Cleaned myself: 0
Monkey see, monkey do: 0
Believe in God? Yes, but there are better people that deserve her attention
YTLH: only one and it’s in the prototype stage.
I have been aggressed four times already today. The first was in a supermarket. I was called to the checkout from the Covid holding-pattern, to start loading up and dutifully set about emptying the contents of my trolley onto the conveyor belt behind the triangular metal demarcater that stood about three feet behind the last item of the shopper in front of me. She bristled with indignation as I reached to place half-dozen slabs of water next to the metal triangle, then eventually, unable to resist any longer, spun round and shouted, ‘Two metres’ at me. It caught me off my guard and I couldn’t find an appropriate rejoinder, other than to say, ‘if you’re that bothered move up a bit,’ there being no one in front of her. She mumbled something about not being able to do that out of respect for the non-existent person at the head of the queue. I continued to pack undeterred, and I suppose, thinking back now, I might have been pleased with the counter-aggressive stare in which I held her had I been able to see it. She, of course, tried to curry favour with the cashier, and though I didn’t catch her words, I noticed that both of them had turned to glare back at me as soon as she’d said her piece. Eventually of course I did bring suitable responses to mind: that we had our backs to each other when she turned round to aggress me; that I was over a metre beyond her; that I was only obeying orders; that she wasn’t wearing a mask; that she hadn’t bothered to move her fat arse round to the end of the counter because she was more interested in finding someone to whom she could play victim. But as much as the moment had gone, and the resulting row been even more unseemly as a result, I kept these thoughts to myself to spare her small daughter, who looked scared, and who’d probably been witness to similar events before. I mean, her life was bad enough, the mother was one of those big units that end up as classroom assistants, thick as pig shit but with a self-declared proclivity for delivering discipline and organisation.
On leaving, I found myself in a queue at the bakers, and at the unfortunate moment I was standing on the threshold, waiting for a dithering apostate to decide between a cheese infused loaf and one with sun dried tomatoes. Mother’s husband thinks that the Two Magpies produce a superior form of sourdough bloomer. They don’t, they just call shoddy goods by interesting names, and get mugs like proxy him (me) to queue for them, rather than go to the sad looking bakery from the 1970s that actually bakes proper bread. But he doesn’t understand marketing like me.
A nimble but old man prodded me firmly in the back and brought himself within a few inches of my ear, and said, ‘I said, is this the queue?’ I gave him a brief nod and a non-cooperative, barely audible ‘mmh’ not least because he is exactly the sort of administrator that presides over, and is an advocate for, the VAR system of refereeing football matches. It was the wrong answer, because normally, when people like me are not about, he’d walk straight into the shop uninhibited. His wife joined him and together they took up a position tight to each of my shoulders. ‘Apparently there’s a queue,’ he tells her. The apostate moves on a yard or so inside the shop and so I shuffle on a pace to put myself on the shop side of the threshold, whereupon, the vultures move with me, to make sure that they’re in too. Then they start to survey the goods, her to the right, the confections, which can only be bought on completion of the horseshoe as you make your way out again; him to the artisan breads; but so engaged are they in the process, and so determined not to have their normal routine usurped by an interloper like me, they gradually press on with their faux-innocent browsing until they’re in front of me. I said nothing, maybe there was a sigh, I like to think of it as telepathically communicated body language, at which point he turned round to look at me wearing an expression of absolute disdain, as if to say, ‘If you don’t know how to shop properly, it’s your fault. We have no truck with your loose behaviour.’ It was entirely appropriate that I was buying for mother’s husband I suppose, though I would have liked to have seen the stand-off between him and them. It wouldn’t have been so bad had mother not insisted on me bringing the wheels.
Move on now to the roads. On our street we have a convention that beyond the lane which crosses it, everyone parks to the right, and before it, to the left. Don’t ask. I was sat in the car in the front most space on the left, where I’d last parked it, key in the ignition, ready to start. A car approaches at speed from the bottom of the road, and is forced to brake, instead of making his intended fast chicane as he skirted by me. The driver pushed his sunglasses to the top of his head, stuck his middle finger up at me, wound down his window and shouted, ‘you fucking selfish prick,’ before driving off at speed. Then just now, as I drove comfortably within the speed limit round the country lanes here, making my way towards the main road out of the county, a car, coming at speed from the other direction, swerved round a cyclist on his side of the road, which I had not seen until I had exited the bend, flashed his lights, leaned on his horn, and shouted something vile in my direction. So angry was he, that I saw him brake, and attempt a three-point turn, presumably to chase after me, and aggress me some more.
I think I understand why people behave as the given examples did towards me in shops, it’s something to do with inadequacy, and powerlessness, and ego, but is it quite the same when they’re behind a wheel? I suppose the same sort of insecurities prevail, but there’s something about that environment which seems to take them to a new place. My personal view is that the terminally useless suddenly find themselves on equal terms with the rest of us as soon as they’re sat in a driver’s seat. They can press the pedal just as hard as someone who is capable, physically healthy and possesses a sporting acumen. If you think about it, it goes a long way to explain the enduring appeal of Formula One racing amongst the masses.
I am driving to London to enjoy one last weekend at Roger’s flat before my job doesn’t restart on Monday. I am resigned to that being the case. In my last few conversations with him, he has consistently inserted the second person personal pronoun when describing my relationship with (y)our terrible event of last weekend. If there is any chance that I am to keep my job, it seems that I must accept that my name will always be attached to Orville’s actions.
thanks to Davide Ragusa for the image of the sheep,
& to Nathan Van de Graaf for the shopper.