It was a lovely sunny day. I was wearing sandals. So was the nice lady right behind me as we both browsed along the bookstall. Unfortunately, I’m a hundred kilos of muscle and fat (“I’m big-boned!” – ed) and I was wearing solid sandals of the kind you go for long walks in hot weather, while she was wearing light sandals of the kind you wear between car and beach.
I noticed a new Who novel in the box below the stall, and, not realising she was there, I took a quick step backwards to kneel down for it – and felt my heel come down quite heavily on someone’s toes, as someone behind me let out a loud gasp of pain.
It occurred to me later that it was an interesting game to play: How would various prominent bloggers have reacted to this situation? Someone’s hurt: they were responsible: they didn’t do it on purpose.
Kathryn Cramer would have stomped on the woman’s other foot, and snarled at her for not being nicer about it.
Will Shetterley would have apologized, stomped on the same foot again, and demanded to know why she wasn’t more appreciative of his apology.
The Nielsen Haydens would have …well, considered as a team, Patrick would have run away at top speed to avoid having to say he was sorry, and Teresa would have spent fifteen minutes upbraiding the woman for being so nasty to poor Patrick, outraging his delicate ears with her noise. She would then have banned the woman from the bookstall, and demanded an apology from everyone who sympathised with her.
BitchPhD would have first of all explained to the woman that she wasn’t hurt, then claimed she was probably just hanging around the bookstall on purpose to get her foot trodden on, then explained at length that it wasn’t that bad a stomp and she hadn’t meant to hurt the woman’s foot and she really didn’t think she had, but she was sorry now she’d trodden on it since it was causing her so much trouble.
(Update: “Anonymous Coward”, er, yes. Very funny comment, but I’m the only one who will ever read it, because WordPress justly sent your sockpuppeted comment to the spam queue and I figure I kinda agree, regardless of what I think of the person you were attacking. If you’re going to launch a personal attack on someone, do it from your usual Internet pseud. )
I turned, realised what I’d done, and said with horror “Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” … several times, as I remember, as her friend inquired if she needed help and the woman checked out her foot and concluded nothing was broken and very kindly told me t hat I obviously hadn’t realised she was there and it was the penalty of summer, wearing open-toed sandals.
(This did not, as it happened, prevent me from buying the two Aubrey-Maturin novels, the Far Side book of cartoons, the Terry Pratchett, and the new Who novel that I’d found, for £2.50 to Deaf Action, but it did stop me from browsing the bookstall until the woman whose foot I had trodden on definitely confirmed her foot was basically okay even after I’d trodden on it so firmly. Yikes.)
I thought of the trodden-foot analogy most particularly after the Nielsen-Hayden meltdown, because it did strike me that Patrick’s RaceFail offense did appear to be primarily that of someone who steps on someone else’s foot by accident – bruisingly painful, but not intentional: but Teresa’s reaction, to respond with a tirade of verbal abuse and threats towards all who had expressed hurt/offense, put paid to any idea that Teresa Nielsen Hayden has any social dexterity in an online situation where she can’t simply ban people who disagree with her.
Apologies are the social lubricant of the Internets. If you want an apology from me, comment here and if I can remember anything specific over which I owe you an apology, I’ll apologise: if I can’t, you can have a generic apology suitable for all occasions, rather like KY