Sunday 25 January 2009

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© John Sawyer – January 2009

Max sits on the veranda dozing and relaxing. He’s reached an age where he’s happy with his own company; comfortable enough to be alone. He gives an occasional shake as his dreams wander onto half remembered incidents, but he’s generally calm and indifferent to birds singing in the trees and the flowers waving gently in the breeze.

He would probably be showing some concern if he had any idea of the recent discussions within his circle of family and friends. Max has started to get grumpy and angry. He can barely tolerate his more elderly peers, treating them with a grudging indifference, but the behaviour of youngsters like his son makes him extremely angry. He lashes out, sometimes violently. Last week he sank his teeth into Harvey’s ear and wouldn’t let go.

With a new baby on the way, there’s serious discussion of having him castrated to try to modify his behaviour: “There’s nothing else for it Dad. His nuts have to come off!”

This seems a pretty radical move, but recent reports of attacks by much loved dogs on young neighbours or young members of the family might make it justified.

Yeah, maybe it’s OK for a dog, but I look sideways at my son Mathew and wonder what he might be planning for me.

I’m generally pretty calm and relaxed, but just lately, I’m getting just that little more angry with the world and don’t seem to tolerate a lot of bullshit before I politely stick up for my rights or the rights of some underdog. I don’t think Mathew or Wendy would resort to radical surgery, but I am suspicious about some of the “health” cocktails that Wendy administers on a daily basis. Testosterone reduction and other behaviour modifications can be achieved with chemicals.

It’s not as if I’ve ever been really physically violent with by interventions. Well you might count the time I jumped out of my car and stopped this bloke belting a woman in a shopping centre while a crowd of spectators looked on. There was just a bit of pushing, shoving and verbal intimidation while the woman fled the scene. “Yeah, just try it. Go on, hit me, I dare you. Right shithead; you and what bloody army?” By the time I’d got back to my car, I’d made myself quite scared about my lack of control.

I’m told that violent road rage and other behaviour is usually limited to situations where the protagonists are anonymous; don’t know each other, don’t know the observers. I tend to agree. My rage incidents have normally been limited to sarcasm or biting wit.

In the ice cream queue at interval at the theatre, a queue jumper will be admonished with a polite stage whisper to my temporary neighbour: “It’s all right, leave it. She must have some sort of a handicap that prevents her from lining up like the rest of us.” No point getting too agro. The people in the queue might have seats near me or see me here at the next play.

At a Daylesford pie shop when the counter staff ignored me, I turned to my brother in law and loudly asked: “Gee, can you still see me or have I suddenly become invisible or something?”

At the footy on an away game, with a safe 3 or 4 rows of seats between me and an annoying opposition fan who persists in standing in the aisle and blocking my view, I’ll use tougher language. “What? Is your mob playing so bad that you want me to miss the bloody game dickhead?” In reserved seats at a home game, I modify my behaviour. I’ll see these same people again in a fortnight.

The behaviour of “M>Tram” ticket inspectors who ganged up on an obviously penniless and homeless young woman made me so angry that I engaged them in discussion for the rest of my journey along St Kilda Road. I managed to overcome my usual irrational fear of being arrested and having my tickets confiscated and mislaid but I kept it reasonably nice:

“I’m sitting here wondering what value you three have actually added to the journey. I would have thought that the three of you would be better employed if you stayed on the tram to the depot and spent the rest of the morning cleaning the mouse droppings and dead flies out of the light fittings. It obviously hasn’t been done since Kennett gave the tram service to your overseas bosses a couple of years ago.”

They looked at me blankly, just waiting for me to infringe, although I fear the whole tirade probably went over their heads.

I have generally avoided road rage, Well OK, I did run across the bonnet of a sports car that had parked over a crossing in Kingsway and forced pedestrians to walk around it into the intersection. I was much younger then and could still actually run if I was a bit late.

Anyway that was probably pedestrian rage. Like the time I was walking across a footbridge across the Yarra with a large group of friends and a couple of Lycra clad geriatric cyclists got angry about being impeded. When I pointed to the defaced signs telling cyclists to dismount on the bridge, the bloke hopped off and repeatedly rammed his front wheel into the back of my leg. “How’s this suit you then you arrogant fat bastard?” I got out of the way and we yelled ageist insults at each other as he rode up the hill. Wendy and his wife also exchanged pleasantries about the beautiful morning. The peddling duo turned up at boathouse for a coffee a bit later and left when they saw us. Hopefully they were embarrassed. I certainly wasn’t.

Is there such a thing as confinement rage? When Wendy was in the final hours of her lying in with our daughter, she took an unreasonable approach to my attempts to soothe her: “Don’t you fuckin’ tell me to calm down you, you … arsehole! If I want to fuckin’ yell, I’ll yell.” The nursing staff escorted me out of the ward and out of the hospital.

My recent bout of pedestrian rage has shaken me up and I’ve lost my confidence a bit. I was happily striding along Bridge Road, rucksack on back, generally happy with my lot when a hotted up ute came hurtling out of a side lane and stopped abruptly with its bumper a few inches from my legs. I jumped to the footpath and swore while the angry young man laughed at me and yelled:

“Get out of the way you silly old bastard.”

“Fuck, what the hell are you doin’ you fuckin’ dickhead? You could have killed me.”

“Gar’n; piss off or I’ll get out of the car and belt the shit out of ya.”

“Yeah, go ahead if you like. You’ll still be a fuckin’ dickhead.” I yelled through the windscreen from the safety of the footpath.

“You ought'a be scared mate. I’ve stolen this car and I don’t have a license. I can safely run ya over and kill ya and no one will know who I am.”

“Yeah but when you wake up in the morning, you’ll still be a fuckin’ dickhead.”

He was visibly angry and shaking and moved to get out of the car a few times, he wound down the window, there were more threats, all answered with my dickhead refrain.

Finally the young man broke the impasse with: “Gar’n you old dero. Go and have a drink and get back in the gutter for a sleep ya dirty grey-haired old prick.”

I opened my mouth and attempted my well rehearsed response, but my heart wasn’t in it. He planted his foot and shot out into the traffic with his horn and engine roaring abuse and anger.

I continued to walk to my writing group, but the jaunt had left my step and I looked sideways at my reflection in the shop windows. Maybe my hair is a bit long. Maybe my attempt at being the bohemian writer isn’t working. Perhaps Steinbeck didn’t wear blue plumber’s shorts and orthopaedic walking shoes. Perhaps Wendy is right. I might have a haircut tomorrow. Yeah $20 on a haircut might just help the economy kick-start itself.


Anonymous said...

Wendy wouldn't have used the "f " word. She would have said, rather loudly, " don't you tell me to be quiet " Anyway, if you'd attended the pre natal classes you would have known that at a certain stage in a woman's labour, asking her to be quiet would be met with a strong verbal response.

Anonymous said...

As long as you do not sink your teeth into your son's ear, I think you should be safe!

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