I was sitting on a bench in the Shopping Centre (here in the UK we shop in Centres, not Mauls.) eating my humble, flat sandwich from a cardboard box. I was wearing shoes – how strange to look down and not see my toes – and a thick coat. How strange. Sitting on either side of me were two overweight women. When I sat down I received disapproving and faintly resentful stares from them both. I am not sure whether it’s my fading tan or my waistline that sets me apart, but I definitely have the feeling I am not “one of them”. Or perhaps that’s all in my head.
Strolling all around us are many more overweight and obese people – there’s more fat people and more elderly people here than I’ve seen in a long time, on the other hand, there’s a noticeable absence of pregnant women.
I see an angry woman marching purposely towards our bench; she is red-cheeked with fury and dragging behind her a young girl of maybe nine or ten years.
“I had to get out of there before I lost it and hit her” she announces to all of us. I wonder which of the women sitting next to me she knows.
“We were waiting there for 20 minutes and then she just pushed past me! Some people!”
I realise, uncomfortably, that she doesn’t know any of us. The woman on my left says
“It’s ever so crowded today.”
“I know! Twenty minutes we waited in that queue! Twenty minutes! And my girl was ever so good!”
The young girl is pulled forward to be displayed to us. Exhibit A: Well-behaved daughter, studies her shoes and blushes.
“It can be difficult when you’ve got children with you” said the woman on my right.
“I told her! I said if you’ve got kids I bet they’re as horrible as you are! That’s what I said, didn’t I?” Exhibit A mumbled and shuffled her feet, “then I thought, I’m so angry I’d better get out of here and calm down.”
The woman on my left shifted in her seat, I think she was wondering whether we should all move up so the furious woman could sit, and calm down – but there isn’t really room. There is a pause as all three of us silently assess the space available and fidget in a polite but unhelpful manner. Having collectively decided not to move up – my neighbours examine the floor and I inspect my remaining half sandwich.
“Well I told her!” said the furious woman. Pause. “I think there’s another bench around the corner,” she added pointedly “but it’s usually full of kids.” Then she took the child by the elbow and marched on her way.
I finished my sandwich and wondered whether I should have joined in the conversation.