(jimminy jillikers, Radioactive Man!)
Yesterday, I got on a bus, and went to Enfield Town, as people who have no cars but want to go to Enfield Town do. There, I waited for another bus, again due to my desire for transport but lack of cars, and I saw a man casually walk up to the bus stop, bouncing a small rubber ball on the ground as he walked. He waited for a while, and no bus came, but then a police car pulled into the road next to the one the bus stop was on, and the man picked up his ball, tucked it into a pocket, and immediately legged it down the road, away from the police car.
As far as I’m concerned, the bouncy ball is paramount to this story: it was either his loot, having burgled a local shop and fled; or his disguise, to project an impression of innocence to others, because what the Hell kind of criminal has a bouncy ball; or it was his calling card, a bit like this one, which distinguishes him from the other barbarous ne’er-do-wells that operate in the London area.
The first is unlikely, because there are no specialist bouncy ball shops in London, and the man’s expertise with the ball -bouncing it off bins and such – suggests that he is a connoisseur of rubber spheres, and so would not settle for the cheap tat you get from generic gift shops, instead only settling for high-end bouncy balls from specialised retailers. A bit like a wine connoisseur, who always imports cheap French products, instead of settling for Marks and Spencer’s larger like the rest of us.
The second idea is also unlikely, because he was not committed to his guise of innocence fully enough to warrant the use of a bouncy ball; he was not hiding in dark alleys, but had gone out of his way to source, obtain, and learn to use, a particularly obscure toy for its specific association with childishness and innocence, suggesting a great commitment to his rouse. If he were so committed, he would not have fled at the first sight of the police, instead putting faith in his elaborate disguise, and simply behaving like a bemused child should the police investigate him; no, his ball was not intended to be a disguise.
By process of elimination, and the sheer ridiculous out-of-place-ness of a bouncy ball in the possession of an adult in the year 2014, the ball must be his calling card, to distinguish him from the Enfield Criminal Underworld, a network so vast and influential that its been given its own infographic on the website of the illustrious Enfield Advertiser.
And so this post serves as a PSA; I do not know the nature, extent, or impacts of the Great Bouncy Ball Man’s crimes, but I would encourage you to treat any men in their thirties, wearing shorts and a polo shirt, bouncing a ball, with extreme suspicion, beyond the regular feelings of awkwardness that come with seeing a man play with a child’s toy.
And no way am I exaggerating this because I witnessed these events while listening to The Offspring’s Walla Walla. Not at all.