Well, this has the potential to be a rather embarrassing Dollop. Last Friday The Young’uns got a message from someone saying that we’d been once again nominated for the Best Group category in the BBC Radio 2 Folk awards, which we won last year.
I am currently writing this Dollop on the train, heading back to Hartlepool to see the family (does this mean more David’s Daily Digital Dollop podcast jingles from my eleven-year-old niece Lucy? Possibly, but I cannot promise anything, so try and contain your excitement). I have scheduled this Dollop to be published at 8pm, which is after Mark Radcliffe will have announced the award nominations on the BBC Radio 2 Folk Show. So, I am just assuming that, by this time, we will have been officially declared as one of the nominated groups for Best Group, otherwise this will be rather awkward. I will be out by 8pm, and so if Mark Radcliffe doesn’t announce our name and it’s been a mistake, then there’s little I can do about it. Maybe I should have written an emergency Dollop just in case, about something completely different, and then, if it transpires that we’re not actually nominated, I could just publish that instead. But I like to live dangerously.
The last time I wrote a blog post on a train was a couple of years ago. I didn’t end up publishing the blog because I never completed it. That’s partly the reason for David’s Daily Digital Dollop; it will stop me half writing something and then never getting around to finishing and publishing it.
I was writing about the person who I was sitting next to on the train. They were listening to music from their mobile phone speaker, and singing along. The music they were listening and singing along to was awful, and it was completely ruining my concentration. Being unable to focus on writing what I was intending to write about, I instead wrote an impassioned rant about the annoying person sat next to me. Don’t worry, being blind I don’t need to have the laptop display turned on, and so I set it to be turned off by default, meaning that unless this person was able to read my fingers, they would have no idea what I was writing. And given the bilge they were assaulting their ears with, I don’t think there was any chance of them having the intelligence or ability to read what someone was writing by analysing them touch typing.
My rant started out admonishing this person for their irritating behaviour. Because I was angry with them, I chose to write the blog as if I was writing directly to them. I made quite a few assumptions about the person, formed purely on the fact that they were angering me, and were listening to mind-numbing shit. It was, in essence, a character assassination, based solely on her music choices and her gregarious behaviour. A lot of unfounded unflattering conclusions were leapt to.
After a good thousand words of insults, I then progressed to analyse my part in all of this. I realised that there was no chance that I would ever say anything to this person, as I would find it too awkward. Also I observed that this person’s singing was making me feel embarrassed. But why? I wasn’t the person singing. It was the person next to me. It was clear to anyone looking that I was not with this person. I hadn’t spoken to them at all during the journey, and I was minding my own business, typing; unless there was another blind person on the train, who mistook my typing for percussion accompaniment, and was getting pissed off with us both for disrupting his journey. But it was I, for some reason, who was feeling awkward, as if I was vicariously experiencing the awkwardness that the person next to me seemed unaffected by. I was being awkward on her behalf; awkward by proxy.
I then observed that one of the reasons for my frustration was because this woman’s attitude to life was so different to mine. I realised that her actions were niggling away at my own insecurities. There was no way that I would have the confidence to sing to music in public. I’d even feel uncomfortable if I caught myself nodding along. I realised that part of my annoyance was actually annoyance at myself for being too socially insecure and self-conscious. I wrote all this in the blog post, suggesting that maybe I could learn something from this woman, and that maybe I could view this situation as a catalyst to explore my own insecurities and social anxieties.
I was really getting into this blog post, typing very fast and writing quite a lot about this person and their actions. But then my focus was interrupted again by the woman getting up out of her seat and leaving. I assumed that she had just gone to the toilet. At least she wasn’t too socially unaware and unintimidated to ignore standard toilet protocol, choosing simply to just urinate in a bag.
I continued writing. But then, after twenty minutes the woman had not returned to her seat. It’s not as if she’d left her seat in order to get off the train. The train hadn’t stopped anywhere and we still had another ten minutes before the next stop. I was getting off at the next stop, and so decided to shut down my laptop and ready myself. As I glanced down at my laptop, I noticed that the screen was on. And then I remembered in horror that my brother had been using the laptop earlier that day, and so I’d turned the screen back on for him. Therefore, the screen had been on all the time, and I’d been typing invectives about the lady next to me and her annoying ways in full view of the very person I was writing about. But I wasn’t just writing about her; I was writing directly to her, aiming my words as if I was deliberately communicating my message to her, so it’s not as if she’d think that I was writing a blog post, but that I was deliberately addressing her, expecting her to read it. At one point she leant against me, and shuffled around a bit. That might have been to get a better view at the bile I was spouting about her. Of course, this leaning and shuffling had led me to up my insult quota even more. Ironically, I was writing about the fact that I was the kind of person who was too socially awkward and anxious to communicate my feelings to the person directly, although this is precisely what I was doing, albeit inadvertently.
There is a chance that her leaving her seat had nothing to do with me, but I’m pretty confident that it did. Of course, being the anxious and insecure person that I am, I felt terrible and guilty about it for ages afterwards.
So, if you’re on a train and you happen to recognise me, don’t come up to me and say hello, sit next to me, play some terrible music loudly from your mobile phone and sing along, while shuffeling against me. It will be my penance, and I shall have my sins absolved by it. It’s the only way to cure me of this guilt.