May the punishment fit the crime

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My husband hides his mother’s chopping board in his sock drawer for safekeeping.

Soon after his mother’s death, this chopping board found it’s way into our house and we used it for a time until one day my husband realised, it was wearing away.

All those years of use, close to one hundred years, and he decided the board was past its use-by date, but needed preserving.

It’s been a ‘temporary’ resting place for the past ten years or so, at the bottom of the sock drawer until one day when we leave this place and my husband will most likely pass the board onto one or other of his daughters or grandchildren as an heirloom.

I hope they appreciate its significance.

All the loaves of bread that have been chopped on this board; all the onions sliced and diced, all the meat slivered.

Which brings me to another matter of less significance but a new understanding for me this week – at least it’s something I’d never really considered before though looking at it now, I’m amazed I have not.

The other day, my youngest daughter still at home, asked that we keep aside one chopping board to be used exclusively for the chopping of fruit. This way the watermelon does not get infused with the taste of onion.

An excellent idea and one we have now put in place.

And for more significant events this week, I went to post a letter one day, and pulled my car up at the edge of the red post box in a ‘no standing’ zone.

I know it’s against the law, but I had only intended to stop as long as it took to slip the letter into the box.

As I leapt out of my car, letter in hand, a man stopped at the lights in the middle lane on the road, and well clear of my car, which I’d parked alongside at the front of a long row of cars just before the traffic lights. He had his side windows down and called out to me.

‘You fuck head.’  He repeated this several times for good measure on the top of his lungs. ‘You fuck head. Can’t you read the sign?’

Of course I could.

I half apologised, ‘Only posting a letter,’ but he didn’t hear.

My fellow driver, of the shiny white ute, with tools poking out the back, seemed to have found an excellent opportunity to let off steam or get rid of whatever awful feelings assailed him by passing them onto me.

‘You fuck head,’ he repeated several more times and I had the urge to ask him, was he so pure. Had he never once stopped at a no standing zone for two minutes to drop off a child; post a letter; use his phone?

Had he never sinned?

But it was pointless, and the lights changed in the time it took him to hurtle more abuse, to drive off, and for me to post my letter.

I live not far from this letterbox and as I pulled into my driveway minutes later, I could still see his car in the distance ahead, stopped at the next set of lights and wondered whether he felt any better.

Certainly I felt worse. Bad feelings that come back to me even now as I write. Like someone has tipped a bucket of shit over my head.

But that’s the intention, isn’t it?

And I can’t really complain, can I? Because I broke the law.

All of which leads me to ponder the significance of discrimination.

Not all crimes and misdemeanours are the same, not all deserve to go to the chopping block.

From the safe bubble of his car, this man saw fit to pass judgement on me because I was in the wrong.

Or was it because I’m a woman? A soft target?

On the other hand, this man might be one of those obsessives who hate people who don’t abide by the law to the absolute letter.

Somehow I doubt this.

I suspect it’s more like the sight of me, choosing to do something so outrageous as to stop where I should not stop, infuriated him, and he became the self-righteous parent who feels better passing all his unwanted feelings onto the errant one.

Self righteous in his arrogance, while I cringed under the weight of his abuse.

Needless to say, I won’t park there again.

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8 Comments on May the punishment fit the crime

  1. Jim Murdoch
    March 19, 2017 at 5:38 pm (2 months ago)

    I don’t think my mother ever owned a chopping board. She may have but I have no memory of it. I can remember bowls and cups, spoons and scales but no chopping board. The only thing I think I kept from my mother’s kitchen is a soup spoon. It’s a nice spoon, not too big. I doubt I’ll pass it on to my daughter for safekeeping. She has to take the SylvaC rabbits though; she knows that; that’s non-negotiable. The rabbits were the only things to survive my parents’ marriage unscathed. Not a chip, not a scratch, not a blemish. Incredible.

    I’m not sure how I feel about the letter of the law. The Bible’s full of laws. A good six hundred as best I can remember. They were laws designed for another time but they cast a long shadow. So I grew up in a world that was more law-conscious than most of my peers. As such even petty rules I was reluctant to break no matter how nonsensical they clearly were. But I soon got over that. I suppose that was the thin edge of the wedge for me.

    I do understand why we have laws—they go hand in fist with order—but I’ve always been irritated when laws change. One night such-and-such is a criminal act and the next day it’s not or vice versa. I can’t help think about the bloke who having just fled Egypt and crossed the Red Sea planned to marry his sister as soon as things settled only to be told once Moses came down from the mountain that that was now a capital offence. For 2500 years it had been okay but now it was wrong. Go figure.

    I remember when I first read about Javert’s fanatical pursuit of Valjean. I couldn’t get my head round it. Time on this planet is fleeting and who’s going to waste a lifetime chasing down a man over a loaf of bread? Ah, but it’s the principle of the thing. Well, sod that for a game of soldiers. I suppose you should be grateful the man in the ute isn’t still sitting outside your house still hurling abuse at you. I actually think part of his problem might be jealousy: SHE gets to break the law with impunity but (because of my daft principles) I can’t and that’s not fair so I’m going to throw a hissy fit because I’m powerless to do anything else.

    Reply
    • Elisabeth
      March 19, 2017 at 6:47 pm (2 months ago)

      You might be right, Jim. This bloke might have resented my hubris in parking in this way. I never got to ask.

      I can’t imagine getting by without a chopping board, like your mother, but come to think on it, I can’t remember chopping boards from my childhood either. Maybe we chopped directly on the bench but that doesn’t seem right. I shall investigate this further. Thanks, Jim.

      Reply
  2. Karen C
    March 19, 2017 at 7:10 pm (2 months ago)

    I often contemplate the ‘letter of the law’ in comparison to the ‘spirit of the law’. A law is a law and when broken it is black and white. But aren’t laws made for a reason? For the safety and well-being of society? There are times when, in the spirit of the law, a law must be broken for the sake of expediency and even for safety. Such as when I speed (62kph) in order to clear a bus or a truck that if I was to obey the letter of the law, my car would only create a traffic hazard by blocking said vehicles. The more distance between vehicles the less likely there is to be an accident.
    But I’m probably wrong.

    Reply
    • Elisabeth
      March 19, 2017 at 10:19 pm (2 months ago)

      I’m sure you’re right here, Karen, and my breaking of the law did not have to do with safety, merely with convenience for me. If I had not stopped there and then, I’d have needed to travel around elsewhere to find another post box. Did you know, they’re cutting post boxes out these days?
      Still that’s no excuse.
      My thought here has more to do with a possible overreaction to my misdemeanour than the fact of it.
      Funny how much we can get caught up in the wrongs and rights of these things.
      Thanks, Karen.

      Reply
      • Karen C
        March 21, 2017 at 7:56 pm (2 months ago)

        I guess I went off on a tangent, Elisabeth. I was trying to express that pragmatism gets lost in the fight when someone has a bad day, which is obviously what brought on this man’s outburst.
        Wouldn’t you love to tail people like these just to find out where there warts are?

        Reply
        • Elisabeth
          March 22, 2017 at 3:44 pm (2 months ago)

          Yes, indeed Karen. It reminds me of some of the researchers who go behind the scenes to find out more on the identity of actual trolls online. Their warts become obvious.

          Reply
  3. Louise Allan
    April 3, 2017 at 4:22 pm (2 months ago)

    It would rattle me, too. Once, when a truck was blocking the entrance to the car wash, I asked the driver to move. Instead, he told me to, ‘Wash your car yourself, you fat, lazy bitch.’ When I kept walking and pretended I didn’t hear, he kept repeating it, still calling it out even as I climbed back in my car with the windows up. I was a little rattled, I must say, not that I let it show.
    These people who, as you say, have to dump shit on everyone else. You just have to rely on karma and laugh!

    Reply
    • Elisabeth
      April 5, 2017 at 10:39 am (2 months ago)

      The only comfort here Loise, is that the awful feelings dumped onto you pass, even as the memories don’t. Thanks.

      Reply

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