She was quite sweet, in a way. If you could turn the volume off for a moment, she would have looked like a little angel.
But you couldn't turn off the volume. And she either couldn't, or didn't want to. And the only person in the bus who could - a parent, didn't. I assume because someone on the telly - a "Jo the SuperNanny" or a "Chantelle the Champion-Childminder" or a "Grunhilde the uber au pair" or something - had informed them that the best way to deal with tantrums is to ignore them. Is it? Is it REALLY? Is it when the tantrum is coming in at over 187 decibels in an enclosed space with far too many people in it already? Is it the best way of dealing with it then?
Or is it a contravention of EU noise levels and various human rights acts all at once?
Don't get me wrong, she really was cute, though.
Or would have been if she hadn't been puce and demonically wailing. I assume her incredibly big blue eyes were related in some part to her mild Downs Syndrome status, and she fixed them on me, almost amused as she screamed.
Like she was screaming at me. Just me. Me who hadn't bloody done anything.
Screaming at me. For me. And drill-like, straight through me.
Her father stood behind her and talked on his mobile phone. Every five minutes or so, he'd move around the pram to a place where she could see him - and suddenly, she'd stop. She'd see him standing there, and the very sight of him would subdue her into a satisfied silence. For ooooh, whole seconds at a time. And then, having proved his power, he would withdraw it again, and scuttle back round to the back of the pram to make another call to work, as if she wouldn't notice he was gone.
She would. Immediately. And at increased volume. Every time.
I tried to work out how I might possibly see this in a positive light. I tried to think of it as a character study - something I might call upon later if I had to play 'angry commuter' onstage, or was playing a character with a very bad headache, or something.
I was busy trying to see this in a positive light when a renewed bout of shrieking cut into my frontal lobes with the power of a high speed drill.
I stopped trying to see it in a positive light. There was just a girl, shrieking, and, the more I looked at her, the more I could tell she was enjoying it. She was screaming her little head off, she was inducing headaches at the rate of eight heads a scream, and my God, she was loving every second of it. There wasn't a positive way of seeing this. It was, pretty much, a comprehensively negative experience. I hated it. I hated her parent, I hated the noise, and I hated her. Although, as mentioned previously, she was very cute and etc etc caveat caveat.
Her parent had rung the bell. Though this had put his hand slightly into view and thus dampened the siren for a short happy second, after he'd rung it, he withdrew it again, and the screaming commenced.
This was no respite, not really. It was my stop too.
The doors slid open, and he started manouvring the pram toward the exit. I got out first, closer, and turned. Instinctively I grabbed the front of the pram, and started manouvering it to the kerb. I looked up. There were those big blue eyes. That button nose. And that...
She screamed, loudly and lustfully, in my face.
The warning light in my head started flashing. I had known a pressure explosion might occur, but hadn't known when, or how, or at what volume, and....
And that's it.
Choose your own ending.
Choose the ending where I screamed at full throttle and with uncontained gusto directly into the face of a small down's syndrome child and felt dramatically better for doing so, left though I was with a nagging suspicion that I might be considedred a bad human being.
Or choose the one where I didn't scream at the small child, but smiled at her beatifically instead, scowled at her father, and strode away feeling like a good person, although one with less cojones than I might sometimes claim to have.
Or choose the ending where I admit none of this happened, and was all carefully constructed to needle the easily needled.
Choose your own ending, dear someone-else's-readers. Choose whichever ending you prefer, it makes no odds to me. My conscience is clear.
Well, kind of.