Friday, September 26, 2008

Shadows, Leaflets, Underpants, Danny, Jordan....



So a woman here in Hobart has been charged with putting broken glass into her husbands sandwiches - and I read this story just, just at the moment I began eating a sandwich at a downstairs table, just at the moment I realised that for once the Mercury wasn't trying to scare us (the latest attempted scare - Killer Flu, which made me think they aint even trying anymore), and as I bit into my sandwich, and read this story, I heard a crunch in my mouth...luckily, it was just my hypochondria, and I had bit into a tough piece of celery, but hey, maybe the crazy lady was waging a war of glass based terror. As I ate my sandwich and though and got up, I noticed something terrible out of the corner of my eye - leaflet droppers, in a pincer movement, moving Space Invaders style to my left and right. This scourge of modern life, the promotional models handing out leaflets, had finally come to my very lunchlap (you heard me, I made up a word). I froze, and realised there was no way out, I was going to be handed a leaflet. I had avoided the World Vision people, I already had AUSTAR, I had completely snubbed any attempt to get me to "taste the cookie" but now, unless I was really rude, I was going to be stuck with a leaflet and engaged in conversation when I didn't want to be. However, I had a plan, and as the promotions model came closer with her forced smile of tolerance, I did a brilliantly mental headswish of pure rudeness, looked in the other direction, and she backed off - success. She awkwardly segued into conversing with a blonde girl in Hi-5 deely boppers in a horrendous jumper but all the while she was looking at me, terrified - frankly, I had no respect for her anyway, if she was going to give up so easily. A girl in Glasgow chased me all the way up the road, into a local pub, saying "But we can be friends!" as she tried to pass me a WWF (the panda people, not the wrestling) leaflet, and she was completely mellow compared to the hard arses in London who curse your existence if you don't take a sample lipstick. The good news is, word got around, and the last two times I went wandering around the mall today, the leaflet givers stayed well clear. I told this to my friend today and she said "Oh why do you have to be so rude! She might have been genuine! How do you know!"...and as I drove home, I got to thinking...well, I was thinking, until the dickhead in the 4WD cut me off...then I got back to thinking...

One thing that I think annoys my friends about me is my complete fascination for what I call "shadow people" - let me explain. One thing that always fascinates me when people die is the way they get broken down to about three characteristics or a single defining event in their life. If for instance I read that the famous juggler who was always busking in the Hobart Mall circa 98 (more on him later) when the giant black girl was in charge had died, I'd think, oh, the crap juggler died, but obviously he had a name, friends, erm...his clubs that he juggled with. He was obviously more complex and full a person than I knew him as, but that's all i knew him for, his inability to entertain tourists. I draw from these shadow people a lot of life lessons (from the juggler for instance, I saw a great deal of persistence and bravery to do his thing), but my friends get annoyed with me sometimes and fail to see how I can learn anything from someone I see for maybe 10 seconds in my entire life. My friend was right - the leaflet girl was obviously far richer and rounder a human being than "the leaflet girl" would suggest, but to her, I'm just "that fucking weirdo who swished his head like Tyra Banks". It doesn't to me mean I can't learn something from brushing past someone in life, something my friends really don't get. To take this even further, one of my life lessons came from someone who I couldn't tell you a single thing about, other than the incident I'm about to type out in default Sans Serif. To set the scene a little bit, 1989 was another one of my bad years. I was alone in Scotland, I did have some friends, but I had a horrible teacher, was a bit sensitive and emotional in a land where that's just asking for trouble and most of all, I was homesick for Penguin. That said, I did have a girlfriend, and a friend who was able to supply me with all the New Kids On The Block news that I could handle, so I was sort of getting through...the thing in Scotland was, everyone, even the coolest kid, was bullied at some point, it was just sort of the way it was. Some days you got bullied, some days a girl called Kerrie-Anne used to wander round and grope everyone - it was sort of the Scottish equivalent of swings and roundabouts...

We went on our school trip in 1989 to the border of Scotland and England, down Berwick way. Our camp was run by a fat sitcom character called Gavin, who ran the camp as Paul Shane once ran Hi Di Hi. He was incredibly camp, and at one point we must have, I can't remember, sneaked into the kitchen at night and got busted and said to the kids he thought were good kids "Gaw I'm ser very disappointed!" and flung his wrist to his head "Why I do declare!" style. The trip wasn't especially memorable - where as all the other kids got letters from home, my Mum send me massive care packages every day, including the paper and hats. The local scouts invited us to watch Revenge Of The Ewoks, and I'm sure at least half our class was thrown out for trouble making, we had our own disco where the cool kids got down to a bit of New Kids, and as a special treat, we played the local school at soccer (I say we, obviously I didn't, cos I was rubbish, but I sure looked good guarding the oranges). What we didn't know was that the local Borders school had really fired themselves up playing "theyfuckinwestoscotlandjessies" (which translated means, goodess, those people from a different part of Scotland from us must be gay, lets kick them in the shins to assert our masculinity) and I think it must have been advertised in the paper or something, because there was cars tooting horns and a bearpit like atmosphere. We, thinking we were on holiday playing for a laugh, lost about 6-0, I got in a fight with my Borders equivalent (that's not a man who works in a bookstore by the way) over oranges, and no one escaped some spit. They didn't even seem to like New Kids On The Block. As our battered and bruised troops walked off the ground, I noticed from my orangey vantage point that a lot of the blame was being put onto a kid called Paul, who had a trendy spiky black haircut and what seemed to be a fake tan. I can't tell much more about Paul, but he certainly was being blamed for a lot...considering he went off with a cut leg after 10 minutes, this seemed quite harsh, but the mob had spoken...

Pauls week was about to go from bad to worse. A kid called Martin (who I just decided then I really didn't like) spread a rumour around that Pauls underwear had been, well, let's say stained, when it was left on a shelf next to Martins clothes. I can't possibly tell you if this is true or not, but it seemed plausible...and, although it had passed by without incident prior to the soccer based fight, Paul had been walking about in his underpants professing his love for a girl called Claire, and had changed popular songs of the day, say, Sidney Youngblood (?) to include the name Claire. Claire wasn't a paragon of virtue mind, given she started the playground groping game, but Martin (I actually really hate this kid now) had assured us that Paul had sullied her somehow good and pure name. Poor Paul was having a terrible time, as every time he tried to come down and eat his lunch no one would talk to him or go near him, due of course to the underwear and the sullying and the underwear sullying. Anyway, we had to go to an arts and crafts session at the local library, and Paul wasn't there, because he was on a different bus. A different Martin (more natural tan, stutter, black hair) decided that it would be really funny if when Paul came in, everyone said "Oooooh Claire!" (you had to be there I guess). And he was particularly keen that I did it too - I don't know why I had to join in, but you know, one in all in I guess. And so, that's what we did, on 3...and when we did it, I've never forgotten this, Paul just...collapsed...just shrunk as a human being before our eyes. He was devastated, genuinely, genuinely distraught, all this crap was coming his way, and he couldn't find a way out of it. He sat almost comatose in his seat, blinking rapidly, while the 2nd Martin tried to talk to him and convince him that he was only joking. And, at the risk of sounding like a kids information film or an episode of Degrassi, I realised then I could never, ever be a bully. I could never intentionally set out to hurt someone - I'm not sure that I've always lived up to that, I'm sure I've had moments of cruelness and gossip, but it's never been deliberate. I can't tell you anything about Paul - what his hopes were, who his favourite New Kid was - and I think after we got back to school he was OK, but I always remember his defeated, dejected face, and what I learned from it...how horrible being part of making someones life miserable had been, and how I never wanted to do it again...

Mind you, if he really did crap his pants...I mean...he probably deserved a little bullying...

9 comments:

Helen said...

I hate leaflets! I always feel so guilty if I just throw them away, and instead am compelled to live with a car-full until i get around to recycling. And then they put them on my windscreen... how to ruin a perfect day!

I feel bad for Paul, I bet he still shudders at the memory!

JahTeh said...

Little swine, you bullied the leaflet girl in a head tossing silent way.
I'd forgotten bullying at school and now it all comes back to me. Try being the fat girl with the only tits in town.

Miles McClagan said...

The windscreen mafia haven't made it to my carpark, but it's only a matter of time if the leaflet police are out. It's quite scary. In London, the leaflet police are terrible. As for Paul, I wonder what he's doing now, if it took therapy to shut it out...

My head toss it Tyra Banks quality good. I've pretty much spent my whole life being the foreigner, so I was fairly bullied...not as much as Paul was that time...it's never, ever good...

nailpolishblues said...

Hey, don't knock Degrassi. It taught me some very valuable life lessons like having a kid at thirteen is just not cool. I never did figure out how to have hair like Spike though.

Miles McClagan said...

I learned a lot of lessons like that from Ship To Shore...for instance, you can pretty much solve any problem by tipping paint on an adult..

Baino said...

You did so bully the leaflet girl! Then she's probably used to it. I was conned recently into buying $50 worth of manicure gear by a pushy Brazillian in the shopping centre - not handing out leaflets but touting hand cream - but he was cute so I didn't mind being ripped off badly. I love the image of shadow people though. Spend a lot of time myself making scenarios about that man in the suit raiding the rubbish bin for today's paper.

My kids learned a lot from 'Around the Twist' like never lick an ice maiden. Useful stuff.

Miles McClagan said...

I'm quite apalled that I bullied the leaflet girl, but not apalled that I didn't get a leaflet! There's a lot of shadow people in my life, it's pretty scary...and I have high sales resistance. I learned from Around The Twist how scared I am about Mark Mitchell...

Kath Lockett said...

Forget bullying and instead see if you can get BOTH arms of the WWF to join forces - Pantomimically wrestling Pandas is a leaflet I'd be thrilled to get.

Miles McClagan said...

The panda people caused the wrestling organisation to become WWE about 5 years ago, so they hate each other. I think it'd need a charity single to get them together.

I saw a clip from a Chinese circus once of a panda playing a trumpet. Fantastic.