"You know the pie warmer at work?"
And so begins another evening of scintillating conversation in Casa Del Spacey.
Apparently, one of DickFingers' colleagues was sacked recently for putting his dick in the pie warmer. A little harsh, you may think, especially since the pie warmer was allowed to keep her job, but that's nepotism for you.
The dialogue continued as she went through her post-work routine of leaving her shit all over the house and changing into her favourite pig-onesie. Half heard snippets of gossip shouted from all over the house to where I was stood standing in the kitchen, throwing food on a plate and pouring boiled water into mugs while my dogs followed her from room to room, noisily offering her their opinions, giddily dancing before her and making sure she didn't steal anything.
Eventually the dogs tired of her and, television warming up in the corner and arses on the settee, we settled down for what was left of the evening.
Our conversation meandered in that meandering way it has a habit of meandering. From pie warmer we worked our way through the events and issues of the day. Some topics, the less important ones like the economy, whether or not a politician is lying (He or she invariably is, whatever they say) or the war on terror given but a brief moment of air time. Some other, more important but still not that important, topics would occasionally branch off from the mundanity of the mumblings that preceded them, seamlessly (Though occasionally tenuously) blending into one and other and taking the conversation in some very unexpected directions.
People think idle chatter is wasting time. They sneer when they describe people as "stood around gossiping" as if as if they were lazy or workshy. They may very well be, but that's not why they're gossiping. They're interacting, reaching out and being a part of someone else's existence, exchanging news and views, maybe even laughing. Time you enjoy wasting is never time wasted.
It's becoming ever harder to strike up a conversation with a stranger. Suspicion and mistrust lie all around. As many of you know, I try to undertake random acts of kindness as frequently as I can. This, too, is subject to the same twisted view of reality, skewed by our suspicion of strangers and spoiled by our worldly cynicism. Long ago I gave up offering to help old ladies carry their bags up the hill from Tesco, the fear in their eyes as I loomed over them, grinning my grinniest grin, covered in tattoos and, with hand outstretched, offered to bear their load for them in my thick Salfordian accent was heart breaking.
Some people, it would seem, are less offensive in appearance and, like the young man I'm about to mention, don't give elderly folk the heebie jeebies.
The chap in question is a young man that works in my local branch of Aldi. He was snapped by a lady from the chip shop as he wandered along, slowly, hand in hand with an elderly gentleman whose shopping bag he carried. The lady from the chippy put the photo of the smiling youth and his equally smiley elderly companion on Facebook along with a description, probably expecting a few shares around the local community and maybe a few "likes" to show the lad he was appreciated. In fact, it went viral. People from all over the world were praising young Christian Trouesdale on various social networks and even mainstream media. Caught in the act of a simple act of kindness, unaware he was about to become famous for nothing more than being nice and to bring a smile to tens of thousands of internet users all around the globe.
Eventually, of course, just as the cream rises to the top of the milk, the dickheads rise to the top of the internet.
Almost lost among the sea of nice words were a few sharks of derision, the basis of these being that it was nothing special and how shitty must the world have become that we should celebrate this one, measly, little act of a do-gooder. (I hate that doing good can be used against you, what fucking chance does that give us?) I'm sure Christian never expected gratitude from anyone other than Bill, the shopper he helped, and being an eighteen year old lad he's almost certainly suffering quite some embarrassment given all the attention. Hopefully he'll recognise any of the negative comments he comes across as nothing more than ridiculous cynicism.
The point these people are making is that we should all be doing stuff like this as it is, and that this occasion was remarkable for the fact that it was remarkable, but that's not the case.
It was always remarkable, but it needed to be remarked upon. By a lady from the chippy. Remarked upon, photographed and shared. It was nothing special, but nice, and it made a change from hearing about eighteen year olds puking up outside NightBar or being pregnant.
The mistake these moaners make is poo-pooing that single random act of kindness. Yes, it doesn't happen enough and yes, some other people are proper bastards. But don't let that stop you appreciating the good ones. Don't be afraid to smile in the street and acknowledge all those tiny little acts of kindness you see everyday, those acts that sometimes get taken for granted, that don't get photographed, Instagramed or Tweeted. Those people, the one helping the young mother lift her buggy from the bus or the bloke helping the old lady to pick up the shopping that she's just dropped, they're not trying to impress anyone, they're not expecting a reward, they're just being nice. They get rewarded by the spring in their step and the self-satisfied swagger as they continue on their way living their own lives. You know this to be true because you, I'm sure, have done a lot of nice stuff yourself.
When I worked supporting adults with severe Autism, one thing we had to deal with was what we referred to as "behaviours". Some service users smear faeces. some spit in your face, some become violent, either toward those around them or themselves in the form of very distressing self harm and some may simply rock and cry. (In the name of balance, I'd just like to point out that, although every one of the men I cared for exhibited severe "behaviours", those weren't what defined them. The child like wonder, the lack of cynicism, the loving, caring natures. No matter how severe the behaviours exhibited during a shift, no matter how much poo I'd cleaned up or whether I'd been kneed in the nuts hard enough to turn a testicle upside down, I always left work with a smile and never once dreaded going back. Oh, and my apologies for this extended use of parenthesis.)
Their behaviours, just like your behaviours (bad moods, irritability, theft), occur for a reason. It's a form of communication and one any good support worker needs to listen to. It's not always easy, but once you've built a relationship you know when a behaviour is about to raise its head and you've a chance to change the environment, remove whatever is disturbing them or help them make that cup of tea they want. Maybe even throw in a biscuit.
What you mustn't do is acknowledge the behaviour. Refuse to discuss why you're on your hands and knees cleaning his body waste off a skirting board, why your voice is several octaves higher than before his well aimed knee lifted you off your feet or why you're on the phone to maintenance requesting a window be replaced. You just move on, write it in the daily log and realise that it happened because you missed the signals, you didn't listen. His communication methods are limited, listen to him better in the future.
Of course, if you're any good at the job, behaviours should become rarer over time. Not because you ignore the act but because you focus on others. You shower praise on your ward whenever and wherever he does something "socially acceptable". Walking to the park without shouting any swear words in response to the abuse someone shouted at him, when he apologisies to someone he's upset and whenever he's just in a happy mood.
When a kid's "playing up" we say he or she is doing so to get attention and most of us, quite rightly, ignore it. We praise their good behaviour and ignore their bad, and it works.
Unless we're talking about that little bastard that was booting the back of my seat on the 575 all the bloody way into Bolton. That kid needs a slap.
All around us, people are doing nice things. Lovely little acts of kindness. At the same time, people are being pricks, and it's these pricks that get the attention. When a kid wants Kudos what will he do? His communication methods are limited and, remember, kids are lazy little buggers. The line of least resistance is always going to be their chosen course and if it's easier to get a bit of attention by shouting abuse at a chap with Autism on his way to the park where he'll slap his carer and be forgiven then that's the path they'll tread.
But if they can be praised all over the world for doing something nice, attain fame by being kind, be trusted and liked by strangers near and far just as easily, then surely that's a good thing?
Hopefully, a few more fame hungry teenagers obsessed with the pursuit of the celebrity lifestyle that is dangled before their noses on reality television shows and appears so tangible might take note. Maybe their hunger will lead to increasingly delightful acts of love, generosity and altruism. They might engage in one-upmanship, constantly trying to outdo their fellow Snapback wearers (I love hats, I'm never without one, but Snapbacks? For fucks sake, kids.) in the hope that the lady in the chippy has her iPhone to hand...
...and isn't too busy scrubbing the pie warmer.