Monday, February 01, 2010

The art of swerving and dodging (no, not by Tony Blair)

When I was lad back in Wales, I loved rugby. I still do in fact, though the structure of the game has changed so much, it is hard to retain that same feeling of watching players rise through the ranks, or have allegiance to a club or representative team whose name actually means something to me - I want to support a local team - not the name of some energy drink.

But I digress - back to my childhood in a Welsh mining village.

When it comes to my love of rugby, perhaps I should clarify that statement. I loved watching rugby but not playing it. When you are playing a sport and people keep yelling, "Run with the bloody ball you gormless prat" it is quite off putting - and that was just the teachers - or what pass as teachers in a country where as far as education is concerned, time stood still in 1801.

I was a great watcher but couldn't play the game to save my life - or even my street cred. I was good at fouling other players and that did gain me some respect from the PE teacher who also taught us how to put mud into an opponents eyes during set scrums.

However, things could have been so much different. Had I uprooted and told, "those who must be respected" exactly where they could stick their, "welcome in the hillside" that men in their compulsory navy blue Marks and Spencer blazers and silver rimmed glasses, are so keen on singing, I could have been a star player. Women would have been looking at me gooey-eyed asking for my autograph, assistants at a particular local shop would actually smile and notice a customer amongst their midst (to be fair, they do notice customers, they just don't let such inconveniences interrupt their conversations with other staff or friends).

Here in my suburb we have the perfect training ground for developing the skills of those who aspire to be heavily sponsored for running with a ball in their hands. The local shopping centre.

Over the last 18 years, I have become skilled at sidestepping kids on scooters, kids on skateboards, kids running around (and changing direction without warning) while Yummy-Mummy has quality bonding time with another Yummy-Mummy, over a cup of what is little more than instant coffee with an Italian name - most of which is contained in the saucer and not the cup.

So far none have managed to trip me, bowl me over or bring me crashing to the ground. A bit like the rest of my life actually. I can swivel my hips to get past these miniature obstacles without even blinking. It's a survival technique.

Another successful "swerve and dodge" training technique is provided by those who mistakenly believe they only need one hand to push a supermarket trolley along a footpath that slopes towards the road. They start of well, but it doesn't take long for the trolley to develop a mind of its own (which is more than can be said for many local councilors) and suddenly swing sideways leaving no room for others wishing to pass - or who wish to avoid being hit by an out of control metal trolley loaded with groceries.

I have yet to conduct research to establish this theory, but I believe the, "One Handed Trolley Pushers" are likely to be the same as those found inside the supermarkets, pushing full or empty trolleys away from themselves and towards the check-out or "empty trolley" rack, regardless of who or what is in the direct line of their target, (I have even seen mothers with prams doing this walking down the sloping footpaths).

An escalator also makes a perfect piece of training equipment - especially those going down. After surviving the journey without any sudden stops thrusting you unexpectedly forward, you reach the bottom only to find two old ladies standing right at the bottom nattering about last night's win at bingo. Will they move out of the way? Oh no. You are expected to swerve and dodge - so you better learn fast if you want to get off an escalator without bringing yourself and others crashing to the ground.

Then there are the male, polo shirted yuppies' (with the collar turned up) who spend most of their working day trying without success to explain their job titles to others, and who like to be noticed. What better way to be noticed than to stand with other polo-shirted yuppies, blocking the passage of others. Actually, I would like to block their passages and have informed a few of that fact. I must admit, in this example I don't practice my side step or avoidance technique, I just stand and stare such people down until they move with a muttered half-sincere apology. I call that "psychology training".

Finally, although perhaps not much use in the sporting arena, it is important in my suburb to develop skills that allow you to avoid those who stand directly behind others at shop counters. I can be standing at an empty counter 10 meters wide, and when I turn to leave, I immediately bump into some pillock who apparently is under the impression, that unless he or she is virtually standing on the back of my heels, they wont get served. Of course, it is never their fault - it is always the fault of the person focusing on getting served and making sure their order and change are correct.

In such cases I practice my communication skills, but I wont go into that!

Wherever you may be - be safe

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