On public cussing
10th July 2008
The other day I got on the tube at London Bridge and sat on a seat sodden with piss. Absolutely brinking with the stuff it was. Meniscusing. I shot up, swore, glared at the people around me who may have known that the seat was wet but didn’t think to mention it, and found a different seat in a different carriage.
I chose to re-sit. This was pretty much the beginning of my journey. I didn’t fancy standing all the way home but the longer I remained seated the more the moisture went to work. I have to add (and my apologies to those who didn’t need to know I wasn’t wearing any underwear) that I wasn’t wearing any underwear. This is not my usual state of (un)dress but was related to the fact that I’d played football in the afternoon, changed in someone’s bathroom, had a glass of wine, then toddled off.
Two thirds of my way through the journey I became so disgusted about what might be happening in my nethers that I got up again. In doing so I feared I would offend the gentleman next to me: by this time the carriage was fairly empty and I was concerned such behaviour would look like rudeness, so I turned to the man and said something along the lines of, “I hope you don’t think me rude but I have to stand as, effectively, someone’s taken a pee on my behind and, without underpants on, the urea is going to work on my buttocks and may yet penetrate them.” He nodded as though he understood. He probably did: in my experience this happens every two or three years. He then did something that very rarely happens on the tube: he struck up a conversation.
“Enjoying that are you?” he said, looking at my copy of ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’.
“Truth be told I haven’t got very far,” I replied. “I certainly haven’t read much of it on this journey as I was distracted by all the piss up my botty.”
“I’m Irish,” he continued. “Of course Ireland is a rich seam of great literature…”
But before he could get any further I arrived at my stop and sprung out, walking at a brisk pace to my girlfriend’s house. The first thing she did – pretty much the worst thing she could have done – was, for some reason, to pat me repeatedly on the bottom. I informed her about the urea and we both went off to have a clean up.
Get to the point, Saul
Now then. The reason I mention all this is because a couple of days later, as I strolled down the street, I relived the event. “F*ck”, I said, out loud. “F*cking disgusting.” I engage in this sporadically. I believe public profanity to be an area that has yet to be granted the research it clearly warrants. As far as I know it doesn’t even have a proper name. By coincidence the same day I received a text message from my friend George, a doctor who lives in Leeds. At the end of his informative text it read, “Been doing a lot of public cussing recently. Especially at work.” George and I discuss this regularly. I’m not talking about the kind of public blasheming indulged in by ‘the mad’ (though you may yet think us certifiable), I’m talking about swearing that accompanies the recollection of something you’ve done, said, haven’t done, haven’t said, often days, weeks, months or even years after the event, and it just spills out, there and then. Rarely related to ones environment, often it occurs when things are quiet and you’re having a good think: you’re walking to the bus stop, taking a shower, having a swim, or in George’s case replacing someone’s hip with a piece of plastic, then suddenly it hits you – “How COULD I?”, “It’s too late to apologise NOW…”, “WHY didn’t I use a condom??”, “I’ll NEVER play for Liverpool again,”, “WHY did I even give that Cheryl Cole the time of day?” and so on, all of which comes with an involuntary f*ck or c*nt.
I played squash with my friend Jon yesterday (note: I’m not always playing sport. Sometimes I’m simply walking down the street swearing my head off). He’s also a doctor. In fact he and George know each other. I explained about George’s public cussing.
“I do that, too,” he said. “Quite often. There should be some research done into it. 5-4, yes?”
Eager to get things right for this blog, and to add a clinical air to proceedings, I just called George to confirm the basic facts:
“It’s nothing to do with swearing at something that’s just happened. That’s normal behaviour. No, this is about Touretting out of the blue about something that happened to you when you were ten. It’s totally f*cked up. The other day I was in theatre and I didn’t think anyone else was there, so I let out a big one. I can’t remember what it was about. Anyway a nurse appeared from around the corner. I had no idea she was there, but she probably just thought I was coughing or something. I’ve been doing a lot of involuntary swearing recently. It could be because I’ve got exams coming up. Or because I had a difficult childhood.”
So, basically, I’m throwing it out there. Do you go in for a spot of public, involuntary cursing? What form does the cursing take? Is it accompanied by a tic? And, most importantly, what kinds of memories and recollections bring it on?
Thanks for stopping by.
Oh, before I go I want to relate something to you I saw recently on the BBC homepage:
“Some critics and fans regard Bob Dylan as the greatest living artist in any medium, a claim that Lenny Henry finds ridiculous. Can anyone convince him that Dylan deserves the praise he gets?”
“Jade Goody’s mum is not particularly enamoured of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, thinking it to be a pile of b*llocks. How many of you agree?”
(please note that all names in this blog have been changed, then changed back)