My old dad was a great proponent of turning the other cheek.
Not all the time, mind.
There were certainly occasions where he could, and would, stand his ground and fight his corner, an example being a function where a visiting overseas official from a service organisation he was involved with essentially tore strips off the assembled “colonial” audience, if you get my drift.
For one brought up with the day-to-day injustices of the class system within his homeland, this was too much for my dad, and while others squirmed in their seat at the full-on telling off, he felt obliged to rise and, in the parlance of his working-class London roots, told the visitor where to go. Tactfully, of course.
I was not made aware of this until many years later when, at his funeral, some of Dad’s mates who had been present on that night in question recalled the incident with great delight.
While some in the room had felt their role was simply to sit and accept the bollocking from head office, there were others who were pleased he had leapt to their defence.
By all accounts, Lord So and So was completely befuddled by the challenge, and presumably suitably chastened, and apologised to his hosts, profusely blaming tiredness from his long flight.
Now, I know my dad. He wouldn’t have got involved unless he’d thought it was the right thing to do. In fact, more often than not, I recall him telling me to be the bigger person - “smile to yourself” and walk away.
So, fast-forward 100 years to this week, and I’ve just been treated to a delicious helping of what we today call “karma”.
Then, I suppose the karma has actually been served to the other individual in my tale today, or rather dropped in a big icky dollop in his lap, but I have savoured the moment regardless.
So, let me explain.
The other day, I’m doing my day job on a street not far from where I live.
It’s a long street which ends in a cul-de-sac. There’s only one way in and one way out. There are lots of families with young kids on this street.
Of late, this street has experienced an influx of cars travelling up it at high speed, gathering in the cul-de-sac end for socialising etc. before speeding back down.
I can live with the socialising bit. I mean, we were all young once, weren’t we? Getting together with one’s mates was a fun part of life.
The people I was visiting the other day were telling me just that on the roadside as we stood chewing the fat during our appointment.
Unfortunately, they said, the ever-increasing number of speeding vehicles was starting to cause concern, particularly with the number of young kids now in the area.
As if on cue, a vehicle went past us at a great rate of knots, disappearing out of sight around the small bend on its way to the cul-de-sac end. It was going so fast, the three hairs I still retain on my head were almost plucked out in the backdraft.
I said farewell to my customers, who then went back inside their house.
I don’t know why, but I stood there for a minute or two and thought: “I’m going to wait for that driver to come back down and have a word.” And so I did.
Didn’t have to wait long, either. Obviously there were none of his mates up the other end, so he’d decided to look elsewhere.
I’d imagine he got something of a surprise as he rounded the small bend, gunned the engine for the final stretch back to the main road only to find a bloke who looks a lot like me standing in his hi-vis vest in the middle of the road with one hand up asking him to stop.
But stop he did. That’s when the fun started.
Obviously, you can say I was in the wrong for sticking my nose in, and maybe I was, but in my defence, part of me was thinking about the four grandkids I’ve got and how terrible it would be if one of them were to get hit by a car, and the other half of me was thinking, “Maybe this driver isn’t aware of how fast he’s going. So, maybe I’ll tell him.”
The driver - and he was really just out of school, I’d say- wound down his window and inquired as to what I was doing without saying anything, if you know what I mean. His front-seat passenger had a similar gormless, open-mouthed expression.
“Mate,” I said. “Any chance you could keep your speed down a bit up here? There’s lots of kids in this street these days and you were going pretty quick.”
And I said it just like that. Not angry. Not confrontational. Just a polite request.
It took about 30 seconds for this d***head - oops, sorry, I mean fine upstanding young gentleman - and his companion, who was also obviously a credit to humanity, to respond.
As a wave of realisation crept across his face to fill in the gaps between his unfortunate skin condition, he responded.
“**** off. You’re not the police.”
I can only assume he worked that out from the name of my company I work for being emblazoned across the hi-vis vest.
“No, I’m not,” I said calmly. “It’s just a friendly request.”
“Why don’t you mind your own business?” my new mate responded before throwing a few more expletives my way. I would write them all here, but I think I’d break the asterisk key, if you know what I mean.
As he sped off, laughing, his mate decided to get in on the act too and yelled “****** old ****!”, which I thought showed a mastery of the English language way beyond the available brain cells he had to enunciate the phrase with.
Now, this is where it gets good.
A couple of days, later I’m on a day off and I’m in town, and a bloke who I used to play football with pulls into the spot next to me in the carpark. I hadn’t seen him in years.
We get out and exchange pleasantries, and he introduces me to a young man who has emerged from the passenger side of his vehicle.
Guess who it was?
I’m sure I don’t need to wax lyrical about it, but it would be fair to say the young man’s colour faded immediately.
We shook hands, and I couldn’t resist saying I thought we might have met before.
After we’d all had a quick chat, we went about our business.
I left the young fella with a parting shot. I repeated I was sure we’d met before. It would probably come to me sometime soon.
Then, as my dad used to suggest, I just smiled to myself and walked away.