When “Push” becomes “Shove,” how do you react?

It’s an interesting question, and one which has been vaguely floating in my head for the last day or so (and by God, that was a fantastic episode of Evangelion…) mostly because the interesting part, from where I’m sitting, is not how you react, but why.

For most people, of course, I can’t answer, and I’m not especially good at answering for myself either, but I’m getting better. The reason I can’t always answer for myself is firstly because I’m not sure anyone can ever give an honest answer to a personal question, and secondly because I know very well that there’s a large gap between who I was at one time, and who I am now. It’s not a chronological gap, of course, but it is a little unnerving when I wind up in an introspective mood.

Those of you who kept track of my LiveJournal posts a few weeks back might recall this vaguely unpleasant mope, which unnerved me at the time because it’s a nasty flashbacky sort of post, and unnerves me still more now, for pretty much the same reason. But that’s not my normal “push=shove” reaction, all things considered… It’s occasionally a reaction I get when a shove turns nasty, and I feel I’m getting driven backwards into a pit, but it’s not my normal response, because that’s generally more bloodthirsty.

In retrospect, this makes a reasonable ammount of sense. It can take very little for me to start shoving back; back at school once I was coming out of the VIth form corridor, when Major T [head of the CCF] tried to barge past me. I can distinctly recall thinking “I’m not taking any shit from someone who’s trying to force me back through the door,” and I jammed both my arms accross the gap at pretty much the same time, with the result I forced the old sod back out, with him swearing every inch. That’s generally my reaction, although I’ve had it on a greater or lesser level as a result of everything from people pushing into queues ahead of me, right up to gut-wrenchingly awkward situations.

Sometimes it’s not quite so awkward, of course; during the trip to Edinburgh I ran into some large American tourists who demanded I walk back down the Walter Scott monument “because we’re Americans, and we want to get back to the hotel for lunch,” which was actually fairly entertaining (partly because the people behind them looked horrified, and partly because, when I explained I was on a trip from a school older than America by about 150 years, and should therefore have priority, they, er, crashed, frankly. It was an interesing example of cultureshock in action, and a little sad for ’em, but they shouldn’t have been such arrogant sods, all things considered.)

I imagine this bloody-mindedness was something I always had tucked into my character somewhere, to an extent. But it’s nothing like a reaction from my mother’s side of the family, unless it’s about something big, and I can’t see any traces of it on the other side, either… Presumably, therefore, it’s something I’ve developed under my own steam.

The first time I clearly recall finding myself in a situation where there were two choices, and neither was a good one, and I would not accept the choice people were trying to force on me will’ve been at some point in 1998, at Shrewsbury Magistrate’s Court. My mother & I were there because Nigel Hughes, a man who, seven months before, killed my father with a lorry, was appealing against a sentence for something called ‘driving without due care and attention.’ Apparently, he didn’t mind the £400 fine, but he’d also lost his driving liscence for twelve months, and that put his job (driving lorries) at risk.

Oddly enough, the judge didn’t actually think dear old Nige was especially good as a professional lorry driver, and kept things pretty much as they were. And so my mother & I filed out of the spectator’s gallery, followed by those members of the Hughes family that didn’t have to exit via the cells. Or, at least, we would have been, but the sods went and hung about and tried to avoid us, with me stood there holding the door open for ’em. Bear in mind, please, it was a heavy door, and I was only just thirteen, and fairly weedy, and I could’ve done without hanging about waiting for them.

After I’d coughed, in a pointedish way for a couple of times, and they’d taken notes for their PhDs in Carpeting of Municipal Buildings Studies, it dawned on me that they were, in fact, pretending I wasn’t there, presumably because they were too embarrased to look at me. Impolite little shits. And I rapidly went from very hurt, to specifically much more hurt, and then to rather more angry than I could ever remember being. About that time I gave the door what I thought would be a fairly gentle push, and it jumped back six inches, hit the stop with a smash, and then slapped back into my hand, where it bounced.

They looked up at that. And then away again! Jesus… I don’t actually remember my exact words, but I think I said something like “Get through the fucking door, please, I need to go and comfort my mother.” So they did, although I noticed they were still fascinated by the pattern on the carpet.

I’ve had pretty much the same reaction to similar situations ever since, which is fair enough, but it does worry me sometimes. I’ve long since got over the worst of it, where I could find myself a stray insult away from bloody murder (anyone remember the dark old days, when my blazer was full of drawing pins?), but there’s still a fairly solid core of steel somewhere in me, and it tends to find its way to the front when people start to push…

…But I can fairly confidently defy anyone to attempt to wander vaguely adolescentwards surrounded by the chaos I went through (I had my grandmother, grandfather and father die within eleven months of one another, and then the battle to keep the life insurance [it was in trust, but try telling that to the fucking Reciever] and then the battle to get compensation [which got settled about eight days before I came to Aber, six years later]) and not develop an innate distaste for people trying to fuck you over.

Unusually, for one of my long rambling posts, there isn’t very much of a point to this (although if you’ve got a different reaction [or, indeed, middle or lower -gear reactions!], I’d be very interested to hear it…) but I vaguely needed to let off steam. And, all things considered, I think it’s a fairly useful reaction, because it does tend to get people if not listening, then at least bloody worried that they ought to have been paying more attention when I stopped shouting at them and suddenly got calm…

Going to play something called “Wesnoth,” now, and trust the package manager installed it properly.

No doubt I’ll see many of you tomorrow. Have fun!

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  1. On September 02, 2005 Statto says:

    As someone who’s managed to get on the receiving end of a very near miss from your heavy (but thankfully by the VIth form not drawing-pin-encrusted) schoolbag, I can testify to your violent mood swings!

    However, if I recall correctly, at that moment, we both walked silently away rather than engage in any spectacular mortal combat. Thankfully this violent bloodlust appears to subside fairly quickly…

    It is interesting how anger can flare momentarily and then disappear just as quickly. It seems quite alien as I type this now, but I’ve punched walls and sworn loudly in similar situations. I’m not sure if in a nature/nurture way we can trace the roots of this reaction, but the “nurture” of your teenage years is certainly as good an excuse as many… Quite what I can cite as my destabilising influence I don’t know…one dead great-grandma and weeks of academic stress (bloody Oxford) don’t sound that impressive.

    I think most people get it, regardless of nurture, at some point. I like to think that I’m quite a calm person, but when I do snap, I snap proper. Another good question is that of when exactly ‘push’ does come to ‘shove’… Massive psychological experiment time.

    As regards the people in court, I expect the reason they didn’t look was not embarassment, but shame…subtle distinction, and perhaps one I can’t draw given lack of knowledge of the circumstances, but I’d like to assume that they have at least some human compassion….but then, what is unforgivable is leaving the weedy teenager with the mother to comfort holding the heavy door open…so maybe they don’t…or maybe they were too ashamed to think that rationally…or maybe they were just ashamed that their relative had left towards the cells, and had not a bean of human kindness.

    That paragraph turned out to be a more complex tangle of potential emotion than I envisaged!

    Not sure this ramble is going anywhere…but reading the post made me think “aloud”.

    On an side-note related only by the inverted commas in my last statement, we really need a new lexicon to cover “talking” using text on the Internet.

  2. On September 02, 2005 JTA says:

    That’s the trouble, isn’t it? There’s a goodish chance they thought they were being dignified & leaving space, and such… but (assuming that was what they were aiming for) they didn’t say anything about it (and, of course, couldn’t, because of leaving space…), and so things got vaguely messy.

    I was, back then, fairly horribly screwed up, I don’t mind saying (Hell, one day I’ll get an urge to explain the Anslow Fiasco, and that’ll make for interesting reading, assuming I ever fully understand what my subconscious was playing at), and I imagine if they’d managed to pull the same trick even three years later, I’d’ve reacted somewhat better… I dunno.

    Nowadays, it’s pretty fair to say, I’ve given up on hating Nigel, because at the end of the day, what’s the point? (although, that said, there’s a decent chance that if I met him in a pub I’d buy him a pint, out of sheer cruelty…) But things were rather more raw at the time, and I still think they made a mistake by just standing there like a bunch of prannies…