At around seven o'clock this evening, two red-faced boys with puppyish hair fell through the tube door just as we pulled out of Victoria station headed for Walthamstow on the Victoria Line. They plonked themselves diagonally from me, the first loud and brave and slurping at a beer, his shifty sidekick stared at his knees, cupping his can. They sat like they'd arrived in a bar - loads of energy and self consciousness.
The loud one started to swear loudly about the attractiveness of another passenger, and once her beau was established, they both began to bark at each other about what the lucky fella would be doing to her later, their faces grimacing towards the squirming couple, eyes and voices askance. Their palpable angry nerves suggested they had never done what they were loudly detailing.
The couple got off at the next stop, the guy grinning whilst he apologised to his gorgeous girl. The boys repeated what they had been saying for a few minutes after their departure, like a dying echo, until the shifty boy doled out another can from a blue plastic bag to his superior and the slurping recommenced. Two teenage girls opposite me tittered.
The loud boy's eyes darted around the carriage looking for his next victim, our next entertainment. He motioned between two men in front of them, then mumbled something punctuated by the words "Muslim" and "killed" spoken in a slightly shriller tone.
I looked to see the person they were referring to. An Asian man in his late twenties/early thirties sat reading a London Lite. He looked like he could be a sweet person, possibly a bit boring.
Then the loud boy said something truly horrible, really loudly, fired at the sweet-but-boring looking passenger. The shifty boy flinched at his partner's words, the passenger didn't - I hoped he didn't notice but doubt that was the case.
The loud boy drew breath and looked around the carriage. I stared at him, wanting to know what to say to make him stop. I shot a glance back at my fellow passenger to let him know that other people on the carriage did not agree with the boys; he didn't look up from his paper.
In the end, I ended up locking eyes with the loud boy, and tried to look as angry as I could to stare him down. He looked at me, cheeks burning with beer, and he stayed silent. Whilst I'd love to think differently, I don't think there was any causality between my glare and his silence. In summary: I did nothing.
I reflected on their words, thinking I almost wished that he had started on me, so then I would have been really justified to say something, and maybe then could speak on behalf of other people on the carriage too nervous of repercussions or maybe just too tired of similar incidents to speak up for themselves or defend others.
Then I started worrying that maybe other people did agree with them, which was why they had been bold enough to speak up. I'm pretty sure some other men on the carriage would have had the same lewd thoughts about the gorgeous girl, for example, and even her boyfriend had just shrugged his shoulders.
It reminded me of when, as a young teenage girl again on the tube, I found myself grinning and fluttering my eyelashes at three men sat opposite me who were winking at me and discussing how pretty I was. Then they turned on the Asian girl who was sitting next to me and started saying how much nicer I was than her because ... you can fill in the rest. I didn't say anything to the men that time either, I just stopped smiling and blushed for a different reason. But at least I got off at the next stop with the girl and apologised to her in person for not saying anything and, I suppose, their behaviour.
It's hard to hold onto the thought that both times I was really justified to say something because I was offended, and I don't like people feeling scared who sit with me on the tube. Did I really need to be scared of two slightly drunk teenagers? They were the ones who ran off at the next stop this time.
I'm still none the wiser as to how to handle such a situation in future, but a trend possibly reported from Japan a while back came to mind, when women take pictures with their mobile phones of men who have touched them up on the train and publish them to a website to denounce them and warn others.
Maybe we could start a movement here - take a photo of someone who is being racist, homophobic, sexist or just generally obnoxious on the train and publish it - hey, send it to your local paper. I would actually love a column like that, an alternative lonely hearts "To the loud, offensive boy on the Victoria Line on Tuesday night at 7pm: you are a horrible person who deserves a big smack in the mouth and to learn that no one wants to hear your idiotic views on sex you've never had and politics you don't understand."