I still don’t get the appeal of Oxford Street

An insult I’m trying to bring back into fashion is “jackass”. It’s a brilliant word. It’s as close as you can get to swearing without actually swearing. That /k/ in the middle gives it a bit of forcefulness. The short “jack” is the punchy bit, then the long “ass” means it lingers. A fair few people seem to think it’s already a swearword. I’m tired of hearing Brits who think the correct name for the stupid MTV programme is “Jackarse”.

In the West End, I often find I have occasion to use this wonderful word. I’ve complained about Soho in these e-pages before now, and surprise surprise, I’m not a fan of Oxford Street either.

First of all, I’m not a big shopper. I tend to buy the essentials down my local high street and everything else in the more eclectic shopping districts. Oxford Street is just a really big high street, when you get down to it. Big, dirty and very crowded – and that last fact is what bugs me the most. I tend to walk at a fairly brisk pace, and in Oxford Street I’m always either dodging people coming the other way or stuck behind some lumbering group of tourists.

However, there are advantages to a really big high street, and today I was forced to admit this. I had to buy a birthday present, and the gift in question was too rare for the local high street and not rare enough for the eclectic shops. So to HMV I went.

This HMV.

This HMV.

The walk from Bloomsbury to Oxford Street is actually quite pleasant – I went via Great Russell Street, passing the British Museum and GOSH! Comics, to my mind probably the best comic shop in Central London. One time I met Alan Moore there. It was way cool. One street back from here is the Cartoon Museum, whose shop is a brilliant source of humorous birthday cards. Not the usual poor excuse for humour in cards where someone’s just found an old photo and given it the caption “Little did Mike know that his jumper made him look like a twat!!!” or “Priscilla couldn’t get enough oral sex!!!” or some similarly witless tosh.

The street comes out on Tottenham Court Road(by the oldest YMCA in Britain), and just past the Tube station, opposite Centre Point, is the junction with Oxford Street. I received the usual hassle from chuggers – one asked me if I’d like to make a difference, and I explained that no, I would not. Another tried to hussle me with the old “oh hey i’m genuinely interested in you” routine, and said that he could tell from my hair that I’m into metal. I explained that I wasn’t. His next guess was that I was a hippie (to be fair, I did need a shower by that point). I explained that he was wrong again, and maybe he should stop stereotyping people. I know it sounds like a jackass sort of thing to say to someone who’s trying to make a living, but frankly I can’t stand fake chumminess.

In the shop, having narrowly avoided the cult recruiter outside, I nimbly found the items I was looking for and took them over to the tills. In front of me were a couple of the sort of teenagers that cause me to mutter, “Bloody kids!” like a pensioner. You know the sort. Filled with attitude stolen from TV programmes, mistakenly believing that the amount of media attention paid to them makes them important when in fact they’re being exploited by commercialism until their pockets cry for mercy. Really deserve a smack, but you’re not allowed to do that any more, eheu.

These particular ones were a couple of girls standing close enough to the checkout to make it difficult to get past. One of them picked up some electronic gizmo and pushed past me to the till. While I’d like to say that I surreptitiously tripped her up and then jumped on to her head, knees first, causing her skull to explode like a watermelon in a microwave, I held back the urge. A missed opportunity that even now brings tears to my eyes.

The girl demanded to know what the electronic gizmo was, in that way that suggests, “I don’t give a shit, I just know that I can make this person’s life a misery and they can’t answer back.” When the shop assistant took the box to examine it further, the girl took exception to this, accusing her of snatching the box and just generally making a nuisance of herself with the cocksure swagger of someone who contributes nothing whatsoever to society. Then, of course, she decided that she didn’t want the thing after all, and decided to actually let the queue move. There was another missed opportunity when she passed me once again and I didn’t beat her to death with a Clint Eastwood box set (possibly finishing with, “You made my day, punk”). I’m so weak.

Having worked in various jobs with shitty customers, I do tend to side with the poor schmo on the other side of the desk in such encounters. In this case, I remarked to the shop assistant, who looked slightly shaken by the encounter, “Christ, what was her problem?” The shop assistant replied that she couldn’t believe how rude the teenager was and complained that she’d been scratched when the little angel had grabbed the gizmo off her. I replied that she shouldn’t worry about it, because “some people’s just jackasses.”

See? It’s the insult of a thousand uses!

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Filed under Bloomsbury, London, Museums, Rambling on and on, Randomness, Shopping, Weird shops, West End

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