Do not be fooled by the girly picture, the subject of this post is aggression, or to be more precise, losing one’s temper in public. And no, this isn’t about me. I don’t do that kind of thing. My fear of conflict borders on the pathological. In true British style, I like to keep it all deeply suppressed (although writing characters who rant and rave is an excellent outlet, I find!)
The other day I witnessed an extraordinary scene in a trendy shoe shop in Covent Garden which made me realise how rarely I’ve seen people really losing their tempers with strangers. (You don’t get a lot of pub brawls in lovely Muswell Hill.) But when I have seen it happen, it sticks in my mind.
As I walked into the store I heard a loud thud as a shoe not unlike the beauties in this photo (different store) came hurtling through the air and landed on the wooden floor. The young female customer started shrieking at the woman behind the desk ‘I can’t believe the way you’re treating me ! You’re making me feel so bad ! You’re making me feel like a piece of shit!’ It was so over the top I thought they must be friends and it was some kind of joke. But the expressions on the faces of the employee and the poor guy who seemed to be with the customer said otherwise. Without warning she proceeded to throw her entire handbag across the store. ‘Why do you have to be so mean to me ?’ she continued, and so it went on. I’ve been pissed off that a store won’t give me a refund, but this was weird, so personal. I beat a hasty retreat before any more missiles came flying my way but it made me feel unsettled.
On our honeymoon in Mexico 17 years ago my husband and I took a trip on a local bus to some archaeological site or other. The mountain road was twisty and dangerous, and quite nerve-wracking enough before another driver annoyed our bus-driver so much that they both leapt out of their vehicles and proceeded to try and bash each other’s brains out against the rockface. Terrifying.
As was a scene we saw in Paris when our eldest son was about 3. Just outside our hotel one driver took a parking space which someone else evidently thought belonged to him. The disgruntled party proceeded to start driving back and forth bashing into the car, and when the owner made a rather unwise decision to stand in his path, he basically tried to run him over. Thank God the police turned up in the nick of time.
All of these were between strangers, or that’s the way it appeared. (Maybe one guy was sleeping with the other’s wife… not that that would be any excuse). But somehow it’s worse when it’s not strangers. While exploring the blossomed streets of Washington DC on a gorgeous day this Easter, we saw a couple keeping pace with each other on opposite sides of the street, hurling abuse and recriminations over the traffic. I think dignity was the last thing on their minds. The others scared me. These people just made me feel sad.
Have a harmonious weekend !
Oh no, the shoe story! How hilarious. Ohhhhh… and those shoes… how could anyone hurt a shoe like that? The traffic and bus driver stories are scary but I wish I’d seen the shoe one!
Thanks for your comment Martha. I wrote this one back when I first started the blog and hardly anyone was reading it, so a nice surprise. The shoe incident was actually remarkably scary. As much as the nosy writer in me wanted to stick around to watch it play out, the woman seemed so unhinged that I decided to make a quick getaway in case I got a stiletto in the eye. The person I worrried for the most was the bloke next to her at the counter, who was either with her (I think so) and used to these histrionics, or a complete stranger with a weirdness tolerance threshhold that far exceeds mine !
PS I agree with you re the shoes. Unfortunately I am really tall and could never wear anything like that…