One must pick one’s arguments as well as their timing, but whilst shopping this morning I found myself embroiled in a troubling situation. I’d just had a refund from the hardware shop and wanted to spend it on the food bank, so I dropped in to the vegetable shop and asked the owner which oranges were tasty. I was shown a full wooden box.
“As they’re for charity, you can have them at cost. I’ll toss in £2 to help.”
Thanking him, I muttered to the cashier that it was sad that even nurses were going to food banks.
From behind me, the owner shouted across the shop, “Nurses are better paid than me! I wish I’d get £25,000, some earn as much as £35,000.”
I said they had tremendous responsibility, but was cut off mid sentence.
“We chefs have responsibility too,” (in a previous life he’d cooked with Gordon Ramsey), “if we poison somebody we get into trouble.”
I suggested it was hardly the same, but was again cut off. Really, I ought to have kept silent, but ensuring my voice was calm and level, I countered his emotive volume with, “My wife must keep her medical diaries for 25 years in case she’s ever called to defend herself in court,” but I was cut off with the man shouting even louder.
Desperate to get outside, I took the wooden box, filled to the brim it was heavy, and more so for with my crutch as I only had one free arm. I was followed outside and the owner told me he donated to the food bank twice every week, “But I see people walk from there,” he pointed at the food table forty metres off, “and into the luxury cake shop where they spend twenty quid,” he pointed next door, “I see others walk to the butchers,” he pointed the other way, “and spend £50! Wish I could do either.”
He went on, “I know many of characters, there are fit, locally everyone’s looking for staff. They get more on the dole than I have left after I’ve slogged my arse off here.”
I know he wakes up thrice a week at 4am, drives to Bristol market over an hour away; to gain a little more money, using veg past its best, he cooks all sorts of dishes which he sells; and the he lives in a small flat above his shop. I could understand his annoyance and suggested that not everyone cheats the system, but got another angry volley.
Today wasn’t one of my better days. Before all this begun, I’d been shaking inside from the effort of walking the 350 metres from my home. I told the shopkeeper I wasn’t well, that the box was heavy, that I had to leave. This created a further eruption and seeking an ending, I held out my hand and said, “Let’s shake, I must go.”
He laughed and shook my hand, “GO!”
Some time after I’d handed over the oranges, he passed me in the busy street. You have to end things well and so I joked, “Want a crate of oranges P?”
P laughed, “Yea, I’ll pay fifteen.” (I’d paid about half that) “To you, a bargain at twenty two!”
“Deal,” he chuckled as he walked past, totally unaware that five minutes previously he’d made a scene out of nothing, a scene which had caught me in a street full of people who stood gawking and wondering what had happened to create such shouting from such a big man.
A friend stopped and took me into one of the cafes where we enjoyed cake and coffee, which was exactly what I needed and I left feeling a little revived. When you try to respond in an arguementmyour mind sucks energy from your body to cope with the mental dynamics, a stressful interaction such as ours takes far more fuel and when you hadn’t much to start with, you find you are shattered. How silly of me to have engaged in debate when all he wanted was to rant about those few who refuse to work but are glad to take handouts.