Thursday, December 18, 2008

The myriad ups and downs of esclators, the knife game and rejection



My main room, my room that I do my typing and my writing exercises in, is something of a pop cultural hoarding cell that I keep everything in that relates to my life and my tastes. For instance, there's a deflated Melbourne Demons football on tip of a white multi shelfed plastic thing, a Ross Noble DVD just to the left of that, a full set of 1991 Stimorol football cards in the little shelf in my TV cabinet, and the CD Future Pop lying in bits on the floor, booklet, case, CD, more booklet, more case and then 2nd disc, just waiting for a motherly type to put it back together. My Mum, if I still lived at home, would just sweep through the place. She used to throw the paper out about twenty minutes after you brought it in, and since nineteen of those minutes were spent unwrapping the complex plastic coating of the Advocate, you didn't have much time to work out the joke in Snake before it was into the bin. However today, as I was looking through my CD case to find some Jebediah CDs to throw at Cash Converters, I found something quite terrifying. My old phone book. No, it's not the one I was on the cover of, I mean my old little hand written 1997 address and phone book, a tiny palm pilot sized book with a god awful retro hypnotic floruo cover that contains the mailing addresses and several private jokes from all the people I left behind in my life, all my friends from Grade 12. I'm terrified to open it, I think it will just make me wistful or at least confused as to who 1/2 the people in it are, and that can never be a good thing. I don't have any mementos from my friendships in Grade 12 - I have a massive aversion to photos, no one had Facebook, my leavers top is now being used by an orphan who stole it from the tip, and my diary is the most sketchy and horrific in joke piece of nonsense especially now as I've forgotten my own shorthand. I can't quite follow why this address book isn't inspiring to some kind of amusing Danny Wallace style get back in touch with everyone adventure, especially since I'm painfully self aware of my own embarrassing legacy and obsessed with the old school (the figurative old school, I don't want to go back and go on the monkey bars again) but I am terribly afraid of rejection, and terribly afraid of shoe horning myself into other peoples life, which would confuse the narrative of my own life and disrupt the pleasant routine of torpor and hammock thinking that I live in. It certainly got me thinking though, which is more than the Melbourne football did, that just reminded me of lying about being a Melbourne member to get into a horrifically awful 2002 function where the DJ kept playing The Smiths...must get to that, at least, one day...

I was on the escalator today, minding my own business, trying to avoid a small child attempting to knock my ankles out of their sockets, when a little mini three act play took place in roughly 16 seconds as we proceeded up towards Big W at a glacial pace. Going downwards were two girls in funky fun school leavers tops covered with autographs were sipping Boost Juices (I'm sure served with love), girls with multi coloured dyed hair and ignorance as a badge of honour, they were going down towards the Magic Pens booth while a girl behind me going upwards across from them tried to get them to go to McDonalds as they passed in the night. What the girl going up didn't see was that the girls going down were bagging her out and calling her a skank behind her back. I didn't notice at first since the Magic Pens booth was singing Magic Pens to the tune of Magic Bus and I was just embarrassed for everyone, but once I heard the word skank, I was paying attention, aware that I was watching a glacially moving piece of pure street theatre, but I did feel desperately old considering the girl who did the skanking call looked like a tiny hamster barely old enough to pick a flavour of Boost Juice let alone be draped in a school leavers top. There was something quite poignant though in imaginging the plaintive way the up girl (desperately black hair, chubby cheeks, swishy skirt that didn't look safe in the wind) would have been sitting in McDonalds waiting for her friends to turn up for a goss and a chat and a chocolate whatever that dessert is and sitting there despondent when they didn't show up. She looked quite happy as well as she bounded up with pre pubescent (why does everyone look so young these days) enthusiasm for her day and looked forward to her burger. Meanwhile, as we stood behind an old woman who mistook the escalator for a ride and held us all up, and the kid began to lash out round about my ankles in frustration, the skank police walked off with an undeserved air of superiority, little hamster cheeks puffed in mutual agreement, which reminded me of all the little cliques and moral judgements that every day would bring at school. Part of me wanted to go and chase them down and make a moral judgement on them for the way they walked and their flavour of Boost Juice (and their poor choice of store to support), part of me wanted to follow swishy skirt girl to McDonalds to let her know she wasn't wanted, but part of me wanted to just get off the escalator, get to Big W, get a 6.99 copy of Days Of Thunder and my free paring knife and pretend the whole day was all over, so I could escape my migraine, my boredom and my increasing sense of bewilderment that a girl I thought was hot outside Blockbuster Video was now using her time to buy a horrifically spangly pink jumper from Jay Jays...it was not, from a distance, a suitable use of her gift voucher...

Interestingly, the paring knife has become something of a status symbol in Big W where I work. Although the continual turnover of staff at Big W means that panda eyed girl, the girl with the great diction who is always fat and sweaty and puffed out, and the tiny midget lady on the door who doesn't really inspect your bags are all strangely absent or possibly on other duties (panda eyed girl would make a great promotions model) the continuing atmosphere in Big W is one of immense business without anything seeming to be accomplished. There are staff (well, panda eyed girl mostly) who seemingly just walk about the store doing nothing, and entire families of fat parents and retarded children who don't seem to buy anything. They lurch around despondently picking up cheap DVDs, and then putting them down, set to rhythmic stupidity. Anyway, as I was, and this is somewhat hypocritical, looking at a Britney DVD that was 6.88 without any intention of buying it, an announcement came over the PA system that every shopper (and the guy had this amazingly camp voice, like the kid in the last series of Hamish MacBeth but more Aussie) in Big W was now entitled to a free paring knife. Normally the thought of something free would send the free money from Kevin Rudd generation stampeding straight over fat sweaty girl to get whatever was going, but despite quite specific (and camp) instructions, I looked at where the red covered stand was, and the bloke in charge of giving out the knives was completely untrampled. In fact, in his little company shirt and behind his rictus stage left grin, it was possible even from a distance to see anxiety spread over his face. He had, in fact, to my eyes, trained as they were on him and not on the moral complexities and judgements on a DVD cover with Britney in an Elvis jump suit, taken the lack of knife related trampling as a significant personal rejection. He then decided to look at me plaintively from down the aisle, trying to Jedi mind meld with me so I would take a knife for myself or at least so it seemed, or maybe he was looking for assistance. It was incredibly awkward as he sat there under his little pre-pared (no pun intended) paring knife stand, adjusted his bow tie and give the cue for his camp assistant to put the call out again. I don't know why he took the work rejection so personally, but I did feel bad for him, as he shuffled from left foot to right foot waiting for custom. At least no one called him a skank. I could have given him my personal experience as a knife salesman if I hadn't escaped the cult I was in when I was looking for work. Point out the handle, always remember that. I felt a lot better when I walked back from the perilous book section of Big W (crawling with staff, kids and bewildered elderly couples who love Lynda La Plante) and he was surrounded by shoppers, so many shoppers that he couldn't stop grinning, and was proud to point out that he wouldn't be giving out any knifes to anyone under 21, while panda eyed girl chewed a biscotti wafer in the biscuit aisle and blinked only occasionally...

The two things, the phone book and the social rejection (not the free paring knife, which wasn't worth the effort to gather) just reminded me of the Kylie saga all over again. I mentioned that Kylie had been my main crush before, although it wasn't until after a distinctly emotional chat in a wooden row boat on a lawn on the eve of my 18th birthday party that I realised I liked her, although it may have also been after she went out with Mark and they split up, my diaries are not crystal clear on the matter. I don't even know if I liked her or I just felt like I should have a girlfriend or contribute something to the emotional destruction of our social group. It was a very confusing time - I should explain there was quite a leap between my 18th birthday party, and me sitting anxiously on a fort at Stella Maris Primary School (lots of grass, slight smell of dog shit) listening to Julee Cruse (as an 18year old I was a great 46 year old) on my walkman waiting for Kylie to turn up so I could ask her out. I will address that leap in due course, but I had asked Kylie to join me on the fort and the implication was clear, well, I thought it was clear, until she didn't show up for 32 agonizing minutes. I know this because I kept looking at my watch anxiously. Also, this was a Sunday morning, so I was accutely lonely and possibly the only person in Burnie who was awake. And it was cold, bitterly, bitterly cold, and at one point a jogger on the footy oval did quite an elaborate 36 second warm up (timed that too, what else was I going to do) only to woos out at the last minute and sprint back into his Ford Capri and go home. If I could have done the same I probably would have - it was such an agonizing wait, I wondered if all across the world boys and girls were doing this out of a sense of bored distraction and confused hormonal feelings, just sitting around waiting to see if their life was about to change. I was sure no one else was sitting on a fort throwing a 20c piece off the rampart and trying to catch it. I was young, I was nervous, I had a speech rehearsed in my head, a speech that sounded too rehearsed, then not rehearsed enough, then there was something about not being as brave as custard, then I thought what the band then I thought well they aren't very mainstream she might not get the...it was just a horrible moment in my life, when I couldn't just get out of a situation with a pop cultural quip or a safety first approach. I had built my fort, and now I had to lie on top of it, almost falling asleep, lonely, misunderstood, confused and above all else, completely unsure of my own motives or thought patterns. When I do think of loneliness, that's where I go to, even before the horrible first few months in Ayrshire travelling to school on the bus like a ghost. And then, after 32 minutes and 26 seconds, Kylie showed up, in her little red car, and it was time to pretend that my mental state had been entirely positive, that all along I knew she would turn up, and by the way, that band Custard...

She said no, of course, well, she didn't say anything, which, you know, was kind of the problem, and of course, where most of the trouble started, but that, as they say, is another page in the address book...

8 comments:

the projectivist said...

if we lived in England, you could write away to the BBC, and they'd send out a crack team of makeover experts in spangly sleeved shirts.

they'd put up your posters and sort out your booklets and your cases, put up almost-straight wallpaper and build you some floating shelves.

when you looked at it with your eyes half-closed, and head slightly tilted at 10.30pm without the lights on, it would look fantastic in all it's 1990's retrospective glory.

is kylie's name in that little address book of yours?

Charles Gramlich said...

That story about the three girls makes me sad. Why some folks feel superior for putting down others I don't really understand. You described it very powerfully.

Baino said...

I think I'm a little like your mother in the 'tidying' department. You should do a living room pic like the wonder wall! Interesting that at 18 I thought boys were confident and in control and I was the one who was a nervous clock watcher waiting for the phone to ring . . we're not so different after all. That reminds me, I'm short of forks for Christmas . . .a trip to Big W is warranted.

Miles McClagan said...

Thos kind of shows were really big here in the early 00s, but they've died off now, and you have to be dying to get a look in or a "special" Mum...I look like a Wake A Wish Kid in the baseball cap, but it wouldn't work...it's not too bad, I know where everything is, there's just a LOT of stuff...I don't know what's happened to Kylie, but she'd be in there, somewhere...

It was definitely un-necessary, especially as those making the moral judgements hardly looked like chaste models of perfection...

My Mum is the worst, if she still lived here she'd sweep the place in seconds...she's terrible...all the boys I knew were good at acting, I just wasn't...it wasn't a good day! My living room pic would look great, it's the rumpus room that's a dog pile...and if you hurry to Big W, free paring knife, under the red covered stand...

Jannie said...

Is it quite customary to have your bags checked before exiting stores there.

Sounds inconvenient, if not down-right potentially uncomfortable for the bearer of the bags.

squib said...

God I don't even know what ones does with a paring knife

sparsely kate said...

You're writing is genius. I was once a teenage girl and I am now a fat sweaty shopper in big w looking at dvd's that I probably wont' buy. so much to relate too!

Miles McClagan said...

It is, in some stores, although it's way worse in Melbourne, those people are really rude as they search your bag. Here in Tassie it's mostly a bored teenager who waves you through...

I'd imagine paring, but it'd take too long to sit through the demonstration to find out...

If nothing else, there's eventually so many words people will relate to something I hope! The DVD mafia was out today, couldn't move for them...