There I was on New Year’s Eve happily doing the crossword on the Portsmouth train when a large bloke bearing an uncanny resemblance to one of the Krays got on. Black overcoat, Brylcreemed barnet, pencil thin tie, the lot.
He was swearing to himself and I happened to glance his way, at which juncture he leapt up, directed every expletive in the Swearing Dictionary at me and threatened to smash my glasses into my face. Just for looking at him.
He sat down further up the carriage and I tried to appear as if I was pondering a particularly difficult clue, whilst actually inspecting his reflection in the window. Of course he spotted this old ruse and started shouting again, whilst advancing up the train towards me. Not getting the reaction he was expecting (i.e. a fight) he then turned his attention to a Japanese couple across the aisle.
‘Are you looking at me?’ he boomed, looming over them. They obviously knew very little English. Either that or they were particularly stupid. Because they both started nodding vigorously and saying ‘Yes! Yes!’ ‘You were looking straight at me!’ ‘Yes, yes!’ cried the ever-nodding pair.
This seemed to steal his thunder somewhat and he sat down with a bemused expression, sighing repeatedly. Then, after about a minute he bellowed ‘Now you’re all looking at me!’ Which of course we were. And with that he called us a load of whatnames and stormed out, announcing he was going to First Class.
He got off at my station and stared at me from the opposite platform. I reported him to the railway police, but even though we had the Brighton line between us, I did so out of the corner of my mouth. I wouldn’t have put it past him to have charged across the tracks to do what he said earlier with my glasses.
My last encounter of this nature was on a plane to Australia. A young man with the look of Edward Scissorhands about him was dragging his possessions up and down the aisle in a black plastic bag marked ‘For Incineration’. He took exception to my glasses too. I last saw him being taken away for interrogation at Abu Dhabi.
Is it the glasses do you think, or is it the way I look at people?