No pervy stuff, just man-to-man combat

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The Independent Online
We've been together most of the week, and I think that I know you well enough to share a few secrets. I want to tell you about my fantasies; about my secret interior life, the things that I think about in those unoccupied moments when travelling to work, or in the lift, or queuing.

But what is really embarrassing is that these are not carnal fantasies. They don't involve whipped cream, fur and the characters from Upstairs, Downstairs. No, these are fantasies in which I imagine that fellow passengers, lift-users and customers - the people I bump into while negotiating the more mundane features of everyday life - offend me, provoke me, or attack me. And I daydream about how I will respond, and how they will respond to my response, until an entire ladder of escalation - complete with dialogue and actions - is sketched out in my mind.

Here are a couple of examples:

Fantasy One: I am standing in a long and ill-defined queue (many queues these days seem to have multiple points of entry, blurring the clear distinctions between arriving, say, 34th and 35th). It may be a queue for tickets or for a delayed bus. I have been waiting for some time. Out of the corner of my eye I spot a young man in a suit sidling up at right-angles to the line.

He comes and stands next to me, on the pretext of reading a poster on the wall, or tying his laces. Then, having waited his moment, he insinuates a part of his anatomy - or perhaps a briefcase, or umbrella - between me and the person in front. We both know that his plan is for the rest of him to follow, inch by oily inch, until the fait is accompli. If he succeeds, not only will he have my place, but he will have had my metaphorical cojones.

So what shall I do to prevent my unmanning? In the first instance I must match stealth with stealth. As he slides his case forward, mine will also be on the move, but more quickly! Bang! His runs into the side of mine. Our eyes meet. I have won, for any police officer or insurance company would adjudge him to be at fault. He withdraws.

But suppose I have no weapon? Then I will try the "innocent bystander" technique. As his briefcase moves, so will I. The result will be a stumble, a small yelp of pain, a look of hurt surprise on my face. "How did that...?" He will apologise, and remove the offending object. Victory.

Fantasy Two: I join a longish line of stationary traffic, leading up to some lights. On the left is a bus lane. If many cars use the bus lane to jump the line, then law-abiding drivers like me could be stuck here till kingdom come (up to six minutes). In my rear view mirror I see a Ford Probe, being driven by a young man in a suit. He is dithering, but I think he may be about to take the naughty route.

My fantasy options are these: a) to pull out sufficiently far so as not to be wholly in the bus lane myself, but to deny Probeman access to it. But what if a bus is following him? b) to make impotent finger-pointing motions, while mouthing "it's a bloody bus lane, and my watch shows it's very much still between 8 am and 6 pm, mush!" c) as he sails by I get out of the car, and walk over to the unmarked police vehicle stuck in front of me. I tell the occupants that I am a journalist on a national newspaper writing a piece on the enforcement of traffic regulations, and I was just wondering what they were planning to do about the guy in the Probe? Two minutes later I sail past, as blokey is pulled over and forced to show all his documents. And explain why his road-tax is three months out of date.

Pathetic, eh? Sure. I feel bad that I have at least one of these fantasies every day. But I would argue that this form of internalised conflict role- playing can do good. It means that I have imagined most situations before they happen, and I have a shrewd idea whether or not I can win. Not like my friend Rebecca, who found herself confronting a queue jumper at an airport check-in this week. As she squared up to the young man in a suit she heard herself tell him that he had acted "dishonourably". "Don't you realise," she demanded shrilly, "that this is how wars start?" Then she, he and the whole queue started to laugh. No cojones.

Miles Kington is on holiday.

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