Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Humanity is overrated

Something different has happened. It began this morning with a call to a taxi firm from the Wife who, feeling ill, had decided to commute to the train station by cab. As the all important pick-up time drew nearer she began to fill the empty minutes with mild obsessive-compulsive disorder while the also ill and especially dependent children got progressively closer to the edge. So on the minute she decided to go outside and wait there instead, only the children could see her from the window which made the occasion even more scream- and table-banging-worthy.

I felt a deep sense of sorrow at the figure she presented, still clinging on to the hope that the world makes sense, that people who say they will do something for you will actually do it, while I knew with virtual certainty that no car was going to turn up any time soon. Five-minutes in she knocked on the window and came back inside to call the firm, upon which she was assured that the car was in the area and would be there any minute. Another five minutes later she knocks again, this time to get her bicycle so that she could get to work on time.

So there I found myself, dressing-gown- and sandal-clad with two screaming kids, swelling with rage at the idea of my poorly wife having to pedal like fuck to catch a train that Those Bastards had assured her she would catch, with nothing to do but down a cafetiere of Lavazza and wait for the man to actually turn up. Which he did another five mintues later, knocking in that rhythmic but irritating “I’m not going to throw sulphuric acid in your face” fashion.

I was going to wait until I had a good three-seconds’ look at him before I decided how to vent my personal hatred of him, all the staff in his firm, the transport system, the government, and my own incongruous ideology. But he turned out to be so bemused by the concept of someone leaving before their taxi had turned up that there was nothing to be gained from insulting the man. So I picked up the phone and pressed redial to get at someone more appropriate – the controller of course.

Controller – [female voice] hello, c to t taxis.

Me – My wife ordered a taxi from you this morning to the train station which arrived 20 mintues late, forcing her to abandon the idea and cycle instead – while very ill -- in order to catch her train. Is it normal for your cars to be 20 minutes late?

C – Don’t start getting aggressive with me [voice rises quickly to a shout] …

M – [interrupting] So I suppose you’re not going to apologize for the fact that you lied to her when you said the car was in the area?

C – No, I’m not. She was told that we cannot guarantee travel times at this time of day.

M – But surly that doesn’t apply to pick-up times?

C – Is there anything else I can do for you?

M – Yes, you can fuck off.

I slammed the phone down and felt good about my actions ... for about a minute. Then I started to get the fear. Partly this was fuelled by the prospect of a meathead husband/brother/boyfriend/all-three, having access to my full address and phone number, turning up here late in the evening looking for some action while I bumbled around like a paranoid stoned twat. But much more troubling than this was the feeling of badness in my bones for having just told a complete stranger to fuck off in a loud and aggressive voice. It was strange to feel such optimism for humanity -- that I cannot reasonably expect things to ever improve so long as I go around telling strangers to fuck off. Indeed, I don''t even have an interest in things “improving”; all I want is to sign out and watch the whole shithouse go under from the calming Atlantic view of my successful Highland restaurant.

So without giving it much thought at all and acting purely on impulse, I pressed redial once more and, once I had established it was the same woman, apologized for having told her to “F-off”.
But it didn’t at all have the effect I thought it would. Rather than connecting two people who have no reason to hate one another, my butterfly-inducing debut reaching-out to humanity was met with a grunt of indifference. This time I put the phone down with the distinct impression that today wasn't the first time this woman had been told to fuck off. But on I clung to the fading reckoning that my call made a difference, that while decomposing on the couch in front of Eastenders later this evening she would question why a total stranger had bothered to put her before his stubborn pride. The pathetic truth is that it made me feel good. It made me feel alive for a moment, even though beneath the veneer I knew I was witnessing game theory in action -- that the whole episode had been nothing more than a selfish individual watching his own back.

As the day wore on, however, this feeling subsided and was replaced with annoyance at having sold myself out. Like the battery drones that pack call centres up and down the country, nobody should be shielded from the injustices that are being perpetrated by the complacent disregard of the C to T firms of this world.

But I also had much more pressing worries to hand: the end of the gear. All day I had been coping with the mild irritation in the back of my mind that this was my last day of it for some time. It was a day of torment and ritual on this front, initially because I kept coming back to the problem of whether to have two moderate pipes with a couple of hours in between or one big bastard to wipe me out. Then there was the optimization of the timing of it all so that I could enjoy the company of my two little girls, cook, listen to music, fantasize, eat etc all while in the most appropriate haze.

My tiny stash turned out to be enough to fuel two blasts in fact, although sadly I am still here. And as I strolled around the back garden with the second one, looking up at the stars and turning the event into much more than it really was, I felt a sense of purpose. My pipe, for example, had been busted recently while I stopped with the children on the way home from the nursery to get a hit and found that it had been blocked with tar from the heavy, heavy strain I've been stoking it with lately. Having failed utterly in my attempts to unblock it with twigs and hardy grasses, I had continued to work on the problem back home, essentially having to write-off the shank (on account of it now being stuffed with sticks) and do a Blue-Peter job with a snapped biro and a roll of red insulating tape. The result looked druggy and dirty, the pen having clouded up with a dark green coating after a few smokes.

Perhaps this was its thousandth refill, I thought as I drew down hard on my last pinch of burning grass. I had planned the evening well as it turned out, feasting alone on blissful courses of scallops&potatoes and mackerel&leaves with bread and butter and chilled S.Pellegrino. For a hardened rationalist and despiser of all things metaphysical I surprise myself with my fondness for indulging such ceremony. I remember the night before my finals sitting down at what some might have viewed as a lonely scene, a salmon steak with boiled potatoes and mayonnaise and a single ice cold can of Stella Artois. I sat there all evening without a book in sight, savouring the simplicity of the moment.
Back under the stars, however, the sticky little clumps of bud were soon reduced to a light ash. I then snapped the bastard pipe in two, hurled it as far as I could across the city sky, and went inside to spoon half a litre of Green&Blacks vanilla ice cream into my mouth with shavings of dark chocolate and crumbled butter cookies. It sounds melodramatic, but it was vitally important that I got rid of the pipe for this new phase of management that I am about to embark on. Having to interact with those new-age, jostick-burning tie-dye types with the black eyes and fingernails to buy a new pipe is something that I will put off as long as possible, at least providing a shadow of a safety net. And then I will be justified in another few weeks' worth.

This is why cannabis should not be legalized: there are others like me, who will abuse it until they start to crack. I know this only too well, having lived in Amsterdam for a year where I was getting through two boxes of Luckies a week without smoking a single fag. Not to mention the crate of flip-top bottles of ice cold Grolsch. Civilized in the extreme.

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