Straddle Banjodisaster rode into town on his organic free-trade bicycle. Or, at least, he would have if the tyres made from recycled newspapers had not got damp when he peddled too close to a puddle and the tyres washed away down the road. So he pushed his bicycle along the pavement, next to the busy dual carriageway, sneering at every single occupancy vehicle that came past. He was more than a little disconcerted to see there was not even a bus lane, let alone a Park and Ride facility, or any other mass transit system in operation.
But this was the Wild West Midlands and Banjodisaster was here to bring the law to the town.
He swallowed when he saw there were still pubs around that had not been converted into vegan restaurants or fair trade caffeine-free coffee emporiums, but he was from vibrant multicultural central London. He had to expect things to be different, this far from his civilisation. Some of those in the single occupancy vehicles, still rumbling past him as the rush-hour traffic built up, were dressed in fashion the metropolis had left behind seasons ago.
Banjodisaster wondered if he would fit in. But he then stood a little straighter, remembering that he was the law and didn’t need to fit in. It was these uncouth, uncivilised men… wo… gender-neutral persons… that needed to comply with him. They needed civilising. It had even been whispered – when his workmates saw he’d got this job – that in these parts, the restaurants and gastropubs (few that there were) still served meals on plates. Not on slates, shovels, cloth caps and all the other amusing and ironic ways that food was served where he came from.
Where he came from, back home now he would be listening to a lecture on diversity and non-binary gender in the workplace, not trudging along some seemingly endless dual carriage. Nor would he confront signs to places that would not look out of place in some escapist fantasy novel that failed to challenge the uncaring, unegalitarian horror that was the modern world.
Actually, Banjodisaster would not have been surprised to meet a dragon. But what he met was far worse.
If Banjodisaster had been riding his bike, he would have fallen off it in shock. How dare she speak to him that way, using a sexist, overfamiliar diminutive before he had even expressed how he wished to be addressed without compromising his sexual self-identity?
‘It’s a bit cold, isn’t it?’
Didn’t she realise the dire threat of global warming? The damage that could be caused by not acknowledging that global temperatures were (probably) higher than they had even been.
Banjodisaster spluttered. His laptop had the file with the necessary rules for greeting a non-sexually self-identifying stranger on a day when the global temperature was in an ever increasing upward curve still on there. He had not printed off any of the pages in order not to waste paper and the laptop’s solar charger was registering barely a trickle on this dull Wild Wet Midland morning.
‘You’re a stranger in these parts,’ the woman said, her local accent making it hard for Banjodisaster to discern her meaning, despite the number of familiarisation courses he’d taken before setting off for this wild, untamed land.
‘How… how can you tell?’ he muttered, disconcerted.
‘Because you are such an unsocial bugger,’ she said as she stomped off back into the mists she’d emerged from.