Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Street Fighting Man



I just got a new computer. When I say just, that’s a lie. I got it about 2 weeks ago. I can’t get the wireless card in it to work. Fenella is happy about this because she couldn’t get on my wireless network a while ago, and now I am similarly inconvenienced. The crazy thing is that my ISP only charge £25 to hardwire another point through the wall so I go live on this computer on Wednesday. I can’t help the nagging doubt that by the time I get this computer online, it’ll no longer be worth having, as technology races on at such a pace these days.

I don’t want to blog about my computer though. I want to tell you a story.

Today I was driving home from work. It’s always difficult to pull up outside my house after work because it’s a main route to Addenbrooke’s hospital, and everyone is either driving there to pick up their dose of MRSA or driving back to spread it all about a bit.

I have to drive past my drive, then stop and reverse in. I usually hit my indicators nice and early and slow down, but it appears that no matter how early I do so, people always sit behind me and badmouth my driving. Today was no exception.

As I pulled up I checked in my rear view to see a pair of children in a turquoise hatchback sitting there swearing, chewing, making hand gestures and generally being very nasty and obnoxious towards me for having the audacity to attempt a parking manoeuvre outside my own house.

I know that I shouldn’t have done it, but my Neanderthal brain took over and my right hand was reaching for the door handle before I had time to engage. The next thing I knew I was standing in front of their car saying, reasonably aggressively “Perhaps you should drive a little more slowly…”

This resulted in a lot of incomprehensible garbling from the female half of the couple. I wasn’t too sure what she was saying, but luckily her male counterpart got out of his side of the car for a quick chat.

This is the moment at which I should have run away. I could have hopped back into my car and sped off. I could have pretended to get my shopping out of the boot. I could have.

Instead, somehow, I could feel that I was squaring up to him.

Hmmm. Why was I squaring up to him? Why were we now standing nose to nose? This didn’t feel good to me. This man was taller than me. He was significantly older than he appeared to be in the rear view mirror, despite his adolescently pustule decorated face. He also appeared to be rather angrier than I was, and rather more keen on physical violence than I was.

Suddenly a blinding flash of realisation hit me – the world is not an extension of my classroom. I cannot tell people off and have them say “sorry Mr Trent” and then get on with my life outside of school – it doesn’t work like that. They get cross and want to hit me. This wasn’t comedy wanting to hit me like my friends and family when I’ve been silly.

This was real wanting to hit me, like Grant Cox wanted to when he was new to the school 18 years ago, and felt he had to assert himself. Except this time I didn’t think that a well timed kiss on the lips would get me out of this situation.

I can’t remember what this man said to me. It was something about me not signalling, he saw me, he had been watching.

I blathered something pathetic about this being where I lived (well done me – presumably in case they didn’t know where to come back and post a jiffy bag full of poo through the letter box) and it being a really difficult road to stop on, and this happening every night, and how I just didn’t need the verbal, to which he replied “Don’t be stupid. I drive a fuckin’ bus on this road every fuckin’ day,”

Brilliant – can’t wait to hop on a bus next time I need to visit someone at the hospital then. He continued breathing down on me for a couple of minutes.

Now I really couldn’t figure out why I’d got out of the car in the first place. What had I been hoping to achieve? For them to say “Oh, sorry David, you are right, we are wrong, sorry we swore at you. We’ll never drive on Queen Edith’s Way again as a penance, here’s £100, please forgive us”. No. The only reason I got out was because I was childishly angry and I wanted a fight. I guess I got what I wanted then.

I didn’t know what to do. This chap obviously wasn’t averse to hitting or being hit, and he wasn’t backing down, so I started to apologise.

Except, for some reason, the adrenaline in my body prevented me from apologising in anything but the most insincere and irritating way, maintaining eye contact whilst doing so and actually closing in on my aggressor whilst so doing.

Have I gone totally insane? I’m leaning into somebody who fancies himself in a fight against me, and I’m leaning into him saying “Oh, I’m terribly sorry, really really sorry” in my best ’77 vintage Johnny Rotten on the Bill Grundy show voice. I’m also thinking to myself “I’m no longer a big, intimidating bloke, I am small now, Ollie regularly wrestles me to the other side of the hall these days,”

But I’m also, somewhere in some insane part of my brain, thinking “I can run pretty well these days, I could probably be a really good fighter. Maybe I could kick him really hard – my thighs are really muscly.”

He doesn’t do anything, so I make things even worse.

“Please don’t hit me, Please don’t hit me,” I start begging, although, once again, whilst the intent is totally sincere, I am coming across like a man asking for a fight. I seem to be unable to open my mouth without getting myself in deeper and deeper. Finally I realise that it would be a very good idea to walk away now and get back into my car. I don’t do this though, I just stand there staring at this bloke until – by some miraculous stroke of fate - he turns away and gets into his car.

I wait for them to overtake me, shooting looks of pure hate at me, and reverse into my drive. I climb out of the car, stumble into my kitchen, sit down and shake for about 30 minutes. Polly keeps trying to talk to me and I keep saying “Sorry Polly, I’m not listening to anything you’re saying,”

I don’t want to have a near fight again for a while. Maybe next time I should just have a fight and then I’d not sit around thinking how I should have hit him for 2 hours like I just have. Even if I did kick him, I was only wearing trainers – it wouldn’t have hurt so much. I could have kneed him.

Or maybe thigh’d him.

3 comments:

Jon Excell said...

Bloody hell mate - that's a horrible story. I wouldn't be too hard on yourself though, it happens to the zen-like best of us - all it takes is that split second reaction and you set in motion a string events that can't be undone. On the plus side it sounds like you managed to bluff him and came out with your punk pride intact. You may recall that something similar happened to me when I was accused of "coating" that motorcycle courier. A valuable lesson that I learned from my experience was never to argue, threaten, kick, punch, spit, behave agressively towards or pick a fight with anyone who isn't a defenceless old granny.

ela said...

i think you need to take up yoga to destress.

(plus it will help strengthen the other bits of your body not as strong as your thighs)

Fabius said...

It is very easy to get into situations like this but very hard to get out of them as you have discovered. Mind you, the loss of pride is better than loss of teeth and I guess you have learned something. Me, I am always very cool and polite to other drivers.

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