Things I hate #9

Georgie Best

People.

 

Misanthropy is the natural conclusion of a rational mind when confronted by other members of the human race in any situation that involves queuing. Cars pulling out on you at junctions from twenty yards away and expecting you to slow down and accommodate them, two people approaching the same door from opposite directions, two vehicles racing to a point where two lanes narrow to one like the final straight in Ben Hur, pedestrians walking across each others’ paths in a shopping arcade, a hoard of people lurching for the only till that’s open at B & Q on a Saturday fucking afternoon; any of these situations will show you that there is no other conclusion to reach than that mankind is a festering boil on the arse of creation.

 

Take Sunday. I was shopping at the Tesco in Hemsworth in the afternoon. I was stood looking for a sandwich when some old fucker ploughed across my path with the biggest trolley available, in which, as far as I could see, he had a trifle and some pan scrubbers. He plainly saw me but pushed forwards anyway. He plainly heard me when I called him a cunt. But neither of us acknowledged one another openly. Because in public situations we are all zombies to each other. We move amongst the animated undead. That family of Mum, Dad and the two feral kids are ghosts to me as they stalk the Fresh Meat aisle. That Renault Clio in the queue of traffic at the lights is driven by an attractive blonde wraith behind the wheel. They aren’t real people in any solid sense. We are all unresponsive automatons. We live in our own virtual reality that’s only shattered by a vicious mugging, a road rage collision or some appalling incident that shakes us awake. We think of nothing but ourselves and our own needs.

 

In that moment as he bent down in front of me with a millimetre to spare, desperate to get hold of a prawn and mayo sandwich, I hated that old fucker with a passion. I could have started punching his exposed bald head until he lay a bloody pulp at my feet. No one would have turned and looked. No one would have queried my actions. A member of staff may have approached with a yellow ‘Danger, slippery surface’ sign once it was all over and done with and blood and cerebral fluid was leaking from his eyes and ears, but that would have been it. Other shoppers wouldn’t have mentioned it to their families when they got home. They may have talked about the offer of Stella Artois, or the deal on McVitie’s biscuits, or the fact that some twat cut them up leaving the car park, but they wouldn’t have thought about the old man beaten to death by the ‘For your convenience’ stand. It wouldn’t have affected them.

 

I left him unharmed. He slavered over his prize and pushed on. Straight into the shins of a pensioner who went skittling painfully out of his way. But I was fuming. I was left hoping that the prawn sandwich that he went through so much to secure was riddled with streptococcus and had him shitting without respite for a week until his ring piece ended up resembling an old, baggy stretched out Manchester United sock (imagine George Best after ninety gruelling minutes of an FA Cup tie against Don Revie’s Dirty Leeds c. 1970). All red and distended. And this encounter was just a start. There were fat people filling their trolleys with huge bottles of lurid-coloured soft drinks, blocking entire aisles unnecessarily. Three bottles of cherry, Pauline? Get four, Wayne, and as many as you want for yourself. And don’t forget the kids. There were slow moving middle-aged women reading the label on the same bottle of ketchup that they’d been buying for twenty years. Just checking it’s still got tomatoes in it. There were the panic buyers who monopolized entire products because they’d read on the internet that there was going to be a world shortage in Oatsosimple. Time and time again I found myself contemplating dreadful acts. I won’t call them crimes because no respectable judge or jury would ever convict me for sending these ignorant morons out of a world they only clutter with their rudeness and their ignorance. I felt like kicking and punching, I felt like swinging my metal basket as if it was a medieval weapon of war; felling all who lay unnecessarily in my path to the tills and a Crunchie. And I know I wasn’t alone. I could feel the pent up aggression all around. That grumbling sense of personal conflict that looms behind the apathetic faces of the spectres that move in front of you. Man’s inhumanity to man extends to even the meekest and mildest when faced with a particularly tempting ‘two-for-one’ offer or the final parking space at Meadowhall. And it’s a truth universally acknowledged that a Grandmother would scythe their way thorough scores of disabled kids in the local newsagents with a sharpened carving knife to grab hold of that last copy of this month’s People’s Friend. Especially if it had some free wool and a decent knitting pattern attached. Put us behind the wheel of a car or in a shopping centre and we are all latent sociopaths who passively subscribe to a form of primitive Thatcherism. We are all animals. It’s part of the over-lauded hunter/gatherer instinct. Because despite technology and the advances in the arts and sciences, despite iPods and toilet rolls and deodorant and central heating, despite any progress that we’ve made as a civilization in flight and tall buildings or the motor car, we are all bald, hairless monkeys beneath the Italian suits and the Berghaus breathable, waterproof fabrics. There is a Neanderthal in us all just waiting to barge another motorist into a ditch or shoulder a blind man out of the way for the last box of Rice Crispies. We have a veneer or civilization which hides manky, rotten chipboard underneath. And altruism is a lie. When anyone offers to do anything with apparent self-sacrifice the first thing I ask myself is – what’s in it for them? And there always is. Without fail. There’s always some little wrinkle that makes the philanthropy worthwhile. Even if it’s just gleaning themselves a bit of spiritual satisfaction from acting the good Samaritan. Even if it’s someone stepping aside to let you get the final packet of Chocolate Digestives. Because they’ll all be broken and they know it, and they’ve just seen the shop assistant go to the back for a fresh packet.

 

People are despicable cunts.

 

 

On which note the news of Boris Johnson’s new ‘X’ crossing at Oxford Circus fills me with dread. Get ready for fight club. Get ready for carnage. It’ll be like a re-enactment of The Warriors.

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One comment

  1. GSmudger · November 5, 2009

    Ye gods, have you been supping from the same trough of bile as Flaming Cross?
    Being cut up on the road is particularly instructive. I don’t mind slightly dabbing the brakes in heavy traffic for another motorist who’s been waiting a while and then gets his foot down and gets out of my way with a grateful gesture. Yet more typically some geriatric curmudgeon will blunder into my path when there’s nothing behind me for half a mile, slip straight into fifth gear, accelerate like a cross-channel ferry to 20mph below the limit and have the temerity to be smug about it as he chuckles his way through another Werther’s Original.
    This is certainly expressive behaviour, a dim and uncomprehending evolution of territorial pissing. Now that I’ve got a silly car with a spoiler, I experience this even more – but that’s another story.
    I don’t think there’s much cause for despair here, unless of course you once had a rosier view of mankind. Manners, ethics and morality don’t represent some higher force, they’re just a function of enlightened interaction. The problem is that without the kind of interaction that makes manners and morality look logical and mutually beneficial, it’s all just a bit abstract and inconvenient. Cutting up other automata on the roads or in the aisles, using a stranger as a punchbag in a market town on a Friday night, driving pissed or stoned, sniping at the class geek on Facebook, conning pensioners out of their life savings for £100 worth of botched guttering – none of it matters if it doesn’t disrupt your world, if there are no material consequences for you.
    One day, I’m going to acquire an unregistered, uninsured Range Rover with bull-bars and run-flats and spend a few days driving undefensively with a baseball bat in the rear footwell. On that day, cutting me up will have consequences and civilisation will be reborn!

    Like

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