Estrangement or other Monty Python Sketches

Today has been one of those days. It was always going to be a full day – corrections to proofs on three poetry collections and one large poetry anthology with over 160 poets responding the proof isn’t going to be a slow day and a few glitches were thrown in early in the day to get it off to an interesting start. Then there was chasing up a letter from the Arts Council about a grant – a letter they had posted twelve days ago, but unfortunately to the wrong address so I was starting to get a tad jumpy about deadlines.

Still, it was all under control till a lorry driver phoned to say he couldn’t find us and where should he be delivering to? Delivering what? The new issue of Envoi is due here on Thursday, but the printers always email a delivery time. No – this was from Poland – a palette load of boxes with five new books plus a reprint of another – arriving, without warning, eight days early. Early might sound good, but these deliveries, which only happen three of four times a year, are a major event that take some preparing for and we have gone several rounds with the haulage companies to make sure they do not just turn up – for a start if the boys happen to be out there’s no way I can physically get the books from palette to house with a neck injury and at this time round we were planning to re-organise the stock to make room for the new load on Friday.

The rather incoherent driver told me he couldn’t come down my road as it has a warning that lorries over 7 feet can’t get under the bridge – that’s fine. I told him – I don’t live down the road with the bridge, you want the other one. He’d already gone down the other one anyway, he replied, but it couldn’t be right – he was in a bus turning area and there was no way he was going to be able to find me when the streets didn’t have signs. The bus turning area is outside the house so I went outside and waved – he sat in his lorry telling me he couldn’t see me, he didn’t know which way to look. I told him left and thought we were finally getting somewhere, but he waved back and didn’t move the lorry. I finally persuaded him to bring the lorry the extra twenty yards up the hill to unload – he muttered something about having to have his break when he’d unloaded and I said he’d be fine in the bus area – it’s big enough for the bus to turn even if he’s tucked at the back of it. But once we’d finished he didn’t move the lorry and told Rowan he had to have his break now. By then a neighbour was trying to get past in his car (this is a little village with little roads, to big enough for a car to pass a lorry) and the guy was up the road telling the neighbour he had to wait thirty minutes while he had his break. I asked him to move back into the bus area. No – that was not possible – if he did that he would have to start his break over again and he’d already counted five minutes of it. (the bus turning area is so close it wouldn’t even constitute driving – he’d be in the bus area if he just let his hand break off!) He was going to sit in the road, blocking it. He had no choice.

Thankfully, before I could launch into a tirade about how he was the living embodiment of what Satre meant by ‘bad faith’, my wonderful printing agent, who had been following the Monty Python-esque conversation over the phone and had then hung up to call the driver’s firm, obviously got someone at head-office to call the driver and tell him to move his *** now.

Back inside, the phone went and my daughter had her own story of someone acting out rules and regulations with malicious glee, all of course apparently ‘beyond the control’ of the perpetrator. On her way home from meeting a friend she noticed an X-Box magazine that she thought her boyfriend would like. At the till the woman serving demanded ID – you have to be 15 to buy this magazine. My daughter will be 24 in a few weeks. She didn’t have her driving license with her, but happened to have her European health insurance card with date of birth and matching the name on her debit cards. No, that’s not ID. She fished in her purse and remembered she had her work ID with her as she’d gone in for a training session even though she wasn’t on shift today (she is a paediatric nurse). So she produced an NHS photo-ID – No, I can’t accept that.

More bad faith – this impetus to wilfully hide behind ‘I can’t …’ ‘It’s beyond my control…’ is both a power play and a means of not taking any responsibility. Yes, there sometimes are overpowering external circumstances – but these instance didn’t make it anywhere near that category. It’s a worrying state of affairs when people exert power and mess up others’ days in small (and sometimes large) ways by taking control in a manner befitting an angry toddler whilst claiming there is nothing else they can do and they in fact have no control.



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5 responses to “Estrangement or other Monty Python Sketches

  1. Mavis Gulliver

    Jan – I hope the rest of the day…week…month… year improves dramatically. It’s sad that there are people who seem to go out of their way to upset others. My worst experience was getting on a bus in London. The driver closed the door just as I realised I’d dropped my travel wallet with train and plane tickets and my rail card. He hadn’t even set off but refused to open the door. I got off at the next available stop and ran back.- Of course they’d disappeared. What motivates this kind of behaviour? I don’t know. I think they must be deeply unhappy and totally infulfilled in their lives. Thank goodness I’m not one of them. It costs nothing to be kind.

    • That’s terrible, Mavis

      Much better today already 🙂 but yes – the motivation is what’s really interesting and I think there is something about those who have/ feel they have no control in some or many areas of life asserting it randomly where they can.

  2. Aisling Tempany

    Maybe the driver was he hooked up to some complex explosive that will detonate after 3 hours 30 mins unless he takes a 45 minute break, and if he dares to do any work within that 45 minutes, he’ll explode.

    As for the magazine… I didn’t even know magazines had such ratings on them?

    • I don’t think Tamsyn know she had to look 15 for a magazine either 🙂 Yesterday I might have welcomed a detonation – reminds me of the Fr Ted episode with the milk float

  3. Grrr. This kind of behaviour is so soul destroying for victim and perpetrator. I agree it’s probably a reaction to general powerlessness, but it’s as easy to get a sense of meaning and power from doing small kind deeds for strangers as it is from obstructing them. Also, where the bully is a man and the victim a woman (most cases?), is there an element of misogyny in there as well?

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