Friday, July 09, 2010

Pavlov Nods

Why do I do it? Why, when confronted or (as is usually the case) passing someone I know in the street do I automatically nod hello to them? Even when I don’t like them? Some I even actively detest.

Take the other day. The sun was shining. It was lunchtime. My heart was as light and joyous as one of those Kids From Fame who like to leap and pike their well toned legs above the bonnets of stationary cars. I was making my carefree way back to work after a lunch break in the sun. I was mentally miles away. And then suddenly out of the corner of my eye I noticed a car slowing as it past me.

Eye eye, I thought. And indeed I made eye contact with the passenger in the front. The window was wound down and within an instant I could see that it was one of the dodgy, defrauding gobshites who’d got me to build web sites for them a couple of years ago (before I knew they were dodgy I hasten to add). To cut a long story short I eventually found proof of their wrong doing – which they denied – but I was strangely kicked into touch by them soon afterwards. As it was the law caught up with them soon after that and their poxy business was forcibly liquidated. I consider that to be both poetic justice and a lucky escape for me.

Anyway, my opinion of these dudes is lower than a snake’s arse.

So why oh why did I nod to the guy as he drove past? Why? Why did I only think to sneer after he was half way up the bloody road?

It’s like an automatic response. I see someone I recognize and whether I like them or not doesn’t come into it. I am compelled to acknowledge the connection, compelled to semaphore my recognition of them. I nod. Like they’re a mate. Like I’m pleased to see them.

Most of the time I’m not. Most of the time I’d rather ignore them – pointedly and blatantly. Ignore them so hard it’s totally in their face. Some, like dodgy web geezer dude I’d quite like to give the finger to.

Why do I nod like a dog in the back window of a 1980’s family saloon? I hate myself for doing it.

Especially when, as I the case of dodgy web geezer git, he turns away and ignores me in return.

Effing shithead!


37 comments:

MOTHER OF MANY said...

I know how you feel.
Last night whilst leaving Asda I passed a woman that I know and she always says Hello and smiles to me but on this occasion she smiled very sheepishly and turned and almost ran away.
Why?
I was pushing my 9 year old in her buggy/wheelchair,she has never seen me with my 9 year old before.
Are 9 year olds in buggies so scary or did I suddenly become contagious and she thought perhaps she coulde catch some kind of disability from us!
I like the term you used.....GOBSHITE!

Gappy said...

Do you think it's a British thing? Us British don't like a scene do we? Less awkward to give a perfunctory greeting perhaps. I do it too.

Steve said...

Ally: I guess some people just wear their smallmindedness on their sleeves... at least you now know her for what she really is. I think the problem you experienced was the opposite of mine though - that woman could have done with a lot more sensitivity, politeness and understanding; I could have done with exhibiting far less!

Gappy: I used to think it was a British thing. Now I'm not so sure. There seem to be plenty of people out there who have no problem at all being rude and ignorant. I think there are just certain types of people - the brilliant, wonderful people like you and me - who are just brought up to be polite at all cost and so we are that way inclined even when the situation actually calls for a healthy dose of the cold shoulder. ;-)

lunarossa said...

Thank you for writing these posts, Steve! Otherwise how could I enlgihten my very dire mornings before starting another technical manual? I think there is still a lot British politeness around and I welcome that! So please keep on smiling and nodding even at the rowdies, they might learn some manners from you. Have a nice weekend. Ciao. A.

Steve said...

Lunarossa: sadly they are not as enlightened as you and refuse to learn anything. The chancers in question have - according to my internet sources - been harried and punished by the powers that be several times for professional misconduct but refuse to change their ways. Needless to say the guy in question was driving around in a souped up BMW while I was trotting about on "shanks's pony"... and they say crime doesn't pay?!

the fly in the web said...

I think it's a class thing...part of the heritage of
'politeness costs nothing'
which was itself a relic of giving nicely at the knees if encountering the vicar in the village street, knowing that keeping the knee joints straight brought about unpleasant financial consequences.
No poor relief.

Steve said...

The fly in the web: the thought of comparing this particular scheister with a vicar is hilarious. I'd rather be toasted over the hottest flames of hell before I genuflect to that bugger!

Rol said...

You need to develop a superpower whereby nodding your head at someone causes their head to explode.

Just a thought.

Steve said...

Rol: no, you're definitely onto something there. I wonder if I can pick up a radioactive spider on eBay? Or a gamma ray chamber?

-eve- said...

Hmmmmmmm........ interesting. force of habit, I suppose. But you might content yourself with the thought that you gave him a despising nod; after all, a nod has various nuances ;-)

Steve said...

Eve: a despising nod? Ha! I like it! Thank you. You have single-handedly restored my self esteem!

the fly in the web said...

Given the role of nineteenth century vicars, there may be more in common with the shyster than you think...

Steve said...

The fly in the web: Amen to that!

libby said...

Steve..you can't help the nod..we what was brung up proper are always going to be polite..but eve is right...a nod can have many meanings..know that in your head you were telling him to eff off.

Steve said...

Libby: I know. I know. I just want him to know that!

Wanderlust said...

Steve, what would be gained by sneering at him? By you or him? I'm the same way. I don't think I could do it, regardless of how I felt about someone. I could perhaps muster a neutral look, at best. I don't think anything's lost by nodding. It's not a sign of acquiescence in my opinion. It's just an acknowledgment that you've seen him, that you recognize him (for the shifty, no good rat that he is). It truly is a social tic.

Steve said...

Wanderlust: that's very sane and egalitarian of you. But where he's concerned I can't help wishing the social tic I had was tourettes...! ;-)

Old Cheeser said...

I remember your previous posts about your website client nightmares. Take it it's the same person you're referring to?

I agree with some of the others that you're basically too decent and courteous a person to get outwardly annnoyed ... however I know what you mean about letting the sh*tty people get away with things. However (again) I don't think you should beat yourself up about it, mucker! Is this someone you have daily contact with? No. Do they figure largely in your current life? No! Did you do what you could to remedy the situation at the time? Yes! So let the stoopid pratt get on with his life and you get on with your (far superior) one!

Steve said...

OC: I need to employ you as my PA and personal sanity guru...!

Suzanne said...

You sound like a decent chap,who was brought up properly. Hindsight is a pain in the butt at times like this - If only... I wish I'd... I hate that feeling. What you have is your self-respect, and he's plainly a knob. End of.

Steve said...

Suzanne: aw, thanks. You sound like you know us both really well...! ;-)

Fran said...

Maybe because if you punch them in the face you'd get arrested?

Steve said...

Fran: I could wear a balaclava...?

Musings of a Mother said...

I do this too and I completely agree it's bloody annoying - I think it's a case where our brain engages first with 'oh I know that person' and we're nodding and smiling before we remember 'I actually hate that person'
What a lowlife that scammer was - glad you caught them out

Steve said...

Musings of a Mother: I suppose I ought to just be glad that my brain engages at all these days!

Being Me said...

A truly George Costanza moment (when he's driving home before realising... "THAT'S what I shoulda said!" in the moment, many moments ago).

See, to me, it depends what your face was doing when you nodded. If you nodded with a flat expression, then that could be read by them as "I know you and I've got your number" (even if you don't), kind of like the sort of look you would get from a crime boss. But if you nodded with a fleeting look of raised-eyebrowed "I recognise you... oh wait, you're that shifty bastard, damnit it's too late I looked friendly...", then yeah. That's awful.

I do it too, Steve. It's a sign of decency and humility, which I'd take bucketloads anyday over being shifty and so needy in my display of status that I had to drive a souped-up Beemer.

LöstJimmy said...

Don't chastise yourself for exhibiting gentlemanly conduct. Such etiquette is a sign of strength, whether or not you mean it.
Wishing you a good weekend Steve my good fellow.

Kelloggsville said...

Nodding puts you on higher ground. It says "I acknowledge that I have recognised you and I am secure in myself and assertive enough to allow you to see that". A sneer says "Hey I remember everything and still feel all knotted up about it and want to perpetuate that stress and inner anger, can you see how you still have power over me?"

So I actually think that you left the event with the upper hand :0)

Dave said...

Steve,you're probably like me, brought up in a household where manners mattered and, knowing your mum as I do she would have made you deliver them to all regardless if they happen to be scrotes like the certain one you've just mentioned.This polite cycle is hard for any decent person to break.
At work I have to regularly do this with lots of the public who you could only honestly describe as scum bags.
So.....if you do ever decide to have a Michael Douglas style 'Falling Down'moment to purge out these lower echelons of society please please ring me.

Owen said...

Maybe you could try wearing one of those heavy neck braces that people wear after automobile accidents, to prevent you from nodding at the sodding so and so's... after a while you could stop wearing it, once you'd trained away the unwanted reflex.

And you could decorate it the way Lindsay Lohan decorated her fingernail that was visible during her sentencing hearing in court the other day... that way no ambiguity, and no nod...

Mark said...

I agree. We should salivate and spit and cock our leg - surely that's what pavlov's dogs did?

Oh, but I guess they sniffed arses too.

Mmmm maybe it's bette to nod.

Steve said...

LöstJimmy: if manners maketh man you are a man, my friend, thank you.

Being Me: it is with some relief that I can see I kept my face poker-still. No emotion whatsoever. I must admit I don't think he would have read my nod as being overly friendly.

Kelloggsville: ooh, I'm liking your take on the situation a lot.

Dave: we'd need a shitload of weapons to take 'em all out. We'd be talking Matrix sized numbers. Are you free next Saturday?

Owen: a neck brace? Nice idea... but I think it will clash with the bolts...!

Mark: yep, nodding is definitely the lesser of those evils...!

Selina Kingston said...

It's because, whether you like it or not, you're a well-brought up decent guy...
Were you wearing leg-warmers by the way??!

The Crow said...

You are too good a person to let that wonker change you, so good for you for continuing to be polite. You are, after all, living your grandfather's creed.

I can provide you with the spider, Steve, but you'll have to provide the radioactivity.

Steve said...

Selina: when am I ever not? ;-)

The Crow: do they sell it on eBay?

Suburbia said...

Learnt behaviour...

Damn!

Steve said...

Suburbia: yep, and I'm too dedicated for my own good!