I’m generally pretty easy going, but there are some things that I can’t help getting riled about. You already know what most of them are since I tend to moan about them at length on this blog: Public crisp eaters, umbrella wielders, unnecessary health & safety precautions, political correctness… The list is extensive; if you really want a bad day, you can binge on my irritations by searching under the ‘rants’ tag, but I wouldn’t advise it!
An awful lot of them seen to stem from the behaviours of my fellow human beings, (or as I prefer to call them, ‘morons’), on public transport. Maybe it’s because I spend an awful lot of time using said transport, but mainly because some people seem to lose any cognisance of the existence of the rest of the world once they board.
By far the most irritating of these bottom feeders in the sea of humanity are those who lack the basic understanding that inanimate objects, such as bags, briefcases, coats and miscellaneous pocket trash are not people and therefore do not require a seat of their own on a crowded train. My particular favourites are those who manage to occupy up to four separate seats and a whole table, thus ensuring their backpack, laptop, coffee cup, cheese and ham baguette, shopping bags, coat, cardigan, phone and paperback copy of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ are comfortably accommodated, unlike the throng of annoyed and exasperated fare-paying, ticket-holding, courteous throngs of commuters forced to stand, tightly-packed, crotch to arse in the aisles, being studiously and pointedly ignored by the happily seated jerk and their assorted, also happily seated, paraphernalia!
The problem here is compounded by that peculiarly British quality of seething outrage combined with utter disbelief at the situation, but a complete inability to make any sort of fuss. If we do manage to stutter the ubiquitous ‘is this seat taken?’, it’s invariably uttered in a tone of self-deprecating, embarrassed humility almost as if we expect the response to be, ‘Yes, can’t you see my newspaper is sitting there!’ That never happens, of course, but the withering look, followed by the grudging and labored clearing away of the offending article is just as damning, and the triumph of claiming what should be rightfully ours anyway, is somewhat dampened by the uneasy and hostile atmosphere we’ll have to contend with for the remaining journey.
It feels a little bit Wild West to me – the whole process of staking a claim for a choice bit of real estate, then making your territory and fending off imposters is probably a throwback to more primal times and it really does communicate a powerful message about status. Whether we’re talking train seats, parking spaces or prime spots by the window at the coffee shop, it’s a real game of one-upmanship and power play that we can become involuntarily drawn into, against our will – and whether we like it or not, Darwin says we have to play!
Inevitably, it happens in SL too, often very subtly and beneath the surface. It can also be quite blatant – the bad neighbourly encroachment of objects from an adjoining land parcel; those who have their own personal spot on the dance floor; the greeter who attempts to shame you into tipping generously and often; those who openly flout rules, almost daring you to say something about it; the griefers who get away with creating mayhem, seemingly impervious to authority; the sneaks that treat your private hideaways as if they were public property; the cliques that ignore any attempt to be friendly; those who summon you to their presence with unasked for and unwanted summary teleports…
All these, and more, are often (although not always) the outward signs of a subliminal power play, orchestrated to assert dominance and somebody else’s hierarchy over our own wants and needs. We’re all familiar with being on both sides of that particular equation, and we tend to think of it as peculiarly SL thing, but it isn’t – it’s just human nature, distilled and compounded by the lens of the virtual world. The Wild West for the digital generation.
So, what do you do if you find somebody staking their claim on your own piece of virtual real estate? Well, if you ask me, the answer is obvious: It’s that Wild West mentality…
I shoot first, ask questions later!
I am just a cowboy lonesome on the trail
A starry night, a campfire light
The coyote call, and the howling winds wail
So I ride out to the old sundown
Thin Lizzy – Cowboy Song