Yesterday I made the big mistake of leaving home at just after 3pm. I was walking into town to meet some work colleagues, a route that takes me past the local school along what we call locally jitties.
Jitty is a peculiarly British Midlands term for a narrow passage, usually a short-cut, between buildings or a footpath enclosed on either side by hedges, walls, or fences.
At the precise moment I entered the jitty near the school I was engulfed by wave upon wave of schoolkids. Call me a grumpy old man, or maybe it’s just a generational thing but it’s an experience I won’t be repeating.
The kids, who are from a normal fairly middle-class senior school, fell into three categories, each of which were completely self-absorbed.
There were the single types – mostly boys – airpods affixed, how do they all afford them, stomping single-mindedly home.
Then there were the small groups – mainly girls – involved in such intense conversation with their mates.
Then there were the rest, the vast majority, looking at and interacting with their phone screens. The relief of being back with their phones after a hellish day without them was palpable.
None were being particularly anti-social, raucous or threatening but not one was remotely looking where they were going.
No respect, no apology
At first I found myself dodging from side to side to avoid a collision, at one point catching my face on a branch. Then I thought I’d just carry on walking which led to me literally bumping into a couple of kids who just huffed and sighed, not a trace of an apology.
All seemed to be so totally absorbed in their music, chat or social media and had no time for anyone else. There was the occasional bit of shouting and swearing but none of the laughter and revelry that used to mark the end of a school day.
Maybe it’s just the mob in action as I’m sure they are lovely kids really but there was an air of arrogance about many of them. Whatever they were listening to, looking at or talking about seemed to be so grave and important.
It took me right back to when I was at school, I can still clearly remember the complaints of local residents about things like noise and smoking forming part of school assemblies on almost a weekly basis.
These notices always had a sinister air of ‘we know who you are’ about them. There was also the guilt trip of how those involved were not just letting themselves down but also their families and the school. In really bad cases it was the city too which led to thinking next it’ll be the the county, country, continent, hemisphere, solar system, galaxy …
Methinks they don’t do those notices these days and if they did I get the feeling no one would much care about much else but themselves.