Southwark Bridge is usually the best part of my trip into work in the morning. By the time I reach the bridge, the sun has usually been up for about half an hour, meaning that the light is that dim, ghostly kind, the kind of light that you see in the backgrounds of one your more introspective movies…”Vanilla Sky” comes to mind, but that’s not quite right. The light glances off the Spire, barely over a mile away, to the East, and covers the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral like a blanket, to the West. It’s glorious.
That’s why yesterday’s delivery incident was so strange, so surreal, so very out of character. It went something like this:
I cross the bridge with my earbuds in, and since I’ve always just come out of the Underground, they’re my noise-isolating, noise-cancelling pair, which allow me to hear music and podcasts over the din of the subway cars. This means hearing anything going on around me can be a little challenging. During the incident itself, I was happily listening to Wednesday’s episode of “The Daily Spill,” as I recall.
The first thing that happened was that a van pulled up next to me, one of those professional-looking vans that’s not quite a panel truck, but looks like the kind of thing that might be delivering office supplies or IT equipment in the City. I didn’t get a really good look at it, but there seemed nothing unusual about the van itself, nor about the man driving it. All good, so far…
Now, this is a two-lane bridge in the middle of London, and there are no traffic signals on it. Unless there’s a queue of angry motorists in front of you, there’s no reason to stop a vehicle on Southwark Bridge, so I did wonder what the stop was for. It was a hard stop, too, like the driver had seen something in the road he didn’t want to hit. Still, nothing to do with me, and I was past it within two seconds, so I just continued on my way, the moment forgotten.
The next thing I noticed was that the people walking in front of me were turning around to look behind me at something. This usually doesn’t happen. Something had attracted their attention, but what? Well, again, it’s nothing to do with me, so—
—and then I heard it, the shouting. Imagine the crazy guy on the bus. Now imagine he’s not just crazy, but he’s angry and crazy. Through the pauses in the conversation taking place in my ears, I could just make out this epic din of shouting that was barely making its way through my noise cancellation. Something—something right behind me—has gone very, very wrong.
Now, this is a difficult place to be. There’s somebody back ther who’s obviously not just extremely pissed off, but is also a bit unhinged. And he’s getting closer. What do I do? Do I turn around and look? I don’t want to make eye contact with something like that and provoke greater fury or, worse yet, turn a currently general sort of anger in to anger at me. But I can’t just ignore it, either, and the people in front of me are still keeping an eye on this fellow, as though they’re particularly worried about him.
In the end, I just kept my pace, made room for the shouting to pass me by, and took my hands out of my pockets, just in case they might be needed (“Not the face! Not the face!”). The yelling man walked past me, continuing to rant and rave. He had long hair and a beard. He had an olive green jacket and heavy leather boots…a stronger archetype of “angry madman…probably a vet” you could not possibly find.
Eventually, he stopped shouting, and I realized that this moment coincided with the moment that the van, which had pulled away by now, finally turned a corner and was out of sight.
The best I can surmise is that the driver of the van had offered mister crazy pants a lift, then gotten tired of him at the precise moment he crossed the bridge and told him to get out, causing the resulting rant, but that’s not how it felt. It felt like there’s a delivery service out there who specializes in madmen, who make it their business to be certain that their customers are supplied with crazy people on a daily basis. This company was just making its scheduled drop of “madman no. 3”. In my mind, I picture another competing company that specializes in village idiots, and possibly another, less successful venture that provides “annoying guy on Bluetooth”.
It took about ten minutes for the resulting adrenaline rush to stop making my hands shake, but at least I got a story out of it. I really do love this city.
There’s been KotF cover progress this week, which is making me feel better about pretty much everything. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the whole process is likely to take longer than I’d initially thought, so what was going to be a timely December release is likely to end up happening sometime in the Spring, instead. Still, it’s nice to have forward momentum again, and it gives me time to get more work done on book number 2.
Here comes Friday!