An incredibly strange thing happened to me today. In my (seemingly never-ending) quest for a job, I had stopped outside my local pub, having seen a sign about them requiring extra staff. I was getting out my book and pen to write down the details of where to send my CV, when a little old man came round the bend of the corner. I’m quite the fan of little old men. I’m the sentimental type and little old men, for me, conjure up associations with Geppetto, Grandpa Joe from ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and that magical guy from ‘Into the Woods’. All of whom have their problems but are, at heart, good and decent human beings with a fondness for riddles, puppets and chocolate.
As I was standing in the street, getting out my notebook, I heard the little old man (who was dressed in a grey suit, wearing a daffodil pin from ‘Daffodil Day’ and walking with a cane – again, as far as I was concerned, just adding to his charm) say something. I heard a familiar Irish cadence and my heart was warmed further. But, it was as I was looking up to smile at him that I tuned into what he was actually saying.
‘That’s a grand place to stand.’
Initially confused and mid-smile, I clocked the tone of his voice and the expression on his face and realised they more accurately expressed his feelings of how he felt about where I was standing. Wiping the smile from my face, I apologised and explained that I was simply writing down the details from the window of the pub in front of us. To which he replied unnecessarily angrily, I felt, considering we had only just started our acquaintance, that I could have written them down from the other side. A slightly strange comment, but I sorted through the sense of it and decided he meant the other side of the notice (I was standing on a diagonal, as opposed to straight in front of it). I should explain at this point, that I was standing next to the traffic lights and the combined effect of me and the traffic light had slimmed down the road somewhat. However, there was still plenty of space to get past me – I had made certain of this when getting my pen and paper out. I’m not a complete douche. However, as I was already in the process of writing things down and couldn’t move to the other side of the notice as said grumpy old man was now standing precisely where he wanted me to stand, I went back to my paper without doing anything. I thought momentarily that this would be one of those irritating small memories I would feel guilty or stupid about for the rest of the day and then feel slightly grumpy that the old man had made me feel bad about myself, but there was nothing really to be done about it now, as the old man seemed determined to think of me as the worst human being on the face of the earth and nothing I did or said was going to change his mind.
But, the encounter hadn’t ended yet. The little old man walked behind me (thus proving that I had left enough space for someone to get past me and that his comments and grumbling was unnecessary), but before he went on his merry way, he turned around and whacked me on the small of my back with his walking cane.
That’s right, you read correctly, the wrinkly old bastard actually hit me on the back with his walking cane. And I don’t mean he tapped me lightly or attempted to move me on with the end of his stick in the manner of the aristocrats of old attempting to get the riff-raff of the street away from their shiny shoes and creamy pants, I mean he gave me as proper a thump as his wasted old man arms could muster.
I was, of course, furious and turned around to confront the asshole. But, the blood pumping over time to my brain and the surprise pain on the right hand side of my back were making it hard to concentrate. I yelled, ‘Excuse me!’ with as much wounded pride as I could muster. He turned around. I had to continue, but I had nothing. ‘You just hit me with your cane!’ I yelled. Which, you would think the little old man was pretty aware of. He confirmed that he had done so, nodding and looking pretty darn pleased with himself. I told him that was abuse and I could legitimately call the police. To which he laughed and said, ‘go on, go on.’ And walked off down the street with a decided skip in his step.
Which made me want to grab his cane, break it over his head and then push him into the path of the oncoming double-decker bus.
Of course, I didn’t do this, because I am good and kind person who would never hit someone with a cane just because they had failed to realise that yelling at them was an attempt to get them out of the way (I realised later when the adrenaline had left my system – as you always do – that he had been *trying* to get me to move and that what I should have said was, ‘if you want someone to move out of the way, you need to ask them politely, not resort to violence.’ But, of course, he never actually ever asked me to get out of the way. He just yelled at me, which just kind of confused the whole matter for the both of us).
It takes a lot to make me angry. But I was pretty darn furious at this particular ‘gentleman’. I’ve had a few instances like this in my life – interestingly enough, all involve men – where you’ve been so thoroughly and violently humiliated that there actually is no sufficient verbal retort that will make up for how awful you’ve been made to feel. How do you respond to a man who deliberately throws a full beer in your face? How do you respond to an old man, a stranger, essentially treating you like a 14 year-old schoolgirl circa 1950 in the middle of a busy street? I was particularly furious that, aside from hitting him back, there was pretty much nothing I could do to retaliate. We both knew I wasn’t going to call the police. He was pretty certain I wasn’t going to hit an old, frail man – hence why he felt confident hitting me in the first place. So, what’s a young, healthy woman to do when she’s been abused in the street by an old, frail man, when she’s been made to feel like a piece of dirt, when she’s hurried away trying to fight back tears?
Well, she complains about the pathetic, little dickhead on her blog, of course. And, she resolves that if she does get the pub job and that horrible little Irishman ever comes in to order a drink she will do one of three things. She will:
a) Refuse to serve him
b) Spit in his glass before filling it.
c) Make him the largest, frothiest loveliest looking beer, bring it over to his table, smile sweetly, and then dump it all over his horrible, bald head.