I’ve always been taught that if I am not sure about something, ask! Don’t just assume the worst and certainly don’t extract revenge without being sure that you’ve been wronged.
I’ve thought for a long time that we as a society are too easily offended these days. We tend to assume the worst rather than ask for a clarification. A simple question can save a lot of grief!
I was recently reminded of such a situation back in my younger years. I worked for a Kodak in their photographic lab. It was the kind of place where all the film from shops would be taken to be developed en masse.
I worked there for almost 3 years in the film development department. Rolls of film were spliced together in 3 batches of 70 before being fed through a massive developing machine. Generally it was a boring job but the people made it fun.
Every summer we’d get temporary workers because it was a busy time of year. Usually these workers were students on their summer holiday break.
One year a guy who was about my age came to work in my department. He was called Stuart and was of Korean heritage, studying for a business degree. At the same time another guy called John started work.
John lived in the next road to me but wasn’t someone I knew well because he was part of the ‘wrong crowd’ and we mixed in different circles. John wasn’t at university, just between jobs so took this job for something to do.
As we all got to know each other we got on well, sat together at tea breaks and dinner breaks and generally had a good laugh.
The summer season ended and Stuart and John left. The next year arrived and they both started work again.
Things were going fine, or so I thought, until one day John left the canteen to go and have a cigarette. Stuart seemed very agitated.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“It’s him!” Stuart replied. “He is really getting to me!”
“Getting to you? What’s he done?”
“You know! And you just laugh at it, you could say something!”
I was completely mystified. John could come across as someone who might have racist views, much as any football in the 1980s even though his parents were Irish and I’d never heard him say anything remotely racist.
Stuart on the other hand was, if you forgive the stereotyping, a typical guy of Korean decent. A quite, polite, intelligent and friendly guy with a good sense of humour who would do anything for you.
Something didn’t add up!
“I honestly don’t know what the hell you are on about!” I said to Stuart.
“You don’t hear it? The racist name he keeps calling me? He did it all last year and now he’s doing it again!” Stuart said, sounding even more agitated.
“Racist name? What racist name?”
“He keeps calling me a ‘Gooner’!” Stuart said with a completely straight face.
“Are you joking?”
“No, I’ ruddy well not!” Stuart insisted!
You see, Stuart and John had one thing in common. They were Arsenal fans. John went most home games and stood in the Clock End while Stuart’s dad had a box at Highbury through his company.
The two mixed in very different circles but football can unite people of all walks of life.
“No, you twat!” I said with more than a hint sarcasm. “Gooner is what Arsenal fans call themselves. Get it? Gunners… Gooners! When he calls you a Gooner he is saying you are a fellow Arsenal fan!”
Stuart was open mouthed. He’d been biting his tongue several times a day for months thinking he was being racially abused and that I was party to it. For whatever reason he had never heard the term ‘Gooner’ before.
I guess it wasn’t surprising. He didn’t read the tabloid newspapers and went to the games in a cocoon, shielded away from ‘real fans’.
All the time John was calling Stuart a Gooner he was being inclusive while at the same time insulting me, the Palace fan. Stuart thought John was being racist by insulting him and being divisive.
While this was going on he thought I was laughing at him when I was actually laughing at myself for being the butt of an Arsenal joke.
It’s funny how something so small can turn into something so big,
as my ex-girlfriend once said to me, yet with a simple question a lot of hurt could have been avoided.
Not for me, once the misunderstanding was cleared up Stuart no longer felt offended and was happy to join in with the pi*s taking.
Me and my big mouth!