Painfully Not Speaking Out

There is an everyday event that still sticks out in my mind.

I was waiting at a bus stop and two school girls in maroon uniform turned up a few minutes later. They were about 14 or 15 years of age and one of them was drinking a bottle of Evian.

As the bus approached, I heard the clatter of plastic on the floor behind me. Looking around, I saw the empty plastic Evian bottle lying on the floor. The girl had just dropped it, as though the floor were just one giant bin.

I got on the bus, followed by the two girls.

I should say something. I should definitely say something. Any normal person would say something. Those were my thoughts non-stop on the bus during the ride home. Glued to my seat and staring wilfully out of the window, I remained mute.

It’s awful to litter. That street we were waiting on was the absolute pits anyway.  Bags of rubbish strewn everywhere, half empty take-away boxes dotted about, dog mess and chewing gum and all sorts. And I could understand how it had gotten that way, if that girl’s behaviour was acceptable, the norm.

I wish I had said something to her at the bus stop – ‘Hey, you’ve just dropped your bottle. There’s a bin over there’.  On the bus I felt trapped between speaking out and the fear –  fear of creating a scene, fear of confrontation. Worse, afraid of being verbally, maybe even physically abused on the bus. It’s happened to me before (racial abuse) and no one comes to help. Probably because they’re afraid too, or perhaps they don’t give a damn.

But maybe the confrontation would be more bearable than still ruminating about my cowardly inaction almost a year later. That said, the time I was verbally abused on the bus still makes me angry inside, and that was more than ten years ago.