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- Posted on Oct 29th 2008 12:00PM by Sara Quin
This Week's Theme: RAGE
This summer I was sitting in Parc Lafontaine in Montreal, reading a book. I was trying to ignore my grass allergy when my attention was drawn to a man wearing a tight white "running outfit." I'm not sure what one actually calls this sort of outfit, but it involved the type of spandex shorts I've only ever seen on triathletes at the Beijing Olympics, or adorning my preteen body in 1992. Of course my "running shorts" used to be fluorescent, whereas Olympians seem to favor colors that absorb the embarrassing pee puddles that accumulate when running, swimming and biking for hours, all while ingesting liters of electrolytes.
Anyway, this man was wearing his white exercise clothes while walking three miniature dogs. He paused at a pond's edge, taking great care in bathing all three of the dogs in the still water (water that no doubt was filled with urine!). It made for a strangely touching and bizarre vignette. Losing track of Mr. White Bike Shorts and his pocket dogs, I then witnessed a quaint 1950s-esque family enjoying a picnic, and delighted in my feeling of bewilderment at their old-fashioned clothes and obvious gender roles. The dad with pocket protector and masculine protective gaze, lording over the simpler plump wife with polka dot dress. Their boy and girl plucking flowers and grass, while nibbling on prepared food from a basket. For real.
So, fast-forward. The next scene was difficult to translate with my piddly French skills. However, it went something like this:
Pug dog lurches towards the daughter of the Fifties father, attempting to eat out of the palm of the naive child. Father lunges at the pug and throws his body over his daughter as if she has just been attacked by a wolf. The owner of the pug (in white spandex) gracefully scoops the dog into his bulging muscles and the pug disappears into his owner's chiseled armpit, while the other two miniature dogs stare with boredom at the picnic scene. The Fifties father proceeds to rip the dog owner a new a--hole, pointing furiously back and forth between the culprit and his family. Building up steam, he becomes so animated and aggressive that the dog owner becomes less apologetic, and begins to throw back heated words of his own. Eventually the police are called, and walking off with an Olympian stride, the dog owner disappears into the park, leaving the dad in a suspended state of rage.
I could see that his wife's attempt at consoling his rage -- while his children pretended to still be having carefree picnic fun -- was met with a stubborn refusal to cool down. I became increasingly uncomfortable as his blanket and family seemingly became a magnet for unleashed animals. Jerking with terror every time a curious dog would bounce by his established territory, the father seemed unable to let it go. Eventually they packed up their picnic and skulked off in fear. I was shocked at his uncontrolled rage and hostility towards the miniature dogs and the spandex-clad owner. Clearly this man had something ugly bubbling underneath his surface.
I am reminded of this man often, mainly when I am traveling in airports. I witness the worst of people spiral out in verbal outbursts, and the physical abuse of children in long lines at fast food chains. Airport security turns even the most well-natured, look-on-the-bright-side type of folk into sarcastic and sneering s---heads (myself included). I'm shocked at how angry and argumentative I become with authority figures that have the power to ban me from flying for life! Wielding unchecked power and the frustration that comes from being abused daily while earning a minimum and unlivable wage, some of these people seem to take sadistic enjoyment out of driving all of us crazy. Nothing feels worse than yelling at a person in uniform while standing in stocking feet, holding your pants up and trying to manage your belt back through the loops, while your computer and other tangled belongings are swabbed for bomb residue.
Sitting here in my apartment, I realize I would claim to feel rage almost daily. It is important to acknowledge that I face an unprecedented number of irritants, both human and environmental, because of the radical amount of travelling necessary in my line of work. I suppose it only matters how I've learned to channel that feeling, and not get carried away trying to avoid the blood boiling circumstances frequently experienced when I am "on the road." I generally turn into a rambling motor mouth of backhanded anecdotes when I feel provoked and full of anger at an airport. Nothing gets a bigger laugh than dismantling meaningless security measures over triple shots of espresso in an airport at 7am when surrounded by other irritable travelers.
The only time I've been reduced to violence in a rage-filled moment was 5 years ago on my 23rd birthday. I was being taken for dinner at a vegetarian restaurant by a dear friend -- my girlfriend at the time. We all wore birthday hats, and I was doing my best to hide the nagging depression I always feel when people are forced to lavish me with special attention. As we bounded down the street, a few drunken boys started to harass us. We ignored them and eventually they resorted to name calling, running up ahead and then cornering us outside of the restaurant. We riffed back and forth, and suddenly one of the guys ripped the birthday hat off of my girlfriend's head, the elastic band snapping at the force of his sudden movement.
I felt rage.
Before I could stop myself, I kicked with all my force, the toe of my shoe ripping into the shin of the birthday-hat-ripping a--hole's left leg. He was shocked. I was terrified. We quickly rushed into the restaurant and once the scare of it passed, we spent much of the night recounting the kick and the pride we felt in standing up for ourselves. Maybe the only difference between me and the Fifties dad with the pocket protector is that I haven't pre-emptively sharpened the toe of my shoe, always expecting the worst and preparing for imagined dangers, such as miniature dogs or birthday party spoilers lurking around every corner.