Later, I was telling Jason about it and saying how I was so offended by the whole encounter and am I crazy or is that not incredibly rude?!? He agreed that it was incredibly rude and gave me the perfect response: "Well, I work (1) very hard to be able to afford nice things." It's not aggressive, but it firmly puts the offender in her place and (unless she's thick as London fog) lets her know that it's not really an appropriate thing to say. Especially to a paying customer.
If only I could have remembered all this on Wednesday when I was assaulted outside Selfridges while waiting for a bus.
A lady sidles up to me and makes a seemingly innocent comment about needing a bus to Victoria. I, trying to be the ever-helpful Londoner, look over, smile and say "Number 73". Apparently this is an open invitation to a lecture on luxury goods and classist society.
She runs a hand over my Louis Vuitton bag and says...
"That's a nice bag."
"Is it one of the real ones?"
"It must have been really expensive."
"It was a gift from my husband so I don't know."
"Well, they're all expensive."
"I think it's nice they have the fake ones because it gives people who can't afford them a chance to have something nice"
"They're not nice. They're illegal. They're either stolen or produced in sweatshops and the sales of them fund organized crime."
"Well, that's easy for you to say. You rich people can buy whatever you want."
"Just because someone can afford a designer bag doesn't mean they're rich."
"I know this brand of bags are at least 500 pounds and if you can pay 500 pounds for a bag, then you're rich, lady."
I choose to ignore this particularly stupid observation. Yet she continues.
"And anyway, why's a rich lady like you taking a bus? Can't you afford a chauffeured car?"
"Everyone in London takes public transport."
This is where she starts to go off the rails.
"None of the rich people live in London anyway, except maybe Chelsea. They all live out in places like Hampstead and (get this) Richmond 2."
Believe me, I knew better than to open my mouth at this point and even though she was still flapping her yapper, I promptly put in my earbuds and switched on my iPod. Who knows what other verbal diarrhea she spewed while I was listening to Jack Johnson.
What I would really like to know is this: When did it become okay to comment on people's belongings and the cost thereof? Where have manners and common courtesy gone? To the way of ladies wearing hats and gloves I imagine. Relegated to the pages of vintage issues of Vogue and Good Housekeeping. Tragic.
1 I pointed out to Jason that I'm actually not "working hard" at the moment but he reminded me that I was the breadwinner at one point in time. I graduated a couple of years before him and, with my job at Tommy Hilfiger, was the sole source of income there for a while. Some time after that, I had a ludicrously overpaid job as an inside sales rep for a tech company. So, I suppose he's right...
2 To be fair, LondonTown.com does actually describe Richmond upon Thames as a "fabulously wealthy suburb". But that doesn't mean everyone who lives here is fabulously wealthy. Sure, Mick Jagger has a place up the street from us. And Pete Townshend lives a few doors up from there. But I guarantee you that they own their entire building and don't rent a flat at the top of one like we do.