I am not going to get off the path. It is a stone path across a patch of grass, and there is a bend in it. I will move to the edge of the path, and beyond that the person coming towards me can get out of my way. This has led a man to physically threaten me- he read me as male, and was rebuked by a passer-by who read me as female. I left them expostulating at each other.

The barber at Tarbert was indignant with American service personnel at Dunoon. They expect you to get off the pavement for them. He would not walk in the gutter for anyone. This might just have been one incident, even one incident which he had heard of rather than experienced, and here am I telling you forty years later, one small piece of evidence of American arrogance and why we should not tolerate their bases here.

It seems we sometimes move equally, and sometimes one person defers to the other; and we judge each other to see which should defer, as strangers, in an instant. At St Pancras station a tall, beautiful, and beautifully dressed woman said “What is Wrong with you!?” when I did not move aside for her. I was irked about something else, and suddenly could not be bothered stepping aside- had she not, I would have walked into her. I dislike her rudeness, and love her self-confidence.

Once, I moved towards a wall to pass a man, he went towards the same wall. It was a bend in the corridor, the person closer to the wall would walk less far, so arguably the person further from the wall would be deferring. We stopped about a foot apart, blocking each others’ way, and though either could have stepped aside neither wanted to. We said nothing. I was perplexed, perhaps he was amused. I had been working on a poem, and got out my notebook to consider possible wording, but he looked at what I was writing so I put it away. Eventually I stepped about a foot aside and pushed past, pressing him against the wall with my shoulder.

Are you judging me for this? Oh! What a horrible person! I am uncomfortable about the memory, I would like to imagine I was not quite that petty.

Instant judgement. How can I show I am the higher status animal, and they should get out of my way? Clothes are a big part of this, and I am in an old cheap nylon jacket, comfortable for cycling but not presentable. I may be more educated than they are, and have a greater general knowledge- this is important- but you can’t really show it in the second you have, under judgment.

I could glare at them, like the world number one starer and six times world champion S. Spasky- particularly dramatic moment at 1.47 in this video

Or I could catch their eyes and smile. That might work.

9 thoughts on “Defer!

  1. Clare I am finally past the point of caring what an ignorant thinks of me. You are highly intelligent and literate and you should be able to disarm with your wit. I think the most important thing is to clearly show defiance and if someone is bold faced then you should too. You have every right to claim your space!


    • Today I found myself shouting “Get that man out of here now.” repeatedly, until he was ushered out the front door. Someone tried to close the door of the room I was in so I could not see where “that man” was, but I would not let him.


  2. Interesting Clare, I could suggest deferring gracefully and with a gracious smile to someone’s sense of superiority. However I can give way when driving and sometimes I don’t! My husband, now and another driver were stubborn and I got some whiplash from it. He is a stubborn man but I am a stubborn women. And sometimes defiant. We once read an article about quakerly driving! Perhaps it is a challenge as to how we disarm those with arrogance and aggression.


    • I know the words. When confronting, always let the other back down with good grace- take as much care they save face as they would. If others let me in while commuting, I noticed I was more likely to give way, so imagined my own good deeds might have similar good effects rippling out. And today I was enraged.

      Liked by 1 person

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