Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lament for a frightened virtue…

Does this look like a dangerous person to you?
junk 001Before you favour me with the ‘kindnesses’ of your response, there is this:
The Ram 50 is a stead little beast but no amount of anthropomorphic resilience will bring her back to life after a winter's day spent shining her headlights into a snow bank. The wind-swept clutches of an icy parking lot work their slow magic on this proud monster like the little mice chewing away Aslan’s bonds. Only this time the creature does not come back to life but merely whimpers the last gasps of breath as I twist the little shank into her neck.
the battery is dead…
it’s dark. I’m tired. There’s the edge of a rankling brewing on the less than acceptable preliminary results of the exam I have just written. There are 4 other vehicles in the parking lot.
I push the truck to the middle of the lot. It sits prominently under a light pole, hood gaping wide like a suckling at the ready. I even have my own jumper cables. it’s cold.
three young ladies approach fomenting unimaginable horrors upon the nether regions of their professor. They will attend confession in the morning with a tell tale ache of the cerebrum. one of them makes her car beep and as they huddle around the red pontiac like coyotes around a carcass - I make my move.
they scurry inside the car and are gone before I can utter a word. even my inestimably demonstrative gesticulating of my arms does not attract their attention. I’m four bloody feet away from their car and the windows are not frozen. they are not looking at me – on purpose! the tail lights taunt, now visible at the exit. taunt like thumbs stuck in ears - fingers flapping.
my fingers are not flapping – they are stiff with cold. I dial my son to come and help.
two other girls approach – a guy, a pair of guys, and a girl all drive away in vehicles parked within mere meters of my dead Ram. I begin to wonder about the semiotic ‘readability’ of the propped open hood.
at first my anger seethes uncontrolled. a light post becomes receptacle for nasty epithets that discount the honour of the mothers of each of these unhelpfuls
as the blistering rage pauses for breath - a dim recognition
perhaps the sign that is misread here is me. perhaps, as the photo above will attest, I am the very thing their mothers warned them to avoid. looking at me they see that man – the dangerous man.
I should take a glory in the light of this. a smile perhaps? Not that I might revel in the thought of some imagined heinous identity I might possess. no the small glory should come in the success of post Mexico beard growing. but even that small medallion escapes.
now I am repulsed. that I could be a threat to any of those ‘brave’ souls who managed to ‘escape my wicked clutches’ is simply ludicrous. my repulsion fades into gloom.
how is it that an act of charity demanding meagre time wasted -- accomplish-able through the crack of the window, could so easily be discouraged? Should I conclude with Hobbes that we are an evil lot looking only for a way to excuse our selfish enterprise? Is the imagination of me being a potential threat an evident enough image to excuse charity?
Well Hobbes be damned there is benevolence after all. A boy, really, in his Ford SUV pulls up, having spotted me from the other side of the next parking lot. His girlfriend waits in a posture anything but patient. “I was just gonna drop her off at home – when I saw you.” it’s quarter to ten. “need a boost?”
i thank him through the inch and half crack of his window. it’s done. he’s gone. my son pulls up. as my hands slowly, in a screaming burn, return to normal circulatory function I dispense with Hobbes and shake my fist at fear.
a fear so humbly embedded on the everyday negotiation of safety left me out in the cold. a fear not recognized as fear anymore its just the way you do things. you don’t help beardy strangers in a parking lot – is just the way you do things. it is exactly the same quotidian negotiation that keeps us from dragging home the poor soul trying to sleep tonight on the park bench in Galt Gardens. fear is worked down deep inside the practices, keeping us from the charity that empathy might otherwise evoke. perhaps we no longer notice it as fear – its just the way we do things…
we’re not that bad – we’re just scared – and maybe we don’t even know just how scared we are…
look at me – won’t you be scared of me?

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