So, I was standing outside the Tesco store when a woman, probably in her mid forties, walked over with a trolley and stared at me. How should I describe her? Well, let’s say that she was somewhat unprepossessing in the matter of looks and general appearance, and had the air of a person whose IQ if compared with the scale of the average human lifespan would probably equate to something approaching adolescence. And then she spoke:
‘Have you seen a woman walk past ’ere with long blond ’air down to her bum?’
I thought it an odd question from somebody with whom even the briefest acquaintance seemed highly undesirable, and then she continued:
‘Only I thought she might have already taken a trolley.’
My mental response was typical of me. Roughly, it ran:
Madame, your presence in my space is less than welcome. Please go away.
I didn’t say that, of course; I merely answered ‘no,’ whereupon she walked away of her own volition. And then the Lady of the Muses tapped me on the shoulder.
‘You just failed your first test.’
‘The test of your resolution to be a better person. Is it the act a better person to judge a fellow human pejoratively just because she’s dumb and ugly, and to reject her presence out of hand simply for so being?’
Did I say she was dumb and ugly?
‘Certainly you did; you just wrapped it up in ridiculously fancy language.’
That’s because I’m a writer.
‘No it isn’t, it’s because you’re a failure at being a better person. Think again and find something positive to say about her.’
And so I thought, and came up with:
If she was capable of reasoning that both she and her companion might have collected a trolley unbeknownst to one another, and might therefore be possessed of a redundant article which will have to be returned, maybe she has a reasonable level of mental acuity after all and is blessed with a higher IQ than the 15 or so which I surmised.
The Lady of the Muses seemed unimpressed with my effort, but at least she discharged me and allowed me to proceed to my car. I was carrying my backpack in my hand when I opened the door, and as I did so the bag swung around and hit me precisely in that part of my abdomen which is still exhibiting post-operative discomfort. So then it struck me that if I’m to be treated to an act of instant karma anyway, maybe there’s no point in trying to be a better person.
I suppose it’s more likely that it was just the Lady’s gentle form of admonishment, so maybe I’d better try harder instead.