My salad dressing days

UC investigates…
December 19, 2005, 1:19 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Onlookers and bystanders: are they the same people? Discuss.

I took to the streets of the nation’s capital on a cold, wintry night to carry out my very own vox pop of the hardy folk who stand by and look on when an incident, small or large, takes place.

Believe me, people, there are a lot of them out there. Heck, you might even be one yourself, possibly without knowing!

First up, I ran into Bert, a self-professed seasoned bystander. I asked him to tell me a little about himself:

‘Well, there was the Queen’s Coronation. I had nipped into town to buy a loaf of bread and blow me, if I couldn’t get into Greggs for all the pomp and wotnot! Well, I’m no royalist me, but somehow I found myself a bystander as the carriage drove past. So I s’pose that’s how I got into the whole bystanding thing…

‘A decade or so later, and my daughter had taken me on holiday with her to Dallas. We were having a picnic on a grassy knoll one lunchtime (if I remember rightly, I was complaining to my wife Ethel about how inedible I was finding my baloney sandwich), when we heard gunshots. Well, I knew there was some big important guy due in town that day, but who’d have thought I’d be a bystander at the assassination of an American president?

‘After that, there were a few more minor incidents (a carjacking outside Seven Sisters tube station, a bit of a to do when the neighbour’s cat got stuck up the monkey puzzle tree in our front garden) but then I developed arthritis in my left knee. Well, I can’t stand still for long now. It’s been hard and I find myself more of an onlooker these days. Shame really, but there we go. Mustn’t grumble. My daughter camped outside Kensington Palace three night’s before Princess Diana’s funeral, and I took my deckchair in the morning. Got a great view of the cortege.’

Then we ran into Sarah, an embittered twentysomething office administrator and former bystander from Plaistow:

‘Well, I’ll admit it, I wasn’t all sure about this bystanding lark, but my boyfriend said it was alright and that he had been an innocent bystander a few times. I told him ‘I don’t want no trouble’. We stood by a few fights after last orders at The Frog and Iguana, but we never got involved.

‘But then one day, someone accused me of being a ‘guilty bystander’. Well, I told him where to go and that I could understand his girlfriend wanting to sleep with his best mate if that’s the sort of mouth he had on him. That’s when the bystanding thing turned nasty for me and I told my boyfriend ‘I want out of this’ and we broke up.’

Asked if she had considered onlooking instead, Sarah replied:

‘Nah. Not interested. If you ask me, there’s not much in it: bystanding or onlooking. It’s all the same people doing it. Alright, some of the onlookers prefer to sit down, but not all of them! I think everyone should listen to Dionne Warwick and just ‘walk on by’. It’s kept me outta trouble for sure.’

Surly Girl quite reasonably inquired as to whether my research had taken in hangers-on. I regret to say that, whilst hangers-on did feature as part of the original remit, none of the hangers-on I came across wished to be identified on account of them all being in denial about their hanging-on status. Somehow, the sad losers all imagined themselves to be part of the ‘in’ crowd. Quod erat demonstrandum. Ahem.


7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

what about hangers-on then?

ta for that, uc. genius.

Comment by surly girl

well, my vox pop did take in soi-disant hangers-on but none of them wished to be identified on account of them all being in denial about their hanging-on status (somehow, the sad losers all imagined themselves to be part of the ‘in’ crowd), so that part of my research was rendered useless


Comment by Urban Chick

so what does it makes you? if you’re hanging around talking to and looking at bystanders and onlookers aren’t you now some kind of crowd phenomenom too? Maybe that just makes you a chin-wagger?

Comment by Kyahgirl

This is the new Darwinian Toast, UC.


Comment by Kellycat

Obviously onlookers have the option to sit. And bystanders have the choice of eyes closed…

kc is right. Genius.

Comment by Ova Girl

vox pop vox pop vox pop vox pop. I love your stuff, UC. You wizardess. xoxo

Comment by mireille

the stock and station agent in the country side where my mum lives calls such people ‘tyre kickers’. Because they stand around at his auctions with no intention of making a bid, scraping their boots in the dirt and kicking their tyres.

Comment by Justine

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