Consideration’s What You Need
by Kat Arnsby
When I was sixteen I went to Athens on a school trip; it was total carnage. Sixty rampant teenagers, eight frazzled teachers, two rickety buses and countless pissed off, Greek hoteliers. That’s not the story I’m going to launch into, (although it’s a good story, even the head-girl gets wasted) but when I was a sweet, young thing in Athens, all those years ago, we stayed in a grotty hotel that was right in the city centre, and I fell in love with the lifestyle.
We were in a back room, and I woke up early one morning, about 04:30. It was already hot, and I decided to sit by the open window and watch Athens awaken. The view from our window was not what one might traditionally refer to as ‘scenic’, it looked directly into about 300 other flats and hotel rooms due to an odd, architectural glitch that left a space of about 10 metres between me and my many neighbours’ intimate details.
Over the next hour, while my roomates, The Two Lauras, turned their snoring into grumpy demands for “not cheese and ham for breakfast” I was enthralled by the most extensive people-watching I had ever been involved in. I loved every moment of it, and right then, I vowed that one day I would make somewhere like this my home, and would wake every morning in the buzzing hive of humanity that is dense city living.
Fast forward twenty years and here I am, on the 7th floor of a block of flats in a large complex of buildings, surrounded (at a comfortable distance) by the humanity I love so dearly. It’s early in the morning, but I did not choose to rise to listen to the sounds of Salford making its breakfast, I was woken up by the massive gob of a deranged and drunken woman who felt the need to shout for one whole hour from 04:00 onward.
There is something about the sound of a drunken Mancunian woman, bouncing relentlessly off 1000 perspex balcony doors that rips a piece from the deepest core of one’s soul. This bitch sounded like an electric saw and a kazoo were talking over eachother into a massive PA system.
The reason for her ear-splitting shouts was that she appeared to have lost her friend, “Owen”.
Now, not being able to find a friend is a terrible thing, but at 04:00 on a Thursday morning, in the middle of a city-centre, in the 21stC, it might be reasonable to assume there are better ways to search for one’s friend. I’m not going to list them, anyone with more than five brain cells will be able to contribute something to that list.
I’m sure this girl wasn’t in peril, her shouts were not panicked, they were lazy. We’ve all done the same shout, you know it, when you want something and someone is upstairs and you could walk upstairs like a considerate human being, but you don’t, you shout it, and then repeat it four times with increasing volume until they come downstairs because now they think they’re missing something, and it turns out what you want is upstairs anyway.
So, we have that tone of shout, in a well projected, nasal, squawking voice, repeating the word “OOOOOOOWWWWWEEEEEEEENNNNN” over and over, for one hour, from 04:00. As I watched the sun rise this morning, I wished for a ramshackle house on an abandoned piece of countryside.
Then I realised that I’d given up on my close, city-living dream too easily. City-centre living is fantastic, with every joy and advantage a single person my age could want on my doorstep. My morning was not ruined by city-centre living, it was ruined by one person being an inconsiderate twat. City-centre living, like anything where humans are required to play closely together, requires everyone to behave as such that they are considerate of others to the level they expect others to be considerate of them.
Not the way The Owen-Hunter thinks, clearly. At any point during that hour, she could have wondered whether she might be adversely affecting one of the 1000 bedroom windows she could see from where she stood. I appreciate that she was drunk, but that shouldn’t be an excuse, if she is that loud and mobile when she’s uncomprehendingly drunk, then it’s not a surprise to me that Owen disappeared.
When I’m pissed off with someone else’s behaviour, I try to size it up against myself. I ask myself “if I was in their exact situation, would I have behaved better?”. Most often, the answer is “no”, so I try to find forgiveness.
In this case, my answer was “yes, I would have behaved better”, I can say with all certainty I wouldn’t wake 1000 people up because I was pissed, not in peril and couldn’t find my friend. I’m not a total cunt.
My flatmate and I met over a coffee in the sitting room at about 06:45 as he prepared to leave for work. He was red-eyed, grumpy and not impressed with Owen-Hunter. His assessment of the situation was similar to mine, there was no way he’d have behaved like that either. We just wouldn’t have considered that us making noise for no reason was more important than 1000 working people getting their last two hours sleep.
We wondered what the difference was. Why do some people fail to consider anyone else, where as others will make decisions that acknowledge other people’s existence?
Is considering others a weakness? Shouldn’t I just try to get my own way all the time, or try to do what I want all the time; surely I’m the biggest winner if I get away with that?
Owen-Hunter wanted to shout, I wanted to sleep. She got what she wanted, and I didn’t. She wins.
So who is to blame for me starting the journey of being a considerate fool? I can’t speak for all considerate saps, but in my case, I blame my mother. She ruined me by making me share things, and not letting me suffocate my little brother and stuff. That evil witch made me care about people.
I am now 34 years old, and if my mother heard me carrying on in the way Owen-Hunter did this morning, I’d be skelped (Scottish term for a sharp whack to the back of one’s head) and roughly told what a state I was.
Why would my mother, who loves me, train me to be considerate about others (it’s not a gender thing, she did it to my brother too) when it seems I lose out as a result? I have to give way, and I don’t always get it back, because sometimes other people are wholly inconsiderate for no apparent reason. My own mother has cheated me; she’s helped create a world where the majority consider others, but the odd individual seems to get away without ever having to do that. This is not fair.
Then I think of the alternative; a world where nobody has any consideration for anybody else, no matter how close, and that place sucks.
The truth about having consideration for others, especially in a dense environment, is that it benefits us all in the long-term. There is nothing “nice” or “friendly” about making choices that benefit as many individuals as possible, because it strengthens the group as a whole which provides direct benefit to the individual making the choice. In addition, sacrificing benefit immediately when the need is not so great can ensure resources are available when the need is desperate, which is a good strategy.
Sometimes, we are all forced to act in a way that means we cannot be considerate of others; times become hard, situations become impossible and emotions run high. However, if we go our whole lives assuming that our situation always outranks someone else’s, and that we always require to be considered first, then eventually, we’ll use up the valuable resource of other people’s consideration for us.
It’s not about being “a good person”, it’s about ensuring the group tolerate us as long as we need them and consider our situation in a time we are desperate.
If I had a crossbow, I’d have been pointing it at Owen-Hunter’s head this morning. Would I have pulled the trigger? No.
I think she deserved it, I was grumpy, but the fall-out of that action is such that I would not be being at all considerate if I did it.
What about Owen-Hunter’s mum and dad? Admittedly, they’re a bit sloppy and they’ve raised a disgrace, but is my getting woken up one morning comparable to their grief if I shoot their daughter? Probably not.
I hope to find a happy medium between being entirely submissive to everyone else’s will and consistently being a domineering bully. I can’t pretend I’ve found this balance, and I’m woman enough to admit I lean on the side of inconsiderate too much of the time.
I am trying to live my life by a single, easy-to-remember motto, and that is: Don’t Be A Total Cunt All Of The Time.
If Owen-Hunter had lived by that rule then 999 people wouldn’t have gone to work in a bad mood this morning and 1 person wouldn’t have spent an hour imagining what her face would look like with an arrow sticking out of the eye socket.
I had a clean shot as well, consideration in fucking action right there.
I think your assessment of the human species is naively hopeful. Are we really a “group”? Are we really about “the best good of everybody” or some such other utilitarian notion? Or is this just one way of seeing the world? What seems clear to me is that no one is forced to agree with how you or I see the world and therein is the entirety of the problem we all face.