Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Happy Pants and Softball Disaster of 1992



A lot of people I know don't really like traffic jams, but even though I don't choose my road or my precious time on Earth with the terminally bewildered who drive either end of the speed limit, four wheel drive drivers hunting big game down the middle of the Southern Outlet and a tedious Jessica Mauboy interview which boiled down to giggling and makes you want to smash your radio, I do like the time and space I have to think as we inch towards the edge of the point of the turn of the road slowly - what I think about, well, it's not clear, it's sometimes a bit like the half forgotten dream where you remember why you went to the stand at the fair and bought a big fuzzy wig, but not who you were with or how everything fell apart. In fact if I do remember what I've thought about, it's remarkbly unimpressive, a collection of forgotten musicians and what they sang, the time Gabe Kaplan raced Robert Conrad on Battle Of the Network stars, song lyrics, wrestling storylines that went nowhere, maybe the odd footballer or Adam Hills joke, but sometimes the thoughts are crystal clear, so clear that I almost plough into the back to the sticker laden Camira that's just come to a crushing halt, almost putting their sticket based thoughts about saving the trees (plural) directly into my consciousness. The driver of the sticker mobile is ignoring his kid, a mini domestic drama I can see playing out through our trapped short derm destinies, as the kid is trying desperately to make some horribly failing point about a book and the Dad is completely dis-interested and concentrating on the traffic or maybe Jessica Mauboy or something. The kid eventually gives up and puts the book down on the seat and stares out the window, and I lose them at an amber light, to go off onto their day, but my thoughts are definitely still with me, inescapable little thoughts as stuck in my brain as my mid price family car is in the gridlock. Now that I'm pretty old, the shot through regret of my mid twenties is fading and infrequent - sure, the odd moment of wistfulness and head slapping awfulness will stab into the back of my brain sometimes, and yes, I do regret the angry immature letter sent, or the gossip of the classroom, or the days I've wasted watching DVDs when I should have been seizing the day, a sort of fair trade that I seized the remote control and a packet of Samboys instead. I'm not worried anymore - three steps to my left as I sit, there's a smiling school girl, clearly bullying her friend, and her friend responds with a gentle slap. They argue, and then walk off, the smiling girl still smiling but awkwardly, while the bullied girl huffs and puffs and pouts, and I wonder if they will regret this conversation or if it will be immediately forgotten...that's really the problem with my thoughts, what is important or should be remembered or acknowledged is supressed and lost in the midst of a thousand stories, and a pile of trivia...and most days, I'm really thankful for that...

As I've mentioned before, my first few months back in Burnie were a sort of hazy dream, the one time in my life I can say not only was I popular but I was cool - I was positively illin'. It came to pass that somehow I ended up in a place where the expectation that the school had inherited some kind of intellectual soccer playing poetic genius (not expectations of my own making I hasten to add), a cool accent and the fashion stylings of Tony whathisname from East 17 (thank god it wasn't Brian Harvey - is it true Tony whatshisname bought a supermarket and everyone from East 17 worked there, or did I make that up?) circa West End Girls all added up and made me the coolest kind in the school. Essentially, there was no way that a homesick moderately fit kind of cute but mostly lazy and socially awkward teenager still pining for the KLF in a town where Guns and Roses still had social catchet could maintain this kind of image without it all ending in tears, but seriously, there seemed to be no end in sight to my social observations. One time, in technical drawing, an observation about a water slide ended with the school cool girl, a girl who was dating a 17 year old at 14 (gasp, someone call the Advocate), literally gasping and saying that I was fascinating - Vicki, my pash buddy from Penguin, who didn't really realise that she was way cooler and more fascinating than I was, would often just storm out of the bakery with one of her co-workers while I stood smoking just to confirm my opinion matched hers, as if I was some kind of hot or not column walking around the streets nodding at stuff. I wanted to parlay this into some kind of local pride (Yes!) involvement, perhaps just judging cakes with a haughty air. Burnie was a strange place to begin with - I had been to school in a place called Kilwinning, which was genuinely depressing and upsetting and on which kids called Donkey or Milkdud or Sarah sold drugs on the school corner unbothered, and in Burnie as far as I could see, the greatest problem was the local milkbar running out of Big Ms - so free of a threat of violence, I was at least partially ecstatic - however, since they all thought Burnie was shit, I said it was shit as well, and completely omitted the drug dealers and the poor quality chips and the school trips that we had to the local pub from my Scotland critique. Making it an emotional paradise and myself the mayor of Kilwinning when I was barely the janitor, well, it made everyone impressed. No one who saw the homesick kid who went to bed at 8pm every night and wrote long letters home would have thought I was cool, but given an audience and an over exaggerated story about drugs in Switzerland, I was able to impress all and sundry with a clever phrase and a whimiscal phrase...if they listened to what I was saying, they'd probably have realised I was just talking crap, but I was talking through them instead of to them, and they were happy to take every third word literally, and everyone was happy...for now...

My major problem was my laziness, which wasn't helped by Vickis special home made concoctions. As it happened, the main manifestation of this laziness was in my home economics class. We had to make a pair of happy pants, which was sort of Tasmanian code for a big pair of cotton tracksuit pants made out of crazy material or something. Of course, there was no way that someone as robust and cool as me could actually, you know, try, even though I was too dumb to notice everyone else was genuinely trying their little sewing hearts out. Home economics was a doss subject in Scotland, all you could really hope for was that no one threw food at you or that your scones weren't poisonous and didn't kill the teacher. At first, this disdain for the class of the kitchen seemed to be mutually reciprocated in the other part of the world. I was gently prodded to bring in a swathe of material to make these mythically cheerful garments, but not particularly hard, and we spent a lot of our time telling each others fortunes or giggling at the shape of the Push Pop or doing that trick where you pretend you've stuck a coin to the head of the dumb kid and let him hit his head to try and knock it off...all in a powder blue room at the edge of my sanity, which you had to get to through a passageway so narrow the rats were on strike complaining about it. Eventually, the whole subject just became an excuse for me to have a nap and complain about stuff, even my more basic riffing now getting an audience. Had I been on the ball, I would have noticed that while I was doing the commentary equivalent of cup bal ball cup, they were all making their garments, and inevitably, the teacher, a woman who was endlessly patient but who had the air of a woman who was in perpetual argument with her girlfriend, snapped, and cut sick on me and my attitude. She was perfectly within her rights to do, after all, she was teaching a class while I was pondering what the deal was with airline peanuts, but there was a frisson of excitement...after all, I had in a quite mediocre way established some credentials as a rebel, a maverick, someone that didn't play by societys rules of needlecraft...and the frisson turned to dust when I apologized rather meekly, and said I'd be sure to try harder...maybe it's just my memory of it, but I remember some of the air had gone out of my blawhard balloon...it now needed some quick pumping up...

Luckily, we had softball that afternoon. One of my few sporting triumphs in Scotland had been a spectacular softball home run right at the end of Double PE where the ball sizzled through the air and flew into Mrs McGlumphers vegetable patch. So I was sure that if I did the same, I would get my air of emotional superiority right back. After all, there didn't seem to be any lasting damage from my happy pants disaster, and to be honest, I was able to scramble out of it by saying that the teacher wasn't worth it, have you seen the state of her car and so on. For some reason I can never work out, someone as we waited on the neatly trimmed but rather soulless patch of grass that we were assigned for that days lesson asked me if I could play softball, and I said, well, I hit a home run at indoor baseball...when the words came out of my mouth, I couldn't get them back in, indoor baseball must just have sounded more impressive. I just think at that time, if I had won a Go Kart race I would have bumped it up to I had lapped Nelson Piquet in a Formula 1 car. I should have said no, I was completely rubbish, but it was too late, and so I stepped up to bat, in my little helmet, with the air of Babe Ruth...I like to think as I walked up to the off white plate with the funny stain on it, that I pointed to the exact point over the fence yonder Montello that I was going to hit the ball to, such was my unfailing surety that I was going to teach the fat kid throwing the ball with less than fearsome ferocity that you didn't mess with...the problem was, that I had far too much thinking time, and by the time I got the end of my self diagnosis of my own awesomeness, the fat kid, hungry for a pie and sauce and without any kind of warm up rotation of his meaty chunks arm, had thrown the ball when I was wasn't paying attention, my mighty swing became a panicked bunt, and the ball rose up off the bat and hit me fair in the schnozz...I know that at the exact moment it hit me on the nose, I had the word "fence" in my head, because the internal fence became an anguished and pained external swear word, the emperor with too many clothes had been truly exposed, and no amount of sardonic observations could save me from myself...

Of course, I did, just about, somehow save the year and turn it around, for a while at least, but the traffic moved in, and I couldn't quite remember how I did it...bloody disrupted thoughts...now I'm thinking about a lime spider again...

8 comments:

Jannie said...

Ouch on the bunt to the nose.

Mrs McGlumpher, can I steal that name?

Miles McClagan said...

I know, it really hurt...I felt like a massive eedjit...and yes, Mrs McGlumpher (never Mr) is a great Scottish catch all name for nebby old women...have away with the name!

Mama Zen said...

You totally described my thought process will driving. Nice to know that I'm not the only one!

squib said...

Happy pants? hahahaha

Do you think they still do technical drawing at school these days? I hated it

Mad Cat Lady said...

Okay - I have to ask. How does one make a lime spider? Is there lime soft drink? Or does one mix lime cordial and then lemonade? And if its cordial, is it normal school kid type cordial or is the more flash 'lemon, lime and bitters' cordial?

I can only restrain my curiousity for so long before I cave. I have no self control.

And if its lime softdrink is that the same as lime fanta?

I expect I will hate it. I dont' see how anything could be better than a coke spider.

Miles McClagan said...

No, you aren't the only one, today a tree fell on the road so I was in another traffic jam...a load of nonsense about old bands went through my head, at least, until some idiot nearly made me crash...

I didn't mind it, it was a bit of a doss subject, the worst was in 2nd year in Scotland when the teacher called it technological studies and made us do work...it was horrible!

It's a rough combination of a big scoop of ice cream, lime flavouring, Lime Hartz Mineral Water (the key)...it's the most delicious drink, made by boffins...you'd love it! And if you didn't, perhaps you'd like the band The Lime Spiders?

Baino said...

I read it while playing West End Girls . . gorgeous! Happy pants! Yayaya! Clare sent Bolivian farmer's pants home this winter . . they made me happy . .but they are 'sad'. Then I'm hardly a fashion victim so . . Wow you make gourmet lime spiders. I just buy green fizzy shit and blob a bit of Peter's Blue Ribbon in the middle. Although I'm a creaming soda fan (I hardly ever drink soft drink) but it tastes so good with 'fish and chips'. Don't ask!

Miles McClagan said...

I must admit, I've got absolutely nothing done tonight because I've playing West End Girls repeatedly...aside from wondering exactly what the other in East 17 actually did, it's a boss old school classic...

I'm glad we didn't have to make Bolivian Farmers pants, that would have been a completely new nightmare. If it's a Lime Spider, I must admit to a certain fussy nature - if you make it with Hartz Lime Mineral Water, you can really tell...i used to drink loads of creaming soda, when everyone else was drinking dandelion and burdock (don't ask) at the van...tops it was.