Is it just me, or do other people feel frequently guilty? I’m not sure if there’s some innate fault-line in my psyche that guilt bubbles out of when bad things are going on, or whether there’s something more prosaic happening. Even though it’s rarely me at fault, I feel the hot-faced shame nonetheless. Today is a classic example. I was driving merrily along, abiding the speed limit in my insured, MOT’d – and for a change clean – car, when a police car pulled up close behind me with blues on. I panicked: what have I done? Is something wrong with the car? Where can I pull in? A rush of thoughts pinging about my head. The police car has already passed; overtaken and rushed on to whatever emergency was occupying him. It’s not the only time that’s happened. About a year ago I was pootling down the road minding my own business when a police car with blues on raced up behind me. I was convinced he was trying to pull me over. He sat on my tail as I looked for a place to pull in, feeling more terrible by the minute. Eventually, I pulled into a junction. Woosh! He was gone like a rocket. Breathe. It’s OK.
I don’t suffer from anxiety as a rule, but if there’s a commotion going on somewhere it always troubles me: when the alarm goes off at the supermarket door, and I know I’ve not stolen anything, I feel guilty; when I’m walking through security at the airport and there’s nothing dodgy in my case, I go hot with embarrassment, worried I’ll be rumbled. What?! You don’t have anything to hide. You haven’t done anything wrong!
As a ‘mostly vegetarian’ I eat a lot of sulphurous vegetables and wind inducing pulses. Flatulence is almost guaranteed. My father has a delightful expression: ‘wherever you be let you wind go free’ which allows him to fart(I refuse to use the ‘T’ word) with impunity as far as he’s concerned. I’ve never been quite so free-spirited and certainly not in public, but whenever there’s a public incident where something malodorous is involved, I will be the guilty looking party, whilst whoever the real culprit is gets off scot free. I get the hard stares, the people moving away. Honestly, it wasn’t me. I don’t dare protest innocence. In all circumstances this confirms guilt. I smile and blush vividly, embarrassed for the person who has no such emotion. Not that they should be embarrassed. And neither should I!
I’m sure the psychologists among you will have a field day. In the meantime, let me say simply, even if I look guilty, and lights and bells are going off around me, the likelihood is -it wasn’t me! Honestly.