were sides to be had in this discussion. As it went on, the two gentlemen from the swanky car just got louder and the cyclist, if he was responding at all, was very quiet. I couldn’t hear the exact words they said so gave up being nosey and went back to my work. I noticed the cyclist pedalling off.

Back to work, thought I. I can still hear their voices. O well, block them out. Concentrate. Concentrate on this filing…. I can’t. They’re getting louder and louder. I can hear actual words. I’m on the second floor up, what can they be shouting about so loudly that I can hear them all the way up here?

I peered out of the window. They were shouting, one of them particularly, about the cyclist. Still. Just mouthing off about how much they thought he was an idiot.

Where do these people think they are?! You’re on a quiet street surrounded by offices full of suited educated men and women who do not conduct themselves in this manner. These loud men had suits on and a flash car. So I didn’t understand why they were acting like idiotic students. Didn’t they get it? I became incensed.

I couldn’t work because I was so distracted by them. Everyone was. It went on for fifteen long minutes. They must have honestly thought that everyone wanted to hear their inane nonsense.

“I’m going to tell them to shut up,” I announced, to questioning looks from my colleagues.

Down the stairs I went, out the door and headed over to them. They smiled, probably thinking I was going to tell them how impressed I was with their shoutyness and could they please take me for a ride in their expensive car because I’m a woman and therefore don’t need any more form of stimulation than a fancy car.

I did not ask them to take me for a ride in their fancy car. O no.

“Can you please keep your voices down, we’re all trying to work,” I said, to two stunned faces. I waited, no response….

“O, and you’re just assuming that it’s us?!” the loud one said finally, in a confrontational manner. He was starting down that road, you know, the one which consists of a lot of ‘you can’t prove it was me’ and ‘you’re jumping to conclusions because I’m young and have a flash car.’ He looked ready for a verbal fight and gave me his best ‘you don’t know what you’re talking about’ face.

“No. I know it was you. Because that’s my window (I gestured to my window) and I’ve been watching you for the last fifteen minutes,” I said.

Silence.

More silence.

And then I flounced. I flounced away. Because I could. Because they had just been royally told off by a girl.

And that is the story of when I told a man off in the street.

Budgeting in Laos

A few years ago, some friends and I were travelling around South East Asia. We had just crossed the border from Thailand into Laos and were staying in the capital city called Vientiane, on the banks of the Mekong River.

When we first arrived there, I think we had come in by coach and it was quite late in the evening. We just wanted to drop our stuff somewhere and go and eat. We weren’t really big on the whole planning-ahead scene. We loved the carefree nature of just turning up and seeing what we could find. So we hardly ever pre-booked hotels or anything. Sometimes it ended us in some pretty sticky situations but, on the whole, we preferred it. It suited us because we didn’t always know when we would be moving on, or where to.

So this time, we got off the coach, wandered along the front and saw somewhere which looked quite nice (we usually made do with ‘a bit grotty’ but this time we went for ‘quite nice’ because we were too tired to keep looking).

We go in, ask for a room for three and are taken to a really nice, quite plush room with wooden furnishings and a generally lovely ambience. It was a bit pricey but we agreed that we would just stay one night and find somewhere cheaper the next day. We still had a few weeks of travelling left and not a lot of money to do it on.

So the next day, around midday, we packed up our bags again, shouldered our weights (mine was getting ridiculously heavy by this point as I kept collecting books faster than I could read them and pass them on), paid our bill and told the owners we were leaving. As we stepped outside of this lovely comforting enticing hotel, the heavens opened….

We trudged the streets, getting more and more soaked, looking in any hostels, B&Bs or hotels we could find. We walked for maybe an hour and found a hostel with a room for three people which already had five hundred fleas in it, another place with a cockroach in the bath and some other places more expensive than the one we just left. I think we saw a few which just looked quite old and about to fall down. The entire time, it rained.

Fed up and getting quite grumpy by this point, we stopped in a little cafe to dry off and get something to eat. The afternoon was arriving and we hadn’t had anything, having not suspected that finding a room would prove so difficult. We started arguing a little bit with each other. This person needed to stop being so fussy, they were only fleas. And that person needed to relax about the big crack down the wall, what’s the problem, it probably only lets a little draft in. What’s a cockroach in the bath? We won’t bathe then, no big deal. And who cares if the room smells like urine? You’re getting too fussy, we’re on a budget here!

After skirting around the obvious for a long while, we eventually all admitted it. We had nowhere else to go but back to the same hotel we left an hour ago. We’d come full circle in our search and as we left the cafe, we realised that we were just around the corner from the hotel.

Sheepishly, we shuffled around the corner and approached the hotel. We sneaked a look in the front and, sure enough, the same people were at the desk. Earlier, they had asked us why we were leaving and we had explained that we were students on a budget, we needed somewhere more affordable.

We hung around outside for a few minutes, deciding who should lead the walk of shame back to the reception desk. I think I was nominated in the end and we re-entered the hotel, quietly explaining that we would like ‘a room for three, please.’ Of course they recognised us. With huge smiles on their face, they took down a key and lead us back to the exactroom we had left an hour ago and told us to make ourselves at home….

When we left the hotel a few minutes later, desperate to put some distance between ourselves and our shame, the rain had stopped and the sun had come out. And it stayed pretty sunny for the rest of our stay in Vientiane at that hotel.