Saturday, 12 May 2012

Blip: Blip's Encounter with a mother

I'm taking things away from the usual style and content a tad to briefly discuss an incident at a coffee shop. If you have read Pop's post on it, you will already be familiar with the timeline of said event but I thought I would recant it from my point of view nonetheless.

We found ourselves at around 8 o clock in the morning feeling rather pleased, so much so that we felt like being dreadfully middle class and hanging around looking (as Pop said) pretentious in the window area of a coffee shop. That and also we both enjoy watching the behaviour and mannerisms of the people that walk by. We arrived there a little later and found a seat, ordered our coffees, began drinking them, I read, pop wrote, all was well!

In amidst our studying of the shambling public outside we came across a number of fascinating archetypal behaviour patterns: Nervous youths staring at the floor, hiding behind swishy fringes out of insecurity or some bygone trespass of decency. Men who shared this terrified hamster look as they were being lead around like dogs on a leash by angry, self-assured battleaxes. Even the occasional wide-grinning, flamboyant shirt-wearing, skipping type of person whose very presence lightens your day if only for a moment.

The most popular one today though was the smug, self-righteous mother. (Note please that I am not lumping in all mothers, I am merely using the word to refer to a specific archetype.) Traditionally, the average S.S.R.M. is a middle aged woman pushing a pram around and acting as though the child within grants them the privileges of royalty, pushing past people on every street corner, expecting A-star treatment from everybody they meet because they clearly deserve it.

This tale, as you may have already guessed, involves a proud member of the final category. She came in, fairly unassumingly, with her pushchair and her partner and proceeded to scan the shop for available seating, at which point she spotted our cosy little spot.

This is probably a good time to further describe the area that we found ourselves in: Quite simply there were 2 small tables, each with 1 double seat facing them, and a pouffe each, gathered between the two tables. We were sat at one table and a non-descript woman was sat at the other; this woman was asked by the new arrival, from herein to be referred to as the mother, quite politely if she would mind the mother stealing a seat. She happily obliged. The mother took this as a sign to sit down, park her pram in the way and commandeer one half of the woman’s meagre table space, but don't worry this is the smallest of the mothers faux pas', there are more to come.

She asked us, in an equally polite tone to the one she used for the other woman, if we minded moving our bags (mainly pop's nice hand stitched handbag that she uses to transport her writing materials around in. They were, by the way, sat on our pouffe to avoid the dirty floor.) The question implies that while she would prefer us to relinquish the pouffe for her partner, who was getting their drinks in, we had final choice due to social convention. As such, we politely declined and informed her that we wished to keep the important bag clean. She accepted our reasoning, seemingly, and went over to join her partner who had handily found a free table across the other side of the coffee shop. This was soon forgotten as it was the smallest of social interactions and not worth dissection.

Both pop and I aren't terribly social people, we understand social convention (to a degree) and we have the capacity to be polite, professional or informal as the situation demands it. But we don't care much for being social, by which I mean being around people in general. There is little to be gained through social interaction when your main aim and interest in life is furthering progress along intellectual endeavours and improving the mental faculties that allow these endeavours to take place, which in case you haven't guessed it yet, is my main aim and interest in life.

Anyway I digress. Around 20 minutes later, after 20 minutes of reading, writing and window analysis, the mother returned out of nowhere (well out of the other side of the coffee shop but that’s less dramatic.) As if offended she confidently asserted, in a stern yet malice-filled way, something along the lines of "By the way, in the future if someone asks you to move your bags for them, you should!" Now I was totally taken aback by this, I've explained already that I am perhaps not the most sociologically aware person in the world but I am aware of the meaning of this rather rude and unambiguous statement. She believed that we should've bowed to her will out of social obligation and she had clearly stewed on this insolence for the past 20 minutes.

My first reaction was to blurt out "excuse me, what?" and recoil in confusion whereas pop's reaction after the initial shock was to calmly explain that we didn't actually have to move our bags, so in the future we will make our decision based on the relevant circumstances just as we had before. At this point, the mother had adopted an indignant stance of hard-wearing stubbornness. I found this act of defiance delightfully intriguing and began to smile, I also decided to expand on pop's response and said "Clearly there are two tables and two pouffes, so there is one per table. This one here is ours." She answered me with a childish exclamation of "Well, it doesn't matter!" and followed this up by telling pop she isn't bright. By now the already weakened diplomacy dike (Yeah, I'm a Tim Minchin fan) had had too much and it burst.

Pop continued this discourse over the rolling sound of me laughing until I was coughing by asking "I'm not bright?" the mother's answer to this was incomprehensible, maybe because of how incapacitated I was or because of how furious she had become but regardless she said something about pop not being "socially bright" and then mumbled the same few words in a random order before declaring "you're not socially bright!" while she stamped her feet back to the pram and glared from a distance pop added "Thankyou for that delightful insight there". The situation finally abated I was able to resume normal bodily functions and attempted to get back into my book.

This was proceeded by another person asking for us to move the bags, again we declined and this prompted the mother, who was apparently hiding in a state of coiled readiness, to pounce upon the newcomer and begin a bitching war at the next table. It lasted a good ten minutes and consisted of all of them calling us rude and unbelievable at increasingly loud volumes. I believe it was their attempt at subtlety. They left and we finished our fun day trip and returned here to derisively blog about the situation, and here we are.

Now the real issue here isn't particularly the argument, nor the vague insults through raised voices. The important issue here is the obligation that the mother intended to force upon us, purely due to her status as a vital person in society (a mother.) A simple clarification here would be that managing to birth a child does not give you any rights or obligatory courtesies for free, all social statutes operate in the exact same way that they did before. Let alone how manipulative it is to use politeness to try to force a certain course of action. If you ask a question then you leave the decision of its outcome up to the person you've asked.

I mean, why ask a yes or no question if you will only accept one of the two possible answers? This is a clear example of how rude and anti-social people will often try to hide behind the momentarily convincing guise of a well-adjusted sane person. As you have heard, the mothers mask of deception fell to the floor all too quickly revealing the near identical face beneath, foaming at the mouth.

This is the first random off-the-cuff posts of mine. I'm hoping to get used to writing these more, if nothing else for the cathartic effect of recording mundane everyday events as if they were terribly important. I may back reference this to further an exploration into the confusing world of social law. I'll end this now with an Eric Hoffer quote "Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength."

Blip (sig)

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