Sunday, September 29, 2013

It's rude to stare.

Have I told you how much I hate ginger?  For all its apparent medicinal qualities, the taste of ginger makes my mouth water even as I write about it, not the mouth watering sensation that says I’m-keen-to get-into-this-food type, but the mouth watering that happens when I’m ill and nausea creeps up from the ache in my gut to my mouth and my nose.

My husband, on the other hand, treasures ginger.  He drinks it as tea.  In deference to me he leaves fresh ginger out of most of his cooking though lately I’ve noticed he’s been sneaking it into some of his fish pies, as if he imagines I will not detect it – not when he introduces the ginger gradually, surreptitiously. 

This reminds of those desensitization experiments we tried when I was studying basic psychology years ago.  The idea that if someone is phobic about something, say phobic of kitchen brooms, you gradually introduce them to things that remind them of brooms and little by little, up the ante, until they are finally face to face with a real broom.

Either this exposure will cure them of their phobia or it will drive them mad, or so one of our lecturers told us.  It struck me then as a risky business. 

My husband’s efforts to introduce ginger into our diet have not cured me.  I still hate the stuff.

Why does it give me satisfaction to announce one of my pet hatreds with such equanimity?  

I recognize there are many people who have difficulty with the word ‘hate’, almost as much as I have difficulties with ‘ginger’.

It's as if the word ‘hate’ becomes the state of mind called hatred, and to hate someone is to do damage to them simply through your feelings.  I suppose hate has that absolute quality.  Very black, on the continuum of black to white. 

We were out to dinner last night in a cheap and cheerful dumpling place on Glenferrie Road.  We had ordered from the menu, avoiding all things ginger, filling up fast on dumplings as our entrée.  I sat facing the door, which meant I could not spend too much time staring at the other diners in the restaurant.
My husband sat beside me, my daughter opposite.  She had a full view of inside the restaurant but did not report on it to me.  She preferred to keep me in the dark. 

It’s rude to stare.  

I know this but I cannot stop myself when even mid-conversation with my daughter and husband, an activity elsewhere catches my eye.  There on the periphery of my vision the fascinating movements of others, and although we sat at the door of the restaurant and could only see people as they came in and went out, there was plenty of action.
The door kept jamming.  People arrived and could not get inside without exerting a huge shove at the door.  Then some forgot to close the door once they were inside.  The springtime winds are turbulent at the moment and the door left unsnibbed sprang open every time a gust caught it.
A couple of older women on a table parallel to ours copped the full blast whenever this happened. I watched as they complained. I watched as one of the waiters, seemingly one more senior, spent much of his time running back and forth to catch the door and seal it after some careless person had left it open yet again. 

'Don't stare,’ my daughter said, but even she turned to look when a youngish man went to leave and staggered at the door.  His friend, a young woman followed close behind.  

‘You can’t go out there,’ the young woman said just as the man collapsed beside her. 

Then a great flurry of attention.  ‘Call an ambulance,’ the girl said to the waiter and everyone grabbed their mobiles, including my daughter.  

The restaurant staff made the call and handed the phone to the young woman who talked to the ambulance people.  She gave the impression she knew what was happening. 

‘Stay with us,’ she said leaning over the collapsed man on the floor.  She nudged at his inert body.

‘A drug overdose,’ I said to my daughter. 

In minutes, the young man came to.  Staff helped him to his feet and then he went to sit outside on a bench in front of the restaurant with his friend, a couple of staff members and other passers-by who had elected to stop.

How could I not stare? I was trying to work out the story in my head.  I had decided by now it was not a drug overdose. The man seemed too alert, too clear eyed even from a distance. 

Maybe he was a diabetic.

In time the ambulance came and as we left the restaurant ourselves I saw the young man and his friend seated in the ambulance in conversation with the paramedics.  All seemed well by then and I told myself I must not pre-judge and decide that some one has overdosed any more than than I should avoid all things ginger. 

It might open my mind to the possibility of a new taste even if it makes my mouth water just thinking about it.  


Anonymous said...

I like the smell of fresh rosemary but I hate the taste. For some reason it makes me think of pine-o-clean!?!?
Karen C

Birdie said...

I think people stare because they are curious, not always out of rudeness. When we see someone that is out of our realm of understanding we stare to make sense and try to figure things out. Yes, there will always be the rude people but I would rather have someone stare than look away and ignore someone and pretend he or she doesn't exist.

River said...

I'm a fan of ginger and a starer too. Very rarely does anyone complain. I did once have a woman ask "what you lookin' at?" I immediately said "your hair, I've never seen such a shade before, is it natural?" and she looked quite pleased. so there's the trick. If you're caught staring, offer a compliment.
I'm wondering why you immediately thought drug overdose? I was thinking nausea or stomach/chest pains.

PhilipH said...

It can be DANGEROUS to stare sometimes. Is it possible that all animals feel somewhat threatened if stared at? Sometimes it results in violent behaviour.

I love ginger! Don't mind staring at it either.

The poor chap leaving the eatery: could he have had some sort of epileptic fit? My daughter has to take meds to keep these fits under control. Sometimes she would just 'fade' into nowhere. No convulsions, just oblivious to all things around her. Sometimes called an 'absence' fit; many kids can suffer from this and be blamed as daydreamers by teachers and others.

Jim Murdoch said...

This reminds me of Rhyming Life and Death in which an author goes about his day making up stories about people he encounters. It’s what we do. People are just fodder for our imagination. Who cares about the truth? Fiction’s always more interesting. I have a scene in Left when Jen’s sitting in a restaurant making up a story about the only other people in the restaurant—two blokes in business suits—who she decides are lovers breaking up which they may or may not be; the problem with an unreliable narrator is we often miss out on the facts. We delude ourselves most of the time. We trust our perceptions and conceptions are the same as everyone else’s. No one sees the world in exactly the same way as we do. It’s all lies—not nasty lies—but lies nevertheless. I’ve an old poem which I’m fond of:

        CITY SCENE

        Anna broke down
        by the back door of Arnotts –
        she slipped to the pavement
        and cried.

        Everyone simply passed her by
        thinking that she was drunk.

        Some threw money.

        22 October 1978

It could do with a clean-up but I’ll let it stand. I wasn’t so fussy back in 1978. We assume. We see a woman on the street and we assume she’s drunk based on very little evidence. Now here’s the thing: years later I walked by the back door to Arnotts—a department store that used to be on Argyle Street—and lo and behold there was my Anna, sitting on the floor. She wasn’t begging. She may well have been drunk or ill and I’m afraid I passed by on the other side.

Ginger I have no problem with. Carrie and I had ginger cookies with our coffee this morning and very nice they were too. That said I am pretty sure Carrie does stuff with my food without telling me and waits to see if I object or even comment. Sometimes I do but I’m far less fussy these days than I used to be. The last thing I objected to was the Greek yoghurt she served on top of our fruit. It looked like cream. I don’t like cream and I don’t like things that look like cream even if they taste like yoghurt. There was no reasoning with me. She won’t do that again. Mostly though I don’t care. She knows the things that bother me and they basically come under the general heading of : Goo. I don’t like goo. I also don’t much like touching my food with the exception of things like biscuits and crisps. Anything that’ll make my hands sticky is a no-no. I’d eat a pizza with a knife and fork if it wasn’t covered in gooey cheese.

It’s fair to say then that I hate goo. Hatred is no different to love. There are many levels to love. Why not to hate? I love yoghurt (as long as it’s cold and isn’t served masquerading as cream) but not as much as my wife even on the days she serves me yoghurt that looks like cream and maintains it looks like ice cream. As always this reminds me of a scripture: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26). Is Jesus telling us to hate (as in detest or despise) or simply to love less? I was always taught it was the latter. And how can we hate ourselves when Paul said, “No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church” (Eph 5:29). Since the Bible cannot contradict itself—that’s what I was taught so let’s just let that stand for now—then there has to be an interpretation of the word ‘hate’ that works here. That’s the problem with words though. They are always open to interpretation. I don’t hate you ergo I love you and it’s true, I do love you, but what the hell do I mean when I say, “I love you,” to you and what do you imagine I mean? I all gets very complicated. Lying is much easier and far more satisfying.

Anthony Duce said...


Kirk said...

Staring's a big problem with me. Wish I could kick the habit but can't.