Opening Lives: I’ve learned to turn some rage into useful biofuel

It was a way of telling people the chaos of life, the sheer bastardy of a bean spatula could be addressed by the courts and all would be well, writes Colm O'Regan

Rage — it comes to me easily. Over the years I’ve learned to turn some rage into useful biofuel. If someone is an arsehole, I put them in an ‘arsehole folder’ in my mind and hope that I’ll eventually write enough fiction to shamelessly plunder their arsholery and build a character.

There’s obviously a limit to that though. There is only so much room in any plot for people who don’t salute you after you let them out onto the road in front of you or let them go ahead in the queue at the checkout with their two cans of Galahad and a protein bar. I’ll only get a few hundred words out of people who hang their dog’s shite in a bag from a tree. But still it’s a start.

Rage in traffic has been managed through podcasts. If you’re stuck on the approach to the Lee tunnel and the light sequence is FAR TOO GENEROUS to people heading to East Cork and THERE IS NO LOVE WHATSOEVER for those coming in on the M8 (I think the traffic light thinks we’re all Dubs and should be kept out), you need to do something to keep things in perspective.

Try listening to a history podcast. Let Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History tell you that the ancient Persians would punish those who revolted against their rule by putting them in a flat bottomed boat with a lid on it that allowed the head and arms to stick out and then cover them in honey and milk and let them be eaten alive – literally – by whatever kind of midges they have in the Fertile Crescent. This can either remind you that life’s not so bad now, or you can fantasise it as a punishment for whoever is right up your rear end with Donegal reg on a continuous white line road.

But that still leaves a lot of opportunity for rage. My weakness is rage at the behaviour of inanimate objects: The spoon in the sink that sends the water from the tap all over the townland. The spatula in the bean saucepan that overbalances for no reason and turns into a mangonel, throwing beans onto my only clean shirt. The keys that were hiding. The car park ticket that falls down between the driver’s seat and the handbrake. The pea packet that insisted on offering me the wrong corner to be grabbed, thus allowing time for all the peas to escape out of the open top and hide with sweetcorn, the fish finger dust and one burger bun on the frozen swamps of the bottom of the freezer.

All of these moments send me BERESK. When children arrived, I tried to swallow the rage rather than treating them to a full tantrum but that can’t be good. You can’t really lecture toddlers about the importance of being calm, if they’ve seen you in your pyjamas swearing at a broken zip. At times like this I look around for solidarity and thankfully there are plenty of instances of other people who felt the rage.

King Xerxes of Persia was once so furious when a planned invasion-bridge across the Dardanelles straits in Turkey was scuppered by poor weather, that he ordered his men to punish the sea by whipping it and shouting abuse at it.

In ancient Greece a statue was put on trial for falling on someone and killing them.

From around 1000AD until a few hundred years ago, fallen trees, carts, animals, tanks of water were all named as defendants in court cases and forfeited to the state as an offering.

It was a way of telling the people that the chaos of life, the sheer bastardy of a bean spatula, could be redressed by the courts and all would be well.

So the next time the ring-pull on the tinned fish comes off in your hand, or you break a shoe lace before an important event, or your phone vibrates itself off the cistern into the toilet, know that the law is on your side. Or was anyway.

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