About a Modus: How a Dowager Countess Helped Me Out of A Tight Spot


Photo taken from http://www.itv.com

I was absent-mindedly shuffling towards the Jamba Juice stand at the mall to get my usual Apple-n-Greens Smoothie when a woman suddenly tripped on my left foot.

Before she could even begin to fall, I immediately caught her. Any moron could have recovered their footing in an instant, but not her. While I tightly grasped her arm, she proceeded to put more weight on her body and attempted to pull me down with her. I was easily able to hold my ground and she swayed to the floor and loudly slammed a boxed toy on the ground. She moved in such a way that when she hit the ground, she was facing me. I also saw that she made a slight effort to throw herself backward so that she would sprawl on the floor. A four-year-old girl in a frilly white dress – too white and crisp – appeared out of nowhere and wrapped her arms around the woman. “You tripped me” she said accusingly. Great, I was being set up for a con.

I immediately knew something was wrong when she tried to pull me down with her. It also did not help that she allegedly tripped on my left foot. As a veteran mall rat, I have been the object of many cons over the years. In mall settings, con artists always try to publicly embarrass you.

One time, a man chatted me up and started to follow me around offering his sexual services. I tried to shake him off and he started holding my arm and made pleading noises. To an ordinary onlooker, it looked like we were having a lovers’ fight. I hissed at him if he did not stop, I would have him arrested. I delivered my threat with so much relish that he promptly disappeared.

A number of prostitutes, both men and women, have done the tripping-on-my-left-foot bit. They always approach you from the right and time their steps so that they would trip on your left foot. The prostitutes used this tactic to get my attention and make eye contact.

With all these experiences in mind, I knew what she was up to. It was also conspicuous that the little girl suddenly appeared out of nowhere. I prepared myself for the drama. Our little tableau was held at one of the major passageways of the mall and timed in such a way that people were streaming out before the mall closed.

I’ve always wanted to be in the performing arts. And there’s no better way to hone my skills than to perform at an impromptu play in front of an unsuspecting crowd. I dug deep into my consciousness for a character to play. A hysterical character did not do. If I loudly berated her for her clumsiness, she was sure to gain a lot of sympathy from the audience. If I apologized profusely, it would have been an admission of liability and she would have mined my guilt.

I needed to be someone calm, unapologetic, rational, and a little arrogant but still act with breeding.

I came up with Dame Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess Violet Crawley.

I raised my eyebrows and assumed a stance that the lady was supposed to apologize to me for her impertinence in daring to be near my person. “You tripped me” she repeated while harping on her victimhood. “I caught you but you still let yourself fall” I replied in a tone one would use when talking to a kindergarten student who is not particularly bright. I also gave her a small smirk and an I-know-what-you-are-doing-and-I-will-make-you-pay-bitch look.

“You tripped me” she said again but barely audibly this time. She pushed herself away from me while sprawled on the floor. She looked at me with fear. “Yes!” I congratulated myself.  She slowly got up, took the child and briskly made her way to the exit. She gave me a panicked glance as she scurried away..

I think I’m ready for an Oscar and a Tony.

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