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POSTCARDS FROMCYPRUS(3) TROLLEY RAGE
On Sunday evening I was invited, to my great pleasure, to visit the home of an old friend for a meal among other old friends. The setting was perfect, a lovely home with a spacious veranda, shaded by leafy trees, in a quiet suburb. Veronica, our host, is the beautiful daughter of Rhea Bailey, the artist. Her husband Zenon, and Arafat a friend from theMiddle Eastwho is also an artist, made up the male contingent. Over a delightful, exotic fish dish, perfectly cooked and presented, we chatted and laughed, the company being of a witty disposition.
For some reason the talk turned to supermarkets and the behaviour of the people who populate them. My local serves, in this busy cosmopolitan town, as a village for many of us who meet up there and give out and take in news. However, some of us have noticed of late, that a certain selfishness has cept in among those who are not in any particular hurry to get out of the place. When I take time to talk to old friends, we always make sure we are not in anybody’s way. There are those who really don’t care about anybody else. They block the aisles as they rattle on –loudly – into their mobile phones, or they pause with all the gravitas of art dealers contemplating the acquisition of a rare piece of art – in front of the spaghetti shelves.
“Ah now, what will it be tonight?” While they and their other half go up and down the types of pasta available, their trolley at just enough of an angle to be mischievous, pretending to be blissfully unaware of the stoppage in traffic they are creating. Things in that shop don’t often get drastically moved around and the trolley lanes are not very wide as the design of the place is old. So, what is sitting where is not a labyrinthine puzzle for regulars. The family business has survived in spite of stiff foreign competition because it keeps its prices low and the staff is helpful and nice. Then there’s the typical Cypriot thing: two friends coming in opposite directions stopping to chin wag. This also happens with cars! They act as if they have rented the space exclusively and who gives a damn if there is a trolley pile up on both sides. It was either Zenon or Veronica who threw in the ‘trolley rage’ title for what has become a frequent event when we go there. I told them I no longer stand politely behind these aisle-blockers, passively waiting for them to ‘see me when it suits them’. I wait an obligatory few seconds and if I see no sign of recognition of the fact that they are willfully holding me back, I shove the nose of my trolley against one of theirs with a , “Why don’t you move when you see people waiting?”
And the response? Offense! What kind of rude creature is interrupting our conversation, has she no manners? All patience has left me for putting up with the behaviour of the inconsiderate. Turning the other cheek or trolley for that matter, is a thing of the past. I actually called one man a cute old Irish word that rhymes with light and that correctness forbids me to write here and, another, I called a pig. You know the old saying, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. So far, no one has been ‘offended’ enough to do a Liana Kanelli slap-slap on me. (You must have seen the Golden Dawn fascist leader on that video clip of the Greeks doing a minor version of the Trojan War during a televised political debate, surely, when he slapped Ms Kanelli, a lady of certain years, as though she were an actor in an old, pardon the pun, slapstick movie?) Let some rude idiot try a slap-slap on me. I only hope it’s near the egg shelves!
The chat about the supermarket trolleys brought to mind an article I read in the Science Today section of the Irish Times back in May, which I kept because I thought it might come in handy. It was titled ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’. Book worms will know where that came from. John Holden’s intro went: “Advanced mathematical models are used to predict the behaviour of large gatherings of people, making crowd movements and group mentalities more predictable than you might think.” (firstname.lastname@example.org) (features editor is Dick Alstrom.) We form lanes in crowds and we avoid obstacles as we ‘oscillate’. Please send a research team to my supermarket.
Many of us (as the writer pointed out) might say with regard to that research, what good would it do, observing the obvious? We all know we have a herd instinct in certain situations and that there are times when we want to be alone or feel alone even in the midst of a crowd. The researchers looked at the football herd; the Irish looked at crowd behaviour displayed on St. Patrick’s Day. In both instances there would be TV cameras on the scene, and it seems we behave differently when we know we are being watched! We also get the explanation that learning what people will do in panic situations helps to lessen danger and set up systems so that crowds can be controlled. Now the word ‘control’ will start a little ding-a-ling in some minds. I have one friend who always says to that kind of explanation:
“Ahh, but that’s not all they want to learn, is it?” He like many others never take what, on the surface, appears to be a study of the ordinary as simply that. Why spend millions watching the obvious, he asks, there has to be more than that behind it. He nibbles on the word ‘control’ like a person on a harsh diet nibbles on a piece of dry bread.
The Olympic Games inLondonwere mentioned, and of course, knowing how a huge swathe of humanity would behave in the event of a bomb scare or terrorist attack, would come in pretty useful. It seems numbering seats in stadiums gives people a sense of security. Picture it: Seat number six hundred and forty-seven observes that there is a maniac with a hand grenade in seat line one-fifty. Sigh of relief, “Well, if it goes off, it’s not near me. I feel secure!”
Apparently, it does you good to go to a match and ‘face-off’ the opposition especially if the teams are from countries with ‘history’, such as England and Ireland,France and Germanyor, more recently,Russia and Poland.Cyprus has a hefty slice of football hooliganism after watching matches with their own kind, and facing-off with cat calls is the least of it. Controlled, let-loose-behaviour is good, such as some Japanese firms used, i.e. punch bags in basement gyms where frustrated employees could beat the blazes out of their mental annoyances in situations where beating the giblets out of a boss or senior colleague was not on.
Sure, it’s healthy to sing or yell at opposing fans with the width of a field between you. Oddly enough, what came to my mind as I read the article was that scene in Brave Heart (filmed mostly inIreland) where the William Wallace warriors in kilts do an about turn and lift their skirts to ‘moon’ at the English. I was told the bare bums came courtesy of the Irish Army extras. How true that is, I don’t know. Perhaps I should try that in the supermarket, or perhaps not. It might start a trend. Ugh!