Rage against the Rudeness

Is it just me-or does anyone else think that public behaviour getting ruder?

Yesterday I wanted to make an enquiry at the supermarket phone shop. My phone contract expires in a month or so and there are areas I’d like to improve. The booth was busy-one assistant taken up with a ragged group of browsers, the other moved to help the woman in front of me. This was a woman in a wheelchair whose mobility problems were severe enough for her to have special requirements in a phone. I waited. The lady suggested I take her place as she would be some time but I was more than happy to wait and took up a position behind the chair.

A middle aged man walked into the booth followed by a young girl. He strode to the counter-inserting himself between the wheelchair and the desk; he talked directly to the assistant serving the woman-even though he was engaged in unwrapping a box for her.

‘Excuse me’ I ventured. The man turned to me and said something incomprehensible which, when repeated became ‘I need his voice’. Need his voice? What was he-some kind of radio special effects collector? An advertising director looking for a voiceover artist? A patient wanting a transplant?

The assistant, inexperienced in the ways of customer service, stopped his unwrapping and made an immediate and ill-advised decision to deal with the man. By now I could feel annoyance welling up like indigestion and threatening to belch out. The woman sat impassive throughout; no doubt she is accustomed to such crass treatment, which is telling in itself.

The assistant left the counter and went to the store room. He’d abandoned both the wheelchair lady and me in favour of the rude, boorish man.

I waited until the man had left before telling the hapless assistant what I thought, though once he’d apologised and acknowledged the error I relented. The woman in the chair was, she explained, going to be a long time and would I go first?

Later, as I was driving home a Range Rover driver behind my car flashed his headlights continually for about a mile because I’d had the audacity to enter a roundabout ahead of him. Presumably he owns all the roundabouts. In a similar incident on the motorway a couple of days ago the passenger of a vehicle overtaking our van opened the window and gesticulated graphically because we’d had the boldness to encroach on the overtaking lane ourselves . Perhaps the driver of this car is the proprietor of all overtaking lanes?

Road rage, queue rage, shop rage, trolley rage-no waiting, no ‘after you’, no holding doors, no surrendering seats, no thank-you…

Perhaps it is, after all simply a case of becoming older, less noticeable but more noticing, but how dispiriting this witnessing of deteriorating social skills is! –or am I even more of a grumpy old woman than I’d realised?

In the fast lane there’s a shredded, nervous wreck trying to get out.

                A situation at home prompted us to cut short our meanderings on the Med and make a dash back to the ferry and from there onwards. This involved two days’ of nine hour drives. We are accustomed to driving long distances for trips nevertheless it was, to say the least, tiring. The method we employ for driving many kilometres is to take turns of two hours and then swap over.

                At the beginning of my stint at the wheel of the van I always consider myself to be strong, competent, emancipated woman, boldly handling the vehicle upon the highways of Europe amongst the macho, truck-driving fraternity and international travellers of all kinds. By the end of the two hours, however I am usually a freaked-out, whimpering, cowering wreck who finds it necessary to stop, climb out and beg for the alternative driver [Husband] to reverse into a space that could accommodate a double-decker bus.

                Certain conditions inspire terror in my driver persona. For one thing, whilst motorways and dual carriageways are relatively calm, safe conveyors of traffic they become angst provoking nightmares when swept by crosswinds that buffet the van and threaten to tear the wheel from my hands. I’m happy to overtake trucks and lorries, but find it nerve wracking to be sandwiched between giant lorries overtaking each other. Often, during overtaking moves, fellow drivers approach aggressively from behind, headlights blazing in bullying reproach as the van fails to get by fast enough for them, despite the feeble driver’s foot being flat down as far as it can go. Nowhere is this behaviour more prevalent than in Germany, where a glance in the rear view mirror reveals nothing until you are half way round a lorry-then a vehicle appears from out of nowhere virtually stuck to your rear bumper.

                But the situations that induce the most panic by far are large, busy, unfamiliar cities in which the route must be located as well as negotiating the [largely unsympathetic] teeming traffic.

                I happened to be on my ‘shift’ as we neared our selected, overnight stop South of Paris, coinciding with late afternoon rush hour. Lovely.

“Please!” I begged Husband, “Tell me which lane”.

                He ruminated, switching from atlas to satnav and back again-“Um…left…no…right…no…”

I felt myself grow hot and an urge to empty the bladder as we lurched to a stop at a red light, in front of a long, impatient column of cars. From somewhere there was the ominous whine of a siren, and growing louder. I stared around to try and locate the source, finally, and with foreboding seeing the flashing blue light approaching behind us, the lines of cars parting to allow its passage. I was at the light, with nowhere to go, a stalemate as the police car blazed and blared in an insistent decree behind us. The driver in the adjoining lane waved his arms and shouted for us to move. At last a car stopped in its path across us and allowed me to drive through the light. Another five minutes saw us safe into the hotel car park, where I felt like weeping with relief.

I stopped in front of a space and climbed out, wobbly legged. Husband, of course did the reversing into a space thing.

In terms of late life career options, I suppose lorry driver would be somewhere down near the bottom of the list?