Friday, 27 March 2009

Friday Feedback :: Handbags at Dawn

bulk :: 15st 1
gym visits :: 3
bananas :: 8
hate-fuelled violent fantasies :: numerous
promises to blog more regularly :: numerous

I have a very close friend who is not very well and currently undergoing treatment for the scariest, most serious of all diseases. You know the one. On Tuesday morning she came to London for a hospital visit in South Kensington, after which we met for lunch. Then we went to see Gran Torino, then we caught a tube to Holborn to meet some of her other friends for a drink.

On the tube, my friend started to feel unwell. We managed to find her a seat, but she was feeling really woozy and looked like she might be about to pass out. Also, she said: ‘I can’t hear anything’, which – although I tried my hardest not to show it – I found kind of terrifying.

We held on for a couple more stops and slowly made our way up and out into the late afternoon air, where my friend drank some water and tried to breathe her way to recovery. Unfortunately, it was rush hour in the middle of central London, so the streets were packed with commuters rushing at full speed and the air was putrid with petrol and general city stench.

We were busy trying to find a little space so my friend could gather herself, when she told me she thought she was going to be sick.

Outside of Holborn tube station is one of those large kiosks you often find outside of busy tube stations. This one sells handbags, scarves and other fripperies. We walked into the space between the back of the kiosk and the railing, and my friend leant over the railing so that she might be sick into the gutter if it turned out that she had to. She was fighting it, hoping it would pass, but bent over the railing just in case. I was standing next to her, my hand on her back, feeling scared for my friend and helpless, but trying to support her as best I could.

As we stood there, behind this kiosk, the guy who runs the kiosk popped his head round the back and shouted, angrily, ‘Don’t be sick there’. I shouted back that my friend wasn’t well and he disappeared up the front again.

As it happens, my friend started to feel a little better and we wandered further down the street so that she might further recover and make a call to find out exactly where her friends were. At which point I caught the eye of the kiosk guy and he shouted something else, something about people always being sick behind his kiosk. He was a thickset pugnacious individual and his manner was very aggressive. I was angry. I wanted to explain to him that his aggression was misplaced, that my friend was seriously ill. So I left her talking on the phone and I went back up to him.

I said, ‘My friend’s not well. She’s really ill, you know.' I'm not sure why I didn't say, 'She's got cancer', but I didn't. It may have been something to do with not wanting to cheapen her condition by even mentioning it to this pig-headed yahoo. Instead I said, 'It’s not like she’s drunk or anything.’

He said that he didn’t care. He said that people were always puking behind his kiosk and it stinks. My face changed to one of hateful rage.

‘Yeah?’ he spat, squaring up to me. ‘Come on then.’

I asked him what he was saying and he pointed out, quite rightly, that I’d made a fighting face, so he offered to fight me. I said I didn’t want to fight him. I told him I just thought he was being really inconsiderate. I repeated that my friend was really ill, trying to get him to understand that this was much more important than the possibility of a fleeting whiff in the street. Which was when he said, ‘Alright, she’s ill. So what?’

My face fell and I shook my head in despair.

‘Alright, mate,’ I said. ‘Thank you.’ And I returned to my friend, who had heard none of this, and I tried to put it behind me.

But I can’t. It keeps going round and round my head, this guy’s lack of concern for his fellow man. I think of his face, his anger, the void where his humanity should be, and I hate him.

But hate is wrong. I know hate is wrong. It goes around, comes around, increasing in intensity, solving nothing. All these fantasies I have where I rerun the conversation in my head and pull a gun on this heartless boor or projectile vomit into his open mouth; fantasies of organising a vomiting flash mob to turn up to his stall and fill each and every last one of his handbags with puke; fantasies of swallowing a hundred laxatives and turning up at his stall at 6am and smearing every inch of his workplace with stinking, repugnant liquid excrement – they’re really not helpful. And I don’t know what to do with them.

I understand also that there is every chance he’s actually a perfectly nice guy, who just happened to be weighed down by the pressures of working in the centre of a hectic city filled with drunks and thugs and idiots. And I found myself wanting to know if that was true. So I did a strange thing. I went back to Holborn this morning and spied on him for a while.

As I spied, I considered approaching him again and asking if he remembered shouting at a sick woman on Tuesday, and offering to fight her friend who was just trying to take care of her. I wondered if he'd feel bad.

But I didn’t take the risk. He still looked like an obnoxious little thug to be honest. The kind of person who wouldn’t think twice about knocking someone to the pavement and kicking them into the gutter.

So I came home.

It was a very sad incident. If not depressing. And it left me feeling pretty helpless.

I'm still not sure what to do with the feelings it's tossed up. Except write about them, and share the sadness.

In other news, today I befriended a fabulous squirrel. Here it is with one of my nuts in its mouth…

Awww. Nice one, squirrel.

Now, have an excellent weekend, whatever you may be up to, and if you see someone in distress, for God's sake, be nice to them.

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Anonymous said...

i'm not a trained professional... but is it possible that some of your helpless rage, directed at the puke-averse kiosk troll, is really helpless rage that your friend has cancer, and you couldn't prevent that, or do much of anything else to help her?

doesn't make him less of a puke-averse kiosk troll, mind you...

Holly Hall said...

The reason why you keep envisioning hurting this man, is because you are hurting. You love your friend, enough to help her puke in public. And it is completely unfair what is happening to her.

And it was completely unfair what the kiosk man said, what he did. So your brain goes into overdrive trying to effect or change the one thing you might have had control over.

only, the sad part is, all of this is out of your control. But your brain keeps trying. stupid brains anyway.

you can still help your friend though, help her puke, go see movies with her.

and you can help the kiosk man. but not feeding into his anger, fighting him and making it grow.

this all sucks very much bete.

so by all means, put it up here, in the blog and commune with the squirrel. And have you obtained a cat yet? Distract the brain by breathing and caretaking of others.

take care, (hug)

Mrs. Hall

Clare Sudders said...

I totally understand you going back to spy on him. I get angry too, and then I want to be reminded that other people are human too, that they must have goodness in them somewhere, just as I'm just as capable of doing the bad stuff I abhor in others.

I recently fell out with some people on the internet, and was consumed for ages with how horrible they were. How could they be so awful? Why? I kept going back to spy on them, just to see whether they were still being horrible, or whether they'd learnt the error of their ways, or whether I'd got it wrong and they weren't so horrible after all. But no, they were still there, being blithely cruel to random passers by. I don't think they thought they were being cruel, or they thought they were only being ever so slightly mean and that really people shouldn't be such wusses as to be upset by the things they said.

Occasionally I start thinking about it all over again, and then suddenly I can't sleep. It's a pain.

I'm reminded too of the time I stumbled across a really nasty video online, of a woman apparently being raped. I tried to stop watching, but I couldn't, and then I sobbed for hours and hours. It was very silly, but I couldn't stop. I had a miscarriage two days later. I don't think that incident caused it; apparently the baby had died long before that. But it probably explained the excessive emotional response. Hmmm. You're not pregnant? Sorry. I'm an eejit.

Stan, take heart from the thought that you're a very thoughtful, intelligent and compassionate man. Otherwise you wouldn't be obsessing over this stuff. But then try to put it behind you and move on. The world is full of shitty stuff and shitty people. But nothing is black and white, and there's lots of good stuff out there too. Like you, supporting your friend.

Did it help to write this post? I hope so.

Wisewebwoman said...

Be kinder than necessary. Everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
Words to live by, BDJ.

Selena said...

1st I'd like to say- yes that man seemed to be a jerk. It's one thing to be a jerk when you think someone is drunk and puking behind a place that you have to stand at to make a living... it's quite another to be that way when someone is most obviously ill. I understand that his, "I don't care", comment shows an extreme amount of disregard for the human condition and more importantly your sick friend (who you are extremely worried about and protective of, with good reason.)

Then again, if you had to peddle your lady wares to the aroma of freshly spewed sick, on a somewhat consistent basis, you too, might find yourself hardened to the plight of others. I wonder how many people have puked behind this kiosk where he sells his lady bags and other frivolities? How many of them were honestly sick? I wonder how many times he's had to smell their partially digested meals and how often, if ever, anyone went to get some water to help wash it away so that others would not have to see it or smell it.

This is not to say that he isn't a Twat for not caring. He most definitely is, with a capital T-I'm just saying, I'm not really keen on smelling the purgings of a stranger's stomach, either

I truely hope your friend is feeling better and congrats with regards to the noble squirrel.

This weekend, I will try to remember that the art of kindness is all the sad world needs

Anna said...

There'll always be persons who put their own small comforts above the welfare and even lives of others. I like to think there'll always be those who don't, too. Like your dear self.

True Lateral said...

I tried to help a distressed person the other day. Early evening in our dire area, she crossed my path, walking fast and doing that gasping crying thing, with blood pissing out of her hand. So I stopped her and asked if she needed help.

She said "he's slashed me up", and showed me the cuts on her hand. So I asked again if she needed some help, or to go to the hospital, or anything, because when she held it up, the blood really was dripping. She said "you can walk me to the offy". I said I didn't think she needed the offy, she needed some medical attention. As soon as she realised I was not going to walk her to the offy, she started off again and we let her go.

Which is really unrelated to your story, BDJ, but it did occupy my mind for a bit. I wondered if she was already too drunk to realise she needed to at least wrap something around her hand. Why getting booze was more important than stopping her bleeding. If she had to get booze in for "he". Whether this had all happened before, and if she would one day not go back.

Then after about half an hour I reckoned the vampires must have got her by now (I've seen I am Legend), and went back to reading my book.

Purest Green said...

I get it. I can accept cancer, even for all it's uglienss. Cancer happens - it is just doing what it does, the way a snow storm doesn't mean to freeze you to death - it's just being a snowstorm.

But people - people have a choice. They are consciously cruel to one another, or they decide to deflate into apathy. And that's what spins me with fury and sucks out all my hope for humanity.

Now I'm sad.

Clare Sudders said...

Ooh, everyone else here is much wiser than me. I particularly like what daisyfae and Holly said, and Wisewebwoman with this:

"Be kinder than necessary. Everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."

Hugs for you and your friend, Bete.

Misssy M said...

I would have been angry too. Unfortunately it is the default position for a great deal of people to see the worst in folk- to take them at face value, to react angrily instead of doing the decent thing. And I don't want to be unpopular by saying this but in big cities like London even more so. People become hard. That guy is a sad case.

You did the right thing by walking away from a fight and looking after your friend, your dignity intact.

hen said...

Thank God for fat squirrels.

Vulgar Wizard said...

This week on one of our daily walks downtown, we came across an older woman who'd tripped over some uneven sidewalk and fallen squarely on her left knee-cap. We rushed over, none of us able to actually help her, but hoping to ease her panic. We offered to call an ambulance or a friend or family member for her, but she declined, saying she just needed to sit there for a while. Luckily, there was a nurse present in the building near where she fell, and she came out and took over. I don't know what happened after that. I hope she's okay.

Anonymous said...

Bonjour La Bête,
Some people are bastards, some are angels, and most are a bit of both.
You can't change them, but don't get influenced and make sure you stay the decent guy you seem to be.
Good luck to your friend.
Uncle Did

Percy Bisque Silley said...

I have seen this squirrel before...

Ryan Lawson said...

To my mind, sir, those thoughts of what you could have done are entirely normal and the best way to deal with rage - some rage is just too pronounced to pretend it doesn't exist, so dreaming-up imaginative paybacks work at it like a little tiny mouse does cheese: eventually, it will all be gone.

At least that's been my experience. I would also like to extend good karma to your friend.

Again also, I promise to be funnier next time.

Love Ry

Curiosity Killer said...

Y'know... I just wrote a post about a messed up event as well. I feel pretty helpless sometimes... but what really helps me is knowing he's getting his share of the pain through karma. And obviously he's working on the street because he just not good enough for the better life.

So maybe you'll come to pity him instead?

I'm so very sorry for your friend -- but she's very lucky to have a friend like you. :)

La Bête said...

I'm sitting here with a bowl of rice pudding with some nutmeg in it and I'd just like to say, before I watch another CYE and go to sleep, that I think you're all really smashing.


AndrewM said...

Let it go.

Or torch the kiosk.

Either way, you win.

Nick Tann said...

Yeah, what I said....

Anonymous said...

Bete - the bit where you went back to Holborn and spied on him was absolutely brilliant. There's something dark within that, yet refreshing. True there ain't much you could have done but you did a lot more than you realised. The rage you felt again was perfectly justified, I would have felt worse, and thought worse even. I am truly sorry for your friend, I hope your friend finds strength and hope no matter how bleak.

Love your squirrel - see joy and bleakness, rage and peace always co-exist no?

All happy thoughts and fluffy clouds (for now) coming your way...Anon xx