Sunday, 4 September 2011


On a quieter than usual Sunday afternoon in the village the sounds of two women screaming obscenities at one another caused everyone to stop.  Locals are used to the sounds of the local "colourful" character shouting in the streets, but this was more energetic, higher pitched and backed by intention.  I was going into the bakery and could see them, toe to toe, nose to nose.  I went into the shop.  It sounded dangerous, right on the point of escalation.  Then one of the women walked past me.  She was visibly shaken but was walking, not running, and facing straight ahead.  She looked like she was going home to get something or at least to make a plan.

I don't know what their dispute was about.  I don't know if they knew each other, or if it was a random act of rage.  I've seen a few of these in public - always in daylight.  They are striking, because usually our emotional range in public stays within a narrow band.  We may play outside this band when behind closed doors, but generally there's not much adrenalin pushing us to fight as we go about our business in the world.

It reminded me of a road rage incident between a taxi driver and a civilian driver of a big four wheel drive.  It was in the access drive of an inner city hospital where there were lots of cars coming and going as they picked up passengers, dropped them off, or stood briefly while they went into the pharmacy to collect prescriptions.  I was standing on the street waiting for a tram.  I watched unfolding events keenly, imagining I would one day be required as a witness in court.

The taxi had dropped a passenger off, pulled out of his park and was waiting for the traffic to ease so he could enter the main road.  Just as he eased out of the park, the big four wheel drive was coming up to the same spot, much too fast for where he was.  He had to slam on his brakes when he saw there was a taxi in front of him.  The driver of the four wheel drive got out of his vehicle, opened the door of the taxi and pulled the driver out by the shoulders, wrestling with him.

It was clear the taxi driver had been caught completely off guard.  He was a skinny little man who looked terrified.  He didn't want trouble.  He didn't even know what the trouble was. he was just on the hunt for his next job.  A male passer-by noticed the brouhaha and intervened.  He managed to peaceably separate the two men and get them both back into their cars.  I admired his willingness to intervene and the skill and effectiveness with which he did it.  It can be a dangerous decision these days, sometimes meaning the difference between life and death.

With both drivers back behind their wheels, the taxi driver nosed forward to survey the traffic.  The big bully four wheel drive rammed into the back of the taxi.  The taxi recklessly pulled out into the traffic and sped off, followed by the four wheel drive, right on his tail.

I wondered what happened next.  Did the taxi duck and weave and lose the four wheel drive?  Or did the four wheel drive stalk the taxi like a stealth fighter, following relentlessly until the taxi HAD to stop?  My imagination stopped there.  I couldn't bear to consider the possibilities.  I read the paper over the next days, certain I would hear of the death or beating of a taxi driver.

The level of stress that some people carry around with them (like the driver of the four wheel drive) must be extraordinary.  What must their lives be like?  On the other hand, as an actress, I know how thrilling it can be to go outside my normal emotional range and get the adrenalin surge.  I'd love to intervene too, but it's not a sensible thing for a woman to do.  Not safely anyway.

If I was to see the driver of the four wheel drive again, I'd love to slap a "remember to breathe" sticker on his back window.  Just to see what would happen.

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