Saturday, August 18, 2012

It makes me cold to look at you


I have a small nick on the tip of my finger which hurts whenever I press it down on the keys.  I helped one of my daughters to pack up the contents of her house the other night and made the wound worse.  The dry blackness of newspaper ink seeped into the cut as I wrapped up her drink glasses one after another and laid them out in a box.

I hope the glasses make the journey safely today.  I will help to unwrap them at the other end this afternoon, once the removalists have carried all the boxes from one suburb to the next.  My daughter is not moving far, at least not geographically but emotionally it’s a huge move, as moves tend to be. 

Another of my daughters took a look at my desk the other day, strewn as it is with papers and books.
‘It makes me giddy just to look at it.’


Her words resonate with my mother’s words.  When I was a child and refused to wear a jumper even on the coldest of days she said to me repeatedly as I remember ‘It makes me cold to look at you.’  I wondered then how my lack of clothing could so affect my mother as she pulled her thick cardigan around her shoulders and shivered.

 How easy it is for us to affect one another.  Even a glance, a scrunching of eyebrows a wrinkling of the forehead can say a thousand words and leave the person on the receiving end in paroxysms of despair.  That is when we know one another well. 

But even when we don’t know one another well, looks can still kill. 

A car pulled in front of me the other day.  I had not noticed the car there on my left in two thick lanes of traffic until it had pulled in front of me.  I held back to let the driver in.  I saw his window go down and his arm shoot out.  I had expected a wave of acknowledgement. 

‘Thanks,’ he might have gestured, but no.  He gave me the bird.  That’s the expression people use when someone points up their rude finger.  Their rude finger, their index. 

It did not shock me so much as puzzle me.  What had I done wrong?  Why had I offended him?  I assumed it was a him.  The arm looked like a his but it may have been a hers, her index finger, her offence. 

It matters little in the scheme of things.  It matters to me a little less than the way I felt on another day when I had pulled out in front of another car ahead and momentarily blocked the path of an on coming car – nothing dangerous, everything in slow motion –  at the junction in Camberwell, and the person driving the car coming towards me, which did not in fact need to slow down much before approaching my car, wound down his window – again it was a he   - and spat a great gob of whatever onto my wind screen. 

There’s something shocking about being spat at, however much I might have deserved a reprimand.  This one got under my skin such that I cannot forget. 

On another note, I’m getting cold feet on the Keiser training.  To think I’d need to do this exercise twice weekly for the next however many years puts me off. 

On the other hand, is it so bad? 
And on the other hand, it’s expensive.
On the other hand, how might I feel in the long run when I no longer need to carry around my burden of guilt for neglecting my crumbling bones?

At least I have managed to get a bandage onto my wounded index finger.  It no longer hurts to type. 

If only other wounds were always so easily healed.

31 comments:

Birdie said...

I think the entire world is walking around stressed beyond words and just looking for what they feel is a safe place for them to let it out. Most of the time it is their car. Being spat at however is actually considered assault, which is scary. What is this person like the rest of the time?
And yes, I wish I could go to some type of physio for my heart. I could be handed a certificate at the end telling me and everyone around me that I was OK now.

Joanne Noragon said...

I do weight training and I know it's good for me. Sometimes life gets in the way and I miss a week. The instructors lecture a little; I say life is what it is; let's get on with the set. It's like telling my doctor "I eat butter. Deal with it." Don't be so hard on yourself.

Andrew said...

The abuse when you have done nothing really wrong makes you laugh, or just puzzled. I am a perfect driver, aren't we all, but I recently made a mistake when driving and I deserved what I got, but it would have been nice if the person took a charitable view of the matter. No, I deserved it. I will wear it. I rarely make mistakes when driving, but I did that time.

Driving in England is so different. The worse you are as a driver, the more polite people are to you.

jabblog said...

Little, shocking gestures or words affect us much more and for longer than they should. Perhaps it is because we have no opportunity to follow up and find out how we caused the offence. I wish spitting was a criminal offence everywhere as it is in Singapore.

ellen abbott said...

rude drivers giving someone else the finger for some perceived slight while they are themselves cutting someone else off.

Ms Sparrow said...

Such a hostile, repulsive act can really ruin your day. I sometimes console myself that I don't have to deal with somebody like that in my daily life. That nasty man is a thorn in someone else's side! You have the privilege of watching him drive away out of your life forever. That is cause to breathe a sigh of relief and smile.

rosaria williams said...

You point out how we affect each other, and mention not being affected by the rude gestures, yet, both acts, the benevolent, and the malevolent, touch us somehow, and they change us for that moment.
Interesting observations, E.

Kirk said...

I don't fantasize about about having magical powers too often, only when I get that middle finger, and various other injustices, thrown my way while driving. Let see, I've turned other drivers into frogs, transported them to the North Pole, put Freddy Krueger in the car with them...

Anonymous said...

I am bewildered by road rage - an otherwise normal person becomes a demon behind the wheel of a car ... are they actually transferring all the rage and frustration from other areas of their lives into these small inconsequential incidents?

River said...

I'd recommend keeping up with the Keiser training, but forst I'm going to have to google and find out exactly what that is.

Jim Murdoch said...

I have only been spat at once. A pubescent hard case cycled past me and spat in my face. I didn’t know him from Adam but I could take you to the very spot on Google Maps where it happened and that would have been about thirty-eight years ago. I forget much but you never forget when someone spits in your face. It’s like a slap. It’s not intended to injure; it’s goal is to offend and I was terribly offended. Of course he and his mates were off and there was no way I could have hoped to catch them on foot but I’m not even sure I would have given chase because I was so shocked. I cannot recall it ever happening before or since which is odd because spitting is commonplace here even on the buses where there used to be signs telling passengers not to.

I once—and, thankfully, it was only the once—witnessed my dad snork as we were walking along the road. The term I imagine you might know it by the bushman’s blow. Spitting is one thing but for some reason the idea of forcing mucus out of one nostril like that quite upset me. I’m not such a prude that I never spit but I’m not sure I’d spit if anyone was around. I’ve just asked Carrie and she tells me I’ve never spat outside with her.

(What a lovely topic for a Sunday morning, eh?)

I was thinking about giving the finger too. I see it more these days but when I grew up it was the Vickies, the two-finger salute. I’m sure I’ve used that gesture before but I’m not sure about the finger. America was a constant source of fascination to all us kids growing up but I still can’t remember anyone I grew up with flipping anyone the bird. It has happened to me whilst driving or maybe I’m imagining it; hard to be sure there.

Your desk is not such a mess, not compared to my wife’s. I can still see desk under there. Mine is completely clear of course. Well, it usually is. At the moment I have an old reel to reel sitting on it. When we were wee dad had an old tape recorder and I bagged the tapes when we were clearing the house. There are four 7" tapes but the machine I bought (on a whim which is so unlike me) takes 5" tapes so I’ve bought ten 5" reels and I’ll transfer them so I can see what’s on them. I suspect not a great deal but what I do know is there is a conversation between my mum and dad when they thought the tape wasn’t recording. That will be interesting if nothing else. Carrie goes to the States again on Friday so this’ll be a project to keep me occupied while she’s away.

I’ve also not been exercising as much as I’d planned. It’s been raining constantly for weeks and it takes very little to put me off. I resent that I have to do it. I feel the same about hoovering. I resent the dirt. I’m not lazy—seriously, I’m not lazy—but there are some things in life that feel like a terrible waste of time or, at best, have a very poor return on investment. I mean, seriously, how long does it take to haul of the vacuum cleaner, give the place a quick once over and then stick it back in the cupboard? And it’s the same with going out. I would never be seen dead outside in the casual clothes I wear inside—I dress to go out—but the thought of getting changed is enough to put me off too. Maybe I am lazy.

Jonas said...

You had me at "It makes me cold to look at you." What a great line!

rhymeswithplague said...

I'm not excusing the rudeness of the other driver one bit, but were you completely without fault in the situation? Were you driving 20 mph in a 45 mph zone? Did you signal that you were changing lanes? Were you completely oblivious to what was going on around you? I'm just saying....

Here in the backward former colonies, the index finger is the one closest to the thumb. The middle finger is the one used by rude people.

Rob-bear said...

We do affect each other a great deal! The sigh, the furrowed brow, the rude finger, the sad face, all trigger something within us — deep, or not so deep. A sign, indeed, of our interconnectedness (and not necessarily at a deep level).

The other side is to "own" what those triggers do in us, and to us. We do have a choice as to how we react, as you have noted. It is that split second between the trigger and the (perhaps) instinctive response where we make the choice of how we answer, in word and/or act. That is our moment of hope, when we can choose a creative response, for our sakes, and sakes of others.

Elisabeth said...

I agree Birdie, road rage seems to be a function of stress and the pressure of living today, but there are extremes, and spitting is one such extreme.

Thanks, Birdie.

Elisabeth said...

I can be hard on myself, Joanne, at least when I write about it. Maybe in practice I'm less of a hard taskmaster.

Thanks, Joanne.

Elisabeth said...

I've not driven a car in England, Andrew, though the way you describe it's puzzle. The worse the driving the kinder the treatment. I can't boast being a good driver, nor do I see myself as a bad driver. Somewhere in between. I certainly make mistakes when I drive though and sometimes even deliberately. We can't all be perfect and I'm in there with the flawed ones.

Thanks, Andrew.

Elisabeth said...

As you say, Janice, spitting is a particularly nasty action - emptying the contents of your mouth and throat onto another. But I'm not sure I'd like any more laws to make it illegal.

Thanks, Janice.

Elisabeth said...

I find it amazing, Ellen, when I happen to be the aggrieved driver who's in the 'right' and the one whose cut me off gives me the rude finger, as if he/she is innocent. A strange reversal.

Thanks, Ellen.

Elisabeth said...

You're right, Ms Sparrow, such nasty gestures could certainly ruin my day if I let them. The fact that I've remembered this incident so well suggests it got under my skin but much of the emotion has gone out of it for me and I can still tell myself that perhaps he too was having a bad day.

Thanks, Ms Sparrow.

Elisabeth said...

You are so right, Rosaria, both the nasty and the benevolent gestures affect us. Unfortunately - at least speaking for me - I have a tendency to remember the cruel ones more than I remember the kind. Negatives tend to stick more. It'd be better were it not so but I suspect it's human nature to remember the slights most of all.

Thanks, Rosaria.

Elisabeth said...

Magical thinking is wonderful isn't it Kirk, when it can turn our perceived enemies into quivering wrecks. If only in fantasy and of course best of all in fantasy.

There's a vast difference between feeling vengeful and taking revenge like my spitter took on me.

Though there's worse ways of taking revenge and at least the spitter did not hurt or damage me or my car, only symbolically, only my pride.

Thanks, Kirk.

Elisabeth said...

I suspect people in states of road rage are transferring unspent aggression and frustration from elsewhere as you suggest, Jane. It's not helpful and strangely it seems road rage is on the rise. I can understand it. I get a little ornery myself at times, but not to the degree I describe in this post.

Thanks, Jane.

Elisabeth said...

I think I'm stick with the training, River. Thanks for the encouragement. I hope you find details on Google. It's worth a try.

Elisabeth said...

You're not lazy, Jim, just selective about how you use your time. Maybe as we get older these familiar chores, including that of getting dressed to go outside become more onerous.

I know I've begun hating having to do some simple things like washing my hair. When I was younger I enjoyed making a half day marathon out of preparing for an outing. The preparation was almost as much fun as the event itself.

Then I so loved washing my hair, I washed it daily, as a young adult. But now it's just a boring chore. Like you, I reckon there are so many ore interesting things to do. But hair washing is essential at least from time to time.

I used to be amazed by the women who visited the hairdresser weekly to get their hair washed but when I broke my leg I did just that. Washing my hair was impossible as I adjusted to the cast on my leg. Now I can understand why people might pay for such services.

That photo of my desk does not do justice to my mess. I reckon I'm probably on par with Carrie. It sees she was only away yesterday and now she's off again. that must be hard on you both.

As for the spitting well, if someone did it in my face like you I'd be horrified. At least I had the windscreen to protect me from full impact.

Happy tape sorting.

Thanks, Jim.

Elisabeth said...

It's all in the broken grammar, Jonas. The way my mother speaks makes it all the more resonant.

Thanks, Jonas.

Elisabeth said...

I was certainly not without fault, Rhymeswithplague, but in my book, the punishment was in excess of the crime. But isn't that the way it often goes. Life's not fair.

Also I think I might have gotten my rude fingers mixed up. You're right: the middle one, 'tall man' is most often raised as the rude one.

Thanks, Rhymeswithplague.

Elisabeth said...

I agree with you Rob-bear: it's not just the gesture and communication, it's how we respond that determines much of our experience.

Thanks, Rob-bear.

Monica Croese said...

Yes, rude people everywhere, but i have learned to not worry about it as the rude one isn't close to me, like family or good friends. Sometimes i manage and sometimes it's hard not to be affected.
Great post Elisabeth, alsways keep me thinking,
Sweet greetz!

Elisabeth said...

Lovely to hear from you, Monica. These days it gets harder to visit all my blogging friends so it's good to hear from you from time to time and at least we can catch up on Face Book. I agree with you about rudeness in people who are troubled or caught in road rage type situations. It's best not to get too offended. Life is short.

Thanks, Monica.

Zuzana said...

Dear Elisabeth, for someone who commutes daily, driving long distances, I have seen my share of road rage.:) It used to get to me, now I only shake my head and smile.;) I still believe that people are basically good, but traffic brings the worst out in them, even in me occasionally. I have had my pulse and heart raised on so many occasions, profanities escaping my mouth, only to feel stupid seconds after.;) Thus as time goes by, I try to calm down and take time out and make sure I actually do have good time when I drive, as that lessens the frustration - bot the one I feel towards other drivers and the response to harassment I get from them.:)
I like your desk, it looks a lot like my own at work.;) I call it organized clutter, as I know exactly what is where.;)
Have a great weekend,
xoxo