One of the most positive outcomes of living without cash is my careless disregard for getting mugged. Beyond the sheer lack of cash upon my person, I have a mobile phone that is pretty worthless and a £20 Borders birthday gift card from my aunt that I’m yet to spend.
That doesn’t mean I waltz about the deepest, darkest depths of East London without a care in the world – it just means I’ve been more relaxed than I would have been before.
Well, I now admit, whilst it might not be worth the effort of trying to mug me, that doesn’t necessarily mean some little bastard won’t try their luck.
In this case, three little bastards.
Last weekend was Notting Hill Carnival, an annual tradition of walking slowly past row upon row of blown speakers and always wondering where the actual carnival procession is.
This year was no different, we walked about for ages, soaking up the sights, smells and atmosphere, found some friends at the Good Times stage and queued for the best part of an hour for the toilet (that cost my girlfriend £2).
On our way back up the main strip through Ladbrooke Grove, it was gone 7pm, the stages were shut and the crowds were thinning down.
After saying goodbye to my brother, friends and friends of friends that were heading to West London, Justine and I headed to a friends house party just off Portobello Road.
We were talking along, arm in arm when these kids charged past us and one of them brushed their cigarette across my arm. I didn’t think anything of it, I knew it wasn’t worth saying anything and it didn’t even really hurt. We carried on walking.
20 seconds later, an arm wrapped around my neck from behind. It was the kid that had scorched my arm moments before.
“Mate, you owe me a pound, yeah?” He said.
Let me just explain, this guy was about 5”4, fresh faced and utterly unintimidating. I’m nearly a foot taller than him and, thanks to him putting his arm round me, I’m holding his right wrist and keeping him completely off balance. Therefore my reaction was, quite simply,
“What? Fuck off.”
Then his two little friends turned up. Not so cool. The tables irreversibly turned.
“You made me drop my last cigarette, you owe me a pound.” He said, again.
At this point I thought it might be worth getting out of this situation as fast as possible.
“Sorry, guy, I don’t have any cash.” I said.
“Nah mate, you do. Give us a pound, yeah?”
Justine jumps in …always one for a bit of confrontation!
“He’s serious, he never carries cash. You can look him up on the internet.” As true as that is, and as utterly grateful I am that the darling girl stood up for me as she always does, not the hardest thing that could have been said.
At that point the little fucker thought she was a cute one and stroked her chin. That immediately pissed both of us no end – definitely making the situation worse.
She grabbed his wrist and threatened the crap out of him if he was to ever do it again and I pushed him away by his throat and kept him at arms length.
He didn’t like that. He looked like he didn’t like that.
Recognising that he was getting shitty rather than just cheeky, Justine coughed up a pound from her bag and gave it to him with the words,
“You sad, pathetic little boy.”
I felt furious. Justine was beyond words. We continued walking in silence.
The problem is, until no one carries cash, everyone will still expect to get money if they threaten someone enough, however impossible that might be to achieve. What is worse is, if you are of the mentality that going up to a stranger and demanding money is acceptable, you’re probably ethically challenged enough to think its acceptable to lash out after an unsuccessful attempt which would leave the likes of me worse for wear anyway.
The problem with the situation on Sunday was compounded by the startling and depressing truth that our society is still archaic and divided; instead of it being three kids demanding money from an adult couple that could have easily and justly retaliated both verbally and/or physically – it looked like three black kids demanding money from a white couple and ANY retaliation from us would look like a hostile racial divide and, on the main street of Notting Hill Carnival, the situation would have only got significantly worse.
I really wish that wasn’t the case, not just on Sunday. Always. I dread to think how many situations like that, in any context, end badly because of the racial prejudice one way or another rather than the situation on its own… three little kids shouldn’t be able to intimidate two people 10 years older than them. Ever.
Thank you Jus, for carrying a pound and for just being very, very supportive.