We don’t need to learn that, do we? It’s one of those instinctual things like using our hearts, sweating and realising a cake must be moist to be good.
Only you do. Or I do.
I had a minor altercation with a cabbie a while ago, when I was trying to photograph a rather impressive monument outside one of London’s mainline stations. To obtain a decent image, given the position of the sun I stood on a piece of cobbled ground behind a parked cab. What I hadn’t appreciated – because there were no marks hinting at such a situation – was this was a place where black cabs waited when their drivers wanted a break.
So there I am, standing on what seems to me to be a piece of scrabby open space when I hear, right behind me a toot of a horn.
I’m old enough to interpret toots. And this wasn’t a cheery ‘hi, it’s me’ or a ‘be careful, you haven’t seen me’ toot. Nope, I’d lay a pound to a penny this was a ‘shift your fat arse, granddad, I want to park’.
I half turned and waved a hand vaguely in the direction of the cab – if I’m being honest it was not the politest wave but not really rude either (at least that is the way I viewed it) – and I carried on lining up my shot. And that’s when the ‘oi, you’ began.
So I turned. I had maybe ten seconds to determine my approach. That’s when I could – perhaps should – have learned to breathe. To clear my head with a deep inhalation of oxygen.
I didn’t. Neither did he. He was my age. He thought I’d ‘flicked him a ‘V’ sign’. I thought he’d been chivying me unnecessarily. He said he was just warning me not to step back in case I bumped into him. I said I was acknowledging his presence. Who was bullshitting whom? Our language developed a fruity edge as we decried the other’s explanation for their behaviour while defending our own.
Neither of us was breathing. Neither of us was happy. Neither of us tried to empathise with the other. Neither of us showed compassion for the other or ourselves.
As I walked away, I felt an acrid burning build in the pit of my stomach. Maybe I held my own in this frank exchange of views but I knew, however I might evaluate our verbal jousting, I’d lost. I knew if I’d stepped back and smiled – if I’d apologised that I’d got in his his way – then I would have walked on feeling better. Happy with myself. He might too.
What did it matter?
Why can I not learn to breathe?