Politely asking someone to mind their language, pick up some litter that they’ve dropped or take their feet off a train seat should be very easy but it isn’t.
These days, the chances that someone will simply apologise and just do what they’ve been asked to do aren’t particularly good. An abusive reply and being told to mind your own business is, perhaps, the most likely response.
Recently, I was listening to a lady, who works for the BBC, who decided to point out to a man using a mobile phone that he was in a ‘quiet’ train carriage. The level of abuse in his response took her aback, especially as he was a smartly dressed businessman. She was even more surprised to then be defended by a scruffily dressed young man, who told off the ‘businessman’, which just goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its cover!
This lady will no doubt think twice about confronting bad behaviour in the future, as this incident will have knocked her confidence.
That’s a shame because she was right to ask the man not to use his mobile phone.
Whether members of the public should intervene in minor incidents or even become ‘have-a-go heroes’ is a tricky issue, especially at a time when our police are retreating from the streets due to the cuts.
I have great admiration for people who do intervene in incidents and completely understand that, on many occasions, the decision to act will have been taken on the spur of the moment.
Personally, I have a greater reluctance to become involved in any incident these days, as there is such potential for any situation to escalate and I have far less patience with those exhibiting yobbish behaviour.
That doesn’t mean to say I ignore everything, I just deal with things differently.
When I’ve been on busy late night trains travelling back from Manchester and some passengers get a bit abusive, I tend to use my mobile phone, quite openly, to film events. So far it has had the desired effect and I’m currently considering buying a ‘Dash Cam’ to give me a similar sense of security when I drive my car.
It’s a sign of the times that, as an ex-copper, who is 6ft 3ins tall and 16 stone, I now consider recording an incident to pass it to the police rather than become directly involved myself.