Sunday 19 June 2011

On idiocy

After a long Friday of the soul (see that day's thrillingly oblique post for details), this weekend was much better. A fairly conventionally awesome evening of good food, better company and awful television. On the way home I arrived at Brighton Station too late to get the train and, with no other one for half an hour, a packed concourse and a nice day, I decided to go one stop down the line on foot.

Walking through Hove is something I always enjoy but it is fraught. It has layers upon layers of memories of all kinds for me. At the end of April this year, a perfect storm of sunny day, deep thoughts about the future and the blossom falling from the trees round the corner where I had started school twenty years previously - all soundtracked by Hot Buttered Soul by Isaac Hayes - nearly saw me bursting into tears in the middle of the street.

Today was less full of machismo than that high watermark, but it still made me stop and think. As I approached my old school once again, I decided to go to the station along the same route I'd taken on the way home from school so many times 15 years or so ago. Fortunately, this time the soundtrack was Sister Ray by The Velvet Underground, a song which lacks the emotional punch or lyrical resonances to my past, current or (maybe) future situation.

It's about a 10 minute walk between the school and Hove Station. After a few minutes you have to cross one of Hove's busiest roads, The Drive. 15 years previously we'd take reckless jaywalking across it as a badge of honour. What on earth - on EARTH - were we all thinking? That road, even on a lazy Sunday afternoon, is terrifying. To attempt to cross it without using the crossing - even just for old time's sake - would be to take your life in your hands.

Yet that's what I did and what my friends did, twice a day, five days a week, 200 days a year, for five years. 15 years later I'm a little older and wiser, plus I have some pretty stark personal experience of winding up incapacitated as a result of your own stupidity. When I watch people jaywalking now I often wonder if they've ever considered the unbelievable stress, misery and pain - physical and emotional - that getting seriously injured brings. Do they weigh it against the advantages of arriving wherever they're going literally seconds earlier?

One day on the way to school, one of us got hit by a car. It was inevitable, really, and the lad who copped it was always the boldest of us. Luckily for him it was fairly low speed, causing no damage to him or anyone else. It just knocked him over. We all found this uproariously amusing.

Children are idiots. We were idiots. I was an idiot. I think I'm probably still an idiot, but in different ways. And hopefully, I'm getting better.

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