I’m staring down the barrel of a tuna baguette. My target is a well-groomed woman in her sixties who, for this precise moment at least, is everything wrong with the world. Sitting there. Thinking her Brexit-y little thoughts. Probably. With her back to me, she’s eating – for the sake of this story – the most Daily Mail thing on the Pret menu. A chicken sandwich, probably. On the chair next to her is exactly the sort of handbag a chicken sandwich-eating Brexiteer would have. Expensive looking and boring.
Twenty minutes ago, I asked if she’d move the handbag so I could sit down. She told me she was saving the seat for a friend. Which seemed fair, as people have friends sometimes. So I stood in the middle of the rammed Pret, holding one of those somehow humiliating silver trays, waiting for another seat to clear. As I stood watching her turn more and more people away from the “reserved” seat, the reality of the situation set in. I’d been fed a lie more pernicious than one of those crayfish sandwiches no one ever eats. No one is coming. There is no friend. Chicken Sandwich – I rage internally – literally thinks her handbag has more of a right to seating (not currently covered by the Human Rights Act, but it should be) than a human being.
This has become a stakeout. As soon as she gets up to leave, no “friend” having claimed the seat, I’m going to confront Chicken Sandwich. What shall I say though? My instinct is to flat out ask her why she’s such an awful person. At this point, I realise I’ve gone full Larry David; that my obsession with the minute injustices of everyday life is getting out of control. Queue cutters. Manspreaders. The Generally Quite Rude. They – I’m becoming increasingly convinced – made Trump happen. And seeing as I can’t do anything about Trump, or any of the other meatiest players in the 2016 political shit show, I’m treating every minor display of unfairness as a mini-Brexit. Less social justice warrior, more social justice caretaker. While people with energy and smarts focus on big picture stuff, I will let the likes of Chicken Sandwich know that they, in their own microscopic way, are gnawing away at civilized society like bastard hamsters.
Except Chicken Sandwich has now been eating her namesake for 30 minutes, and is showing no signs of defeat. My lunch is long gone. I stared at a woman for a whole baguette. I’m still staring. Waiting for that sweet moment I can let rip about her ruining the world. Tell her that her “friend” looks an awful lot like a bag. Without breaking my stare, I wonder if this is something I should bring up with my therapist. At this point, Chicken Sandwich is winning. I’m even taking up a seat I no longer need, just so I can watch Chicken Sandwich. Have I become Chicken Sandwich?
“I don’t get it,” I say to my housemate later, “I spend so much time thinking about how not to be an arsehole. I couldn’t live with myself if I was an arsehole. And yet some people get to be arseholes without it ever crossing their minds. It’s just so unfair.”