Choosing Our Battles

Most living creatures have a fight or flight response to different circumstances. Even when we don’t even realize, our mind tends to go through different scenarios, quickly deciding whether we should stay and fight or whether it’s best to cut our losses and get as far away from a situation as possible and as quickly as possible.

We like to think of ourselves as people who rarely give up, who will try to find all the reasons to get what we want, even if it requires a long commitment. We rarely find ourselves in a situation where our first instinct is to give up and leave a challenge without at least trying to resolve it.

But that’s what happened on Saturday. After a long walk to Edgeware Road and Mayfair, we wanted to sit down for a couple of drinks. On our way out that morning we walked by The Ship and Shovell in Charing Cross, which is divided into two parts on two sides of the streets. It felt like a good place to stop, look up a recipe, and make a shopping list to get to the supermarket on our way home.

We walked into the pub on the South side of the street. There were two guys at the bar and some others sitting at tables. We noticed an empty boot and walked towards it, deciding that one of us would sit down while the other went to the bar. Suddenly, one of the guys who was at the bar, rushed towards the table, grabbed a newspaper that was on the table, went back and slammed the paper on the bar. We were surprised. Somehow, without knowing, we had infuriated someone. Perhaps the newspaper on the table is a sign that it was taken, a sign that we didn’t recognize.

Trying to rectify the situation, we immediately got up from the table and apologized, letting the person know that the table was his. But instead of accepting our apology, he just huffed. We still left the table and stood up next to the window. But the atmosphere in the pub was tense, and we had a decision to make — should we just stay and have a drink? After all, we didn’t feel like we had done anything wrong, and if we did make a mistake, we had apologized and rectified the situation. Or should we just leave?

We decided on the latter. It was not worth staying in a place where we felt unwelcome. Thankfully, London is full of pubs and we have many to chose from.

What was strange in this instance is that this person’s behavior was very non-British. Most English people, we’ve come to recognize, are not only friendly, but also reasonable. They wouldn’t hold a mistake against someone else, especially if the other person, in this case us, apologized and tried to make amends. Of course, this incident won’t change our perspective of British people. Perhaps that person was having a bad day. But we are glad we walked away from a weird situation.

2 thoughts on “Choosing Our Battles

  1. Perhaps this was more primordial than even fight or flight, maybe this was his cultural way of marking “territory” using newspaper as “spoor”? Similar thing happened to us in San Fransisco harbor at the Buena Vista bar where I did not realize there was a queue for tables and just sat down. Very angry individual confronted me, but he decided to back down and leave in a huff even though I offered to get up. We enjoyed the Irish coffee.

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  2. Pingback: Secret London | The Londinium Project

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