Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The things I have to put up with...

Coming back down to earth from the creation of fantasy universes and the like, back down to the level of the insanity I have to put up with from people everyday.

I'm a Buddhist and we have this thing called the 8-fold way, which is:
1. Right view,
2. Right intention,
3. Right speech,
4. Right action,
5. Right livelihood,
6. Right effort,
7. Right mindfulness and
8. Right concentration

So, after many years of trying I finally managed to get a job which fullfills the 'Right Livelihood' part of the path. I'm working as a street sweeper, which means I get up early everyday, have breakfast, bicycle to work by 7 a.m. and then walk along a set route for seven and a half hours (plus an unpaid hour for lunch) each day, picking up litter, keeping the streets clean and safe. The job is completely ethical. I have to remove litter, broken glass, dog's muck etc., keeping the way clear, clean and safer for the public. I also sort the litter into two bags, recycle or non-recycle. I earn a minimum wage which in Britain is pretty good and provides me with just enough to live and pay my bills. I give £15 a month to charity by direct debit. That's 5 different charities: Oxfam, British Red Cross, Sight Savers International, N.S.P.C.C. and R.S.P.C.A. £3 to each one, totalling £15 a month in all. This amounts to approximately two percent of my income after tax and National Insurance or a larger percentage if I calculate it after rent, TV licence and Council Tax.
So I feel I'm doing the most ethical, right livelihood, job I possibly could. Environmentally friendly, socially responsible and all the good things.
I try very hard to get this Buddhist thing right. I don't eat meat, fish or dairy. My diet and clothing are basically vegan except that I eat free range eggs. I don't drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or take drugs. I'm not a pacifist but I'm reasonably non-violent, I mean I would never hit anybody unless they started on me first.
So it's a mystery to me why I have to put up with such utter crap from people all the time.
For instance I've been arguing with shop owners for about 25 years on the issue of carrier bags. From the 1980s onward I've been telling shop owners I neither want nor need a bag but I still run into opposition. To this very day I get shop assistants in Sainsburys trying to put my vegan food into an unwanted carrier bag. I keep having the same argument with them over and over again. After 25 years I'm getting pretty sick and tired of it.
Then there's the finger-licking and the coughing in the hand trick. For years I've been refusing to allow my food items to be handled by an assistant who has ritualistically LICKED HER FINGER to put as many germs and bacteria as possible onto each item. I refuse to accept that filthy, dirty, unhygienic gesture from people. Then, when I've complained to the supervisor and got my food items handled by someone who doesn't lick her finger and put her spit onto everything I'm able to pay and get the hell out the stupid shop. But the next time go in they'll try the other little Sainsburys trick, which is coughing ostentatiously into the hand before picking up the food item and transferring their germs by that method. Again I complain. Today in Sainsburys the shop assistant defended her action of coughing into her hand before reaching for the carton of soya milk with the words: 'It won't make any difference anyway because you probably have more germs on you because you're only a street sweeper anyway love.' This is the sort of crap I have to put up with from people on a day-to-day basis.
I've got an IQ of 160, I'm an ex-member of Mensa, I've got an honours degree in fine art...... I'm trying to develop the patience of a saint but, since I don't happen to be a saint, it's hard work.

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