Friday, 9 May 2014

This Time it's Personal ~ part 5

In legal jargon, at least in the USA (or at least according to the American TV show The Good Wife, which is an excellent show btw, and very well-researched) there seems to be a thing called a 'Bad Fact'. This, in a court case, is not a fact that proves your guilt. It may have nothing to do with the charges, but it doesn't look good. It shouldn't affect the facts of the case but it might influence the jury. It goes to the character of the defendant, as they (apparently) say.

Life is full of Bad Facts. Last weekend I ran out of diesel. I got as far as the nursery gates, turned off the engine, unlocked the gates and couldn't start the engine again. My bro and I pushed the car into the nursery and I called the RAC out on bank holiday Monday to get her going again. I'd do it myself but last time this happened there were air-locks to deal with. But I'm a member of the RAC. I had stuff to do at the nursery. I called them out. 
On the Sunday, when it happened I was already tired from dismantling the greenhouse in the back garden. We got it done, actually, a lot quicker than I'd expected but at the time I felt pressed for time. I was down the nursery picking something up I'd forgotten so all in all I was a bit hassled. I went to the local filling station in Henfield High Street and they were out of diesel. I knew I was low when I drove back from work on the Thursday but I thought I could go to the filling station in town, but they were out of diesel even then. 
Explaining to my bro, my wife and to the RAC man, I had a small rant about how ridiculous it is for a filling station to be out of diesel. It's like a pub having no beer, or a hairdressers not being able to cut hair.  And on a bank holiday! How incredibly disorganised of them. How bloody idiotic. I pictured them at Shell, sitting on their arses, reading The Sun, not really giving a toss, actually rather enjoying their (petty mindless) power to make life difficult for the rest of us. And then the argument blossomed (in my mind) because it has occurred to me before that the fuel companies don't really care about this. They've closed a lot of the smaller local stations on minor roads, presumably because they make more money that way and the resulting 'externality' (as I believe the term is - when a company makes a change that forces us, the customers to make up the difference) is that drivers have to drive about more to go to where the filling stations are, and also think ahead more to avoid my predicament. I could go on about how customer service is a myth but I won't - you get the picture. So they don't care. They can be out of stock over a public holiday of one of their two major products and it has no effect on their bottom line so we can go fuck ourselves.
All this sort of makes sense (the case for the prosecution as it were) but for the Bad Fact that of course, I shouldn't have let the fuel in the car run down that far. Surely (say the prosecution) I must have passed at least one filling station on my way home from work that Thursday? I could have filled up then. In fact I passed (let me think) nine filling stations on the hour's drive from Heathfield to Henfield along the 272. Why didn't I fill up at one of them? Simple answer - because I assumed I'd be able to fill up in Henfield ferchrissakes! Plus I was tired and I really wanted to just get home. I'd fill up on the Saturday. It doesn't seem unreasonable. But there is another Bad Fact.
But you said 'the last time this happened'. This is not the first time is it? How many times have you had to call out the RAC because you've run out of fuel Mr Law?
Erm... four times...
Four times! This is getting to be a habit.
The car seems to be able to run for ages when the gauge shows empty. I know it's not good for the engine but sometimes I run out of money or I just want to get home. One of those instances in any case was a Landie, which paradoxically, run empty before the needle hits zero. I didn't know that at the time. I free-wheeled into Hurstpierpoint only to discover that the filling station had just that week been closed down.
But all of this could be avoided if you thought ahead more and made sure you had enough money. Everybody gets tired. It's no excuse. We aren't all sitting by the roadside on a regular basis waiting for the RAC man to deliver our fuel are we?
But shouldn't the filling stations be more reliable?
That's irrelevant. You should always be prepared for these eventualities. There is no excuse. Send him down.

Of course for almost anyone else this would be the most trivial of trivial things. They might make a joke of it or have a little rant about filling stations but that would be it. For me though it becomes yet another lesson in how useless Steve is. There are no excuses. It doesn't matter how useless other people are (in this case Shell) I should have allowed for that. And it's no good laughing it off. This is the sort of thing we mean. This is why things are the way they are. Leaving everything 'til the last minute. It's just yet another example of how you can't be trusted to do things properly. It seems trivial but it isn't because it's part of a bigger picture. It's typical of the kind of person I am. 
You might have noticed there how the 'conversation' slips from first to second person and back again - from  Parent to Child - 'we' the parents, looking down on 'me' the child, wrong again, inexcusable, untrustworthy. And it's serious. It's not a trivial matter. It never is. It's not a one-off cock-up, and it's certainly not an excusable (let alone lovable) flaw. I can't brush it off. I can't say 'well that's just the way I am'. It's not right. It's just another way I am not right. There are no mitigating circumstances. I can't blame anyone else. It's not understandable. I got it wrong. Again. As usual.
Contempt, exasperation, dismissal, derision. And shame. Let's not forget shame.

to be continued...


Vincent said...

I wonder if it would help at all if the parent was kinder to the child? The child can't help it, after all.

If the parent could help lift the burden of shame . . .

Another idea occurs to me. I'm pretty sure I got it from Listening to the Third Ear: the inner experiences of a psychoanalyst by Theodor Reik. He says that when a patient was late for the session, or behaved in other ways upsetting to the analyst, it wasn't to punish the analyst but make him feel some pain in order to express powerfully & without the use of words the pain he (the patient) felt in his own life.

Another book which sprang to mind the other day (not consciously in connection with your post) is Spiritual Psychology: the twelve primary life lessons by Steve Rother. He says that we repeat the same mistakes again and again because deep down know that we need to learn from them. He's one of those who believe that we (meaning the soul) choose our life-situation before birth precisely in order to learn certain lessons. Rationally I don't believe there is individual life before birth or after death. I don't believe in a separable soul, in other words. But I don't think his assumptions, which he helpfully lists in an early chapter, need matter to his reader desirous of getting practical insights.

I quote from the blurb on the back:

"What is it, precisely, that sets certain life patterns into motion?

"Why do these patterns emerge in our own behaviours repeatedly?

"More importantly, what would happen if we could find ways of identifying this higher purpose and in so doing transform seemingly destructive patterns into positive attributes?"

Steve Law said...

That's sort of where I'm going with this. Watch this space...