cold shoulder on a mild morning

Jan 26, 2024 - 3 minute read

I haven’t done this kind of thing in quite a while. These days, I’m normally the guy who steps aside in any given condition to let someone pass and offers a smile even when the other party doesn’t say thank you. It’s fine. There was a point when I would sing a few bars of You’re Welcome from Moana but I’ve grown out of that, unless I really want to make one of my children cringe-giggle.

So today, I was navigating the busy pavement outside the school at dropoff time and this middle class man and woman were coming the other way in double file and I went as far to the edge of the path wihout stepping onto the road and it happened. The oldschool shoulder barge. I wasn’t even putting any heft into it, I just decided that I’d given all the space on that path that I was able to give short of stepping onto the road. He was a big guy too so I wasn’t expecting the impact to register on him as much as it did. He stopped to glare back at me and I said sorry while at the same time returning the glare with interest. He turned and walked on, perhaps forgetting about me right away or calling me a yob to his friend once he’d reached a safer distance.

I felt bad after that, for the stupid macho bullshit that I’d once again been prone to while at the same time thinking about how they only people in this manor that don’t really respect the space of others are the gentrifier type. It’s like other culture’s and castes are invisible to them. And they’re never necessarily rude, that would be too vulgar for them. They carry on with an air of chirpy indifference, a weaponised niceness.

I don’t like thinking about other people in this way. A while back I made peace with the truth that a there are some people that will always interpret an act of humility as deference, in the same way that they interpret the discontent of the hoi polloi as resentment.

I don’t like thinking like this because it means I’ve stopped looking at any other human life as a cause for the intrinsically precious nature of any human consciousness, how even the most seemingly dull human being is still a jewel of awareness, an inner light that has bloomed in a way that is both inconcievable and improbable. Not seeing their light keeps me from seeing my own.

In the week after watching Parasite I was angry. One day, in the midst of that anger, I was walking down a side street in Camberwell. The pavement was narrow and I saw three women talking in posh accents coming the other way. The kept in triple file and when an old, working class woman was coming the other way, she ended up stepping into the road to avoid a collision and possibly a nasty fall and the three posh, thiry-something ladies kept walking without acknowledging her. My face must have flushed red because they stepped aside for me. I asked the old lady if she was okay and she shrugged and kept walking. I mention this because I will try harder next time. I will be the one to turn my shoulder and make it more of a brush than a barge. But I’m not going to be made to step into the road. I’m simply not at that place yet.