Monday, 17th September. 8:25am.
Prague, Metro line A.
I’m comfortably seated, with headphones on my ears and a Kindle in my hands. Noise cancellation on. A quiet moment. Just me and the adventures of general Skilgannon in David Gemmel’s White Wolf.
The hero is just facing an attack by a group of three soldiers lead by a blond-bearded warrior, when I hear: –Squee-ak–
This can’t be coming from my headphones. I look around. No rats. Hmm, who knows what it was. I get back to my book (all text in blockquotes is from White Wolf):
The dagger thrust missed Skilgannon’s throat, the blade causing a shallow cut to the skin at the back of his neck. Still gripping the rider’s right hand Skilgannon spun to his left, lifting the trapped arm and twisting it. The man cried in pain.
Yeah, that’s the spirit, go Skilgannon!
Skilgannon dropped him, leapt back and drew the Swords of Night and Day.
Dammit! Now I heard the sound came from my right hand side. I look there: A man sitting next to me is playing Tetris on his iPhone, in the middle of a crowded metro, with his sound on loud! I mean – who plays Tetris today?
I am shocked by this insolence.
The other two soldiers ran forward, swords drawn.
Swords! Unfortunately, I don’t have one. Fighting this savage, I must engage in swordless combat.
I turn my head a little bit in his direction. A scolding look on my face. My eyebrow is slightly raised. I am doing my utmost to form an expression that would clearly say: “You should not be doing this.”
He is so captivated by his Tetris game that he does not notice me. Or – that bastard – he could be ignoring me on purpose!
But what can I do? I fill my headphones with Helen Jane Long’s calming Aviators. Perhaps this, with help of the noise cancellation, will take eff… –Squee-ak!–
I take off my headphones, turn my head slightly towards him and – aim my look alternatively at his phone and his face.
Nothing –Squee-ak!– happens.
The first of the soldiers –the young man with black, braided hair – managed to parry the thrust from the golden blade, but the silver sword opened his throat to the bone. The second soldier charged in –only to have his chest skewered by a single thrust. Skilgannon dragged clear his blade and stepped back as the body toppled towards him.
–Squee-ak!– Oh, come on!
The leader backed away. Skilgannon cleaned his blades and sheathed them. ‘I have a wife and children,’ said the man. ‘I don’t want to die. Not here. Not so uselessly.’ Skilgannon sighed. ‘Then walk away,’ he said. ‘I will take your horses. By the time you send men after us we will be long gone.’
I look at his phone again. He has iPhone SE. I can see the ring/silent switch on the side of the phone. So close – and yet so far. But – is it? A daring thought…
“Excuse me…” I hear myself say. “In case you would like to switch the sound off, it’s this button on the side of your phone.”
He looks at me – surprised. “Thank you.” He turns the phone in his right hand and with his left he attacks the buttons on the left side. It seems like he was not aware of their existence. Now he is struggling with them, pressing alternatively the + and then -.
“Let me show you,” I tell him – and switch the ring/silent button to silent.
“Well, thank you!” Peacefully, he continues his game. With the squeaks gone, I look into the book again.
Was that it? The blond-bearded warrior is attacks again and ends up having his throat cut by Skillganon. Bad for him. But the man next to me? One-bit tech-savvier, keeps playing his pre-historic game in silence and everyone rides the metro happily ever after.
If only he knew what I was thinking just a few moments ago. He might have just thought of me I was insane. I built so much anger in myself – and all it took was to ask him.
Funny how much is happening only in our heads. Maybe it’s a good idea to do a mental recap of the people towards whom I have any grudge. How many of such cases have their cause only in my head?
How about you?
Photo by Manuel Pena on Unsplash