That’s the trouble with trouble. It tends to happen when you’re least expecting it.
Like, I am now more or less hardened to the realisation that after dark, on trains, in locations where men and alcohol mix, I might face trouble. So I tread lightly in those places now, avoiding when I can, staying with company otherwise.
And I’ve just had a relatively trouble-free couple of months. So, heading out to my local library to print off some invites to my pre-op party, the last thing on my mind was taking precautions of any kind.
I downloaded my stuff. Kicked the library system hard, because it appears to do weird things to word documents – and proceeded to start reformatting what I had. Opposite, two youths were starting to get rowdy.
The librarian shushed them: they got rowdier. The librarian gave them a warning. No effect, except now they started to get mobile, running round the library and knocking the odd item off the top of desks.
The level of verbal aggro escalated. Now I came into their sights. The usual stuff: “hey – that’s not a real lady, is it?”.
At least that was faintly preferable to the “fucking homosexual!” delivered at the end of the incident: that and the “hey man: you come to London and I’ll shoot you”.
It was offensive.
Dangerous? No, I don’t think so: but hard to say at that point in proceedings.
At about the same time, first I and then one of the librarians rang the police. We both lucked out. There are three pcso’s in the district: only one was on duty tonight and… we asked for the wrong two.
Fair enough, I suggested to the jobsworth on the switchboard. Could she put me through to an officer or other pcso. No. Not unless I explained what the problem was. That was difficult.
I had two seriously unpredictable youths within earshot of me and my phone: how, I wondered, would they react to me giving out to a third party obvious details of what they were doing .
I can’t. This is difficult. I just need to talk. No chance! Unless I could say what was up, she wasn’t going to put me thru to anyone and even though I repeatedly said it was difficult to explain, that didn’t cut any ice.
Now that’s more than irritating. I repeat: in the end, this was no major incident. Just two overgrown boys who maybe couldn’t get how intimidating their behaviour was for three women in a library.
The switchboard reaction, however, was a lot less encouraging. What if it hadn’t been quite such an easy incident? What if we were talking a real danger of violence? Do I not get any assist unless I say, out loud: “help…i think the madman with a knife stood next to me is about to…aaargh!”
Later on, I calmed. I spoke first to michelle, one of the local helpful pcso’s, who gave me her mobile number. I also chatted again to the police control room. Apparently they can tag my mobile number with a message, so those picking up will be aware that I might be phoning because I’m at risk.
I don’t really know how the switchboard person should have reacted. Still, it felt unhelpful, bureaucratic and… the sort of rsponse that does leave people floundering in the midst of serious trouble.