British writer Mo Fanning offers a passive aggressive masterclass

Passive Aggressive Master Class

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My current hometown (Brighton) has to be the passive aggressive capital of Britain. It’s London without the swank. Brighton is for individuals, quirky folk who don’t fit into boxes. Imagine the simmering resentment.

Uncovering mild passive-aggression is easy. Simply jump a queue, stand on the wrong side of an escalator, or try to pay for anything with a twenty-quid note.

True industrial-strength passive aggression is harder to uncover. But Brighton buses offer guaranteed exposure to ice-cold loathing. All you need is a day ticket. And a bag,. And a phone for good measure.

Where better to start than with the classic ‘bag on seat’ technique. You get the window seat, whilst your bag fends off any potential seat sharing passengers. Everyone knows you didn’t buy two tickets and bags belong on the floor. Most angry souls will walk past, and hate you with their eyes, but eventually you’ll hit pay dirt. Someone will apologise profusely and ask if you wouldn’t mind moving said bag. Listen carefully. They’re not sorry at all. They want you to be sorry for putting your perfectly filthy bag on a perfectly clean seat. They’ve a good mind to ask to see that second ticket you clearly think you bought that allowed it to occupy space meant for the human derriere.

Passive aggressive aisle-occupation

This is just one way to expose the passive aggression, even better is the fine art of aisle-occupation. This vintage strategy is a way to both exhibit and experience pent-up Brighton. Every other passenger knows what you’re up to. They would love to do the same, but fear forbids such a move. If you find an aisle-sitter in an otherwise empty bus, ask if you can take the window seat. It’s brilliant fun to tell them you love the window seat and hate sitting alone. ‘You make me feel safe’ is the perfect line to add. They will leave at the next stop. Someone new wants you to die alone. Your work is done.

Passive aggressive bus

Brighton bus carrying potentially very cross people

Even with these two techniques, there are times when random strangers manage to invade your personal space. Even when the bus is half empty, there are those for whom the herding instinct is too strong. You’re not to blame. You do the right thing and  avoid eye contact, but still they decide that of all the potential on-board psychopaths, you look the least likely to snap. The trick here is to give this interloper enough time to settle. Allow them to unfold a large newspaper or start work on an important text. Only then do you announce that yours is the next stop.

Passive aggressive phone use

Everyone uses their phone on a bus, right? Of course they don’t. Only fools have loud conversations that everyone has to listen to. So why not have a really good lover’s tiff with an imagined someone, add useful detail about their performance in bed. Mention an animal. Strangers will exchange passive-aggressive eye-rolls. You’re the reason they hate using the bus. Now that you have an audience, and just as it sounds like you’re about to reveal something truly mind-blowing, go quiet. Start to whisper. Everyone will go extra super silent. They hate themselves, but they can’t stop. Always end the call by wishing ‘your mother’ a great day.

The front of the bus is for freeloading old people and true passive-aggressive Brightonians would rather swear off kale for a year than sit there. Wait for the next bus crammed with wannabe DJs and graphic designers. Rush hour is best, as having to pay turns buses into OAP-free zones. Climb on board and head for the ‘special’ seats. Congratulations. People now hate you. If you’re in luck, someone in vegetarian shoes with a beard and no tattoo filter will say something. Equally, she could very well decide to say nothing. But she hates you all the same. You will understand this.

Brighton buses, it should be said, are not the only places to observe and enjoy true passive aggression. Being situated due south of London, it’s a town filled with angry people forced to commute daily on over-loaded trains to do jobs they hate. Much of what you read above works equally well on Southern and City Thameslink trains.

By Mo Fanning

Mo Fanning is a British author of dark romantic comedies including the Book of the Year nominated bestseller 'The Armchair Bride', 'Rebuilding Alexandra Small' and 2022's hit holiday romcom 'Ghosted'.

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