In a city like London, we come across everyday ‘Beef’ moments on a regular basis

·3-min read
 (ES Magazine)
(ES Magazine)

I’ve been thinking about day-to-day life framed by moments of beef. Or rather, Beef: the brilliant Netflix, 98 per cent Rotten Tomato-rated show (it was 100 per cent at one point — who are this dissenting 2 per cent and where can I find them to convince them otherwise?), about a road rage incident between two strangers that spirals into a litany of irrevocable chaos. After a night of intense binging, two lines had been weighing heavy as Monday drudge began. ‘I’m so sick of smiling, dude,’ says Danny, a down-and-out handyman played by Steven Yeun. ‘I hate pretending I don’t hate things,’ says Ali Wong’s Amy, a privileged entrepreneur who finds dissatisfaction at every turn. I feel you both.

And so as I jostled in a painfully long queue at the Chinese visa centre, stressed by the minutiae of everything — what if they don’t accept my phone selfie with my stupid pushed back fringe? What if they comb my Instagram and find my pro-democracy Hong Kong support posts? What if they don’t like my co-habiting with child status? — things were at simmering point.

I then stepped out momentarily from the queue to make a panicked phone call to the visa agency because the building has intermittent phone signal and I couldn’t find my representative, who had my forms. I re-entered the queue having lost my place by about 10 people. The person behind me was immediately agged by this egregious interloping. ‘Why have you stepped in front of me? Why do you take precedent?’ After the standard blustered repetition of ‘Sorry, sorry, sorry’ and a fumbled explanation that I had stepped out to make a call, he doubled down. ‘As common courtesy, you should go behind me,’ he said. Speechless and dumbfounded, I did so. ‘I mean, I had arrived earlier and was waiting about 15 minutes longer, but okay, by all means insist that I stand behind you.’ As the words left my mouth, I was immediately embarrassed about my manifestation of queue rage, but was also thinking about what Amy’s therapy-fluent, nice-but-wet husband George says: ‘Anger is just a transitory state of consciousness.’ That’s of course no use when that state of consciousness is playing out IRL and you’re squirming your way through a queue and shooting dramatic side-eye rolls to the person in front of you.

At least in Los Angeles you can scream and shout in the comfort of an air-conditioned car

Everyday Beef moments pass us by every day. We live in a city where we encounter people in close quarters consistently and we’re pretty much back to the full throttle pace where people are constantly all up in your grill. At least in Los Angeles you can scream and shout in the comfort of an air-conditioned car. The chance of stranger-to-stranger abrasive moments is everywhere; the grit of one person rubbing up another in the wrong way.

On the packed Tube, I committed the cardinal sin of trying to balance unsuccessfully in the middle of the carriage and therefore ended up crashing into another commuter as the train jolted to a halt. ‘Sorry, I had nothing to hold on to!’ I protested. ‘None of us has anything to hold on to,’ she retorted. What a line to hear at 9am on the Central line. But as the show smartly reminds us, every one of us has our own shit to deal with. In these beefy instances, it’s best to pause and think about the multiple plates, idiosyncratic stresses and individual situations that person is dealing with and then move on. Life dissatisfaction does not discriminate. Just don’t ask me to take a deep breath and write my thoughts down in a gratitude journal.