On Making Assumptions

Many moons ago I didn’t live in Wimbledon. I couldn’t afford it. But I used to get the tube to Southfields, which is on the way to Wimbledon, so I could kid myself I was going up in the world even though, after a ten minute walk, I was a lot nearer Wandsworth town centre than anything else.
My point is, though it felt a bit posh on the way home, you could just as easily see three guys trying to nick someone’s bicycle as you could a family on their way to the school fayre (and indeed, I actually did once).
One day, waiting to cross the road, a bus pulled up in front of me. It was mostly empty, save for a young lad of about twelve or thirteen on the back seat. He had a sullen look and a shaven head, and I don’t think it unfair to say he was the kind of kid you might feel justified in keeping an eye on if you saw him hanging around near your car. Not that he might nick it or anything, but he might think it funny to smear kebab juice on your door handles just for a laugh.
The kid was looking at me, stoney faced, and I returned his gaze, equally as impassive. Then slowly he raised one hand, and gave me a tiny wave. My eyes narrowed. Was he taking the p*ss? If I smiled, or nodded, or waved, would he then grin and give me the finger? Probably, I thought. Maybe I should get in there first? Give him the finger. That’d teach him for taking the p*ss out of me!
I almost did it. Really I did. But at the last moment I chose not to. It didn’t matter what he did, it mattered what I did. So instead of giving him the finger I just waved back at him instead (the two of us still pretty much stoney faced). His waving hand turned. Here it comes I thought. Here comes the finger. Inwardly I sighed.
But it wasn’t a middle finger I received, it was a thumb. He gave me a thumbs up! No smile from him still, but the unexpected surprise gave me cause to smirk. I nodded, he nodded, and the bus moved on.
I think about that moment now and then. I don’t know if he intended to trick me and then changed his mind at the last moment, possibly seeing the turmoil on my face. Or if he was just having a bad day and looking for a grain of human kindness in the world. I just know that I’m glad I didn’t give in to the cynicism. And I hope that I brightened his day a little, just as he brightened mine.


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