Monday, October 18, 2010

Worn Out

Slate published Maud Lavin's analysis of female aggression, as enacted by Helen Mirren, last Friday. I was reading the article, trying to come up with comparable characters, when I reached the third last paragraph and nodded emphatically. The author describes a scene in the series Prime Suspects, where Mirren plays Detective Jane Tennison reacting to a slight by a show antagonist:

In Prime Suspect's second episode of its first year, for instance, there is a tiny scene in an elevator in which a large male copper (who viewers already know dislikes Tennison) crowds her unnecessarily while pretending to be politely reaching for the panel of buttons. Tennison simply refuses to move or accommodate or do anything but stare—in a distinctly non-yogic, non-serene fashion—and make him reach awkwardly around her. It's these small graces of rudeness in the face of minute social plays for power that only Mirren could have pulled off so well. Source

"Minute social plays for power." My eyes lingered on those words for a beat and it occurred to me that I encountered just that at a gas station last month.

The cashier was confused about my pump card as it belongs to the production account. As he was fiddling around with the paperwork, a large man stepped behind me in the queue and waited impatiently. He looked about 6 ft 4 in, was wearing a leather motorcycle jacket, and his face was lined and pockmarked like James Hetfield.

His hand nudged my shoulder as he put down a small bag of chips and a carton of milk on the counter in front of me.

I looked up at him. "Don't touch me," I said.

He said his hands were full.

I glanced at the two items, now fully aware what he was doing as there was plenty of space around me.

"Ask me nicely," I continued, sternly, "but don't touch me."

Well, he stammered, he said excuse me, but I gave him a dirty look.

"You can ask me nicely," I repeated coolly, "but don't touch me." I then proceeded to say good night to the cashier and walked out.

The cashier had been watching this play out and grimaced nervously the entire time. "Minute social plays for power" is right. Just because you're impatient doesn't mean you can punish me for holding you up. It's the small humiliations of daily life that grind us down and people like him lack the discipline to behave otherwise.

These people can kiss my ass.

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