On Being an Asshole

Esther & Lisa have become obsessed with a self help guru who looks like an evil albino magician. I came back from work the other day to find them mumbling his mantra over and over again:

“I am independent of the opinions, either good or bad, of others…”

Bit of a complex sentence, I thought, bit of a clumsy clause in the middle there. It’ll never take off.

evil albino magician

Evil Albino Magician


‘Does this coat look alright?’ I ask Esther the next morning as I get ready for work.

‘You are independent of the opinions, either good or bad, other others,’ she says.

‘Ok,’ I say, ‘But just for this moment I choose to listen to your opinion.’

‘That’s not how it works,’ says Esther, ‘The only thing that matters is what you think.’

Which is why I spent a day in the wrong coat. What a horrible day.

I get back from work to find Esther & Lisa in deep discussion.

‘It’s so hard to be an asshole,’ Esther is saying, ‘I need to try harder.’

Lisa guffaws.

‘I can’t believe you just said that. You are an asshole,’ Lisa says, ‘It comes naturally to you.’

‘What’s going on?’ I ask, ‘Why are we talking in American?’

‘We’re People-Pleasers,’ says Esther, ‘We have to learn how to be Assholes.’

‘What does that mean?’

‘Well the video says you have to go into Starbucks and take ages choosing your coffee until a big queue has formed behind you. Really make everyone wait and don’t act apologetic at all.’

‘God that is asshole behaviour,’ I say, ‘I don’t like that at all.’

‘That’s why we’ve got to do it,’ Esther says, ‘We need to care less what people think.’


The following morning, I was so stressed, I thought my head was going to explode Scanners-style. I’d changed what I was wearing for the fifth time (independence of the opinions of others sucks) and then ran to the busstop. As the bus was about to deposit me at City campus ON TIME, I happened to check my diary FOR THE FIRST TIME to find it was a 9am start at THE OTHER CAMPUS.

I legged it across town to the busstop for buses going back the same way. As the bus crawled along, and I watched the seconds tick past 9am, my head began to feel like it was popping. I need something soothing I thought, something lovely and calm.

Q: What’s the most relaxing music in the whole wide world?

And so I googled ‘that music from the Shipping Forecast’ and binged on Ronald Binge’s Sailing By, eyes closed. The trouble with that is that Esther & I had a spate of using the Shipping Forecast to send us to sleep, Sailing By being the lullaby that one of us had to turn off, finally drowsy and heavy-armed, at the end. (Clue: It was always me.)

Dragging myself out of the departure lounge of snoozeland was enough to make me really grumpy and so I ran to the other campus full of the joys of hell.

‘I’m getting a damn coffee,’ I told myself, ‘nobody can stop me.’

It was ten past 9 as I ran up the back stairs, taking huge John Cleese strides and gurning in frustration. As I rounded the corner flailing and gnashing, I realised there was a man sat at the top, watching me.

‘Just getting my legs to work’ I said and then laughed enough for the both of us.

Of course, what I was really doing was Being An Asshole.



As I wait for my bus to work, an old lady hobbles along towards the busstop and I see a bus heading our way, a bus I don’t want but she might.

Oh no, I think, she can’t walk and look round at the same time cos she’s old, I bet she will be really sad when the bus goes past her.

“Do you want this one?” I say at her face, pointing over her shoulder.

She blinks her watery eyes, smiles.

“Do you want this one?” I say again, my voice rising in pitch because there are precious few seconds left to hail it.

She stops, flinches at my jabbing hand, her smile tightening. It’s almost too late, what the hell is wrong with her?

“DOYOUWANTHISONE?……Bus. Is. Coming. Do. You. Want. It?”

“Oh no, love,” she says with relief, “I don’t want the bus.” And she hurries on past.

A minute later, my bus arrives and I overtake her, replaying the conversation and thinking how maybe it sounded a little too much like a schizophrenic whose dominant personality was baying for blood, and whose submissive one was desperately pointing out possible victims: Do you want that one?

The following morning I’m on the bus again, late for work again, and watching an ambulance overtake us. They command such respect, making even lorries and white vans scurry meekly out of their way.

Sadly as a Study Skills Tutor, I am only the 315th Emergency Service, behind Dog Counsellors and even Pupa Unpickers in the pecking order (in fact, although technically my inferiors at 333rd, the Beak/Bill Brigade enjoy a rep I can only dream of – ‘My wife wants to divorce me, says I have a bill not a beak’. ‘Better call the B/BB!’ Those guys provide a vital service).



No, I simply stand no chance of getting anywhere any faster than anybody else. One day when essays are a finally recognised as a matter of life and death, I’ll flip on my sirens and shame these fuckers into the central reservation.

Perhaps if ITV’s The Bill had been called The Beak, it would still be on our screens and in our hearts. Sadly, it is relegated to a laughable memory of how naive we all were. We watch True Detective now, don’t you know. Even crime drama from the early Noughties is ridiculously outdated.

Take Murder in Mind, starring David Suchet as a married Headmaster who goes to the park and hooks up with a rent boy, played by James McAvoy with a truly bizarre West Country accent. Try keeping a straight face during this proposition:

It lead to this week’s in-joke in our house:

“It’s 30 for a bill,” I keep saying to Esther in Cornish, “100 quid and you get the full beak.”

“Can I try before I buy?” She replies.

“Peck it in,” I say.

"Tha's a beak man, I can tell"

“Tha’s clearly a beak man, I can tell”