Thursday, January 22, 2009

World: Interact



No one ever said Cash Converters was some kind of magical wonderland. In fact, and if you don't know it's basically an 18th century pawn shop with a corporate logo, there are days I feel profoundly depressed as I remember the humiliating encounter I had in there selling CDs on one of the more awful days in my life, looking at all the CDs and items on the shelves and hoping they are simply sold by people trying to get a few extra dollars for the weekend and not some darker tale involving a single mother trying to flee and selling up in the process. OK, so it's a dark way to look at a 6ix dollar copy of BMX Bandits - but my frames of references can be dark at moments like this. A smug young girl chomps into a burger on one of the many TV screens, a plastic image of perfection stuck on a flickering screen with lines across her face. The staff mill around like overprotective parents, at times never taking their eyes off you as you paw through old Vanessa Amorossi albums trying to find a gem. There was this kid in there today, a fairly bland kid because I couldn't get a handle on their personality, mostly because I came in right at the end of the conversation the kid was having with his Mother. His mother was a harried woman in track pants with a neatly trimmed blonde bob, and she was swatting away child problems as she casually flicked through a selection of chunky VHS cassettes in eighties style boxes. I have no right to know the full context of the conversation, stuck as I am in the middle of a Cohen - Miller-Heidke - Zetlitz IPOD triangle of shuffling interface and still weighing up my options, but the mother turns to the child and says, quite simply, you know what I've told you about dreaming. I suspect it wasn't keep doing it kid, but if, at 1pm in a Cash Converters with military security studying you, witless radio DJs with half baked patter piped in through the headsets, and the faint air of a million desperate stories cluttering up your surroundings, you can't manage at least one or two little dreams to keep yourself sane, I would suggest you might just go a little crazy. As I walk out, head down, a gust of wind nearly knocking over a frail and bewildered pensioner, I noticed that next to Cash Converters, two stores down on the same street, is a giant liquidator store, which hardly improves my mood. The kid slowly trails behind his bother when he leaves, staring brightly at cheesecake and Heath Ledger posters as he walks with a purpose, while his Mum gets further and further ahead of him, texting blindly at a million miles an hour, her bob weaving in time with her key punching, her own dreams seemingly long ago dashed. I hope she doesn't blame the child, but for some reason, I think she does. As for me, I never bought BMX Bandits...the liquidation place has reminded me times are tough, 6.95 not to be squandered on Kidman based whims...

Fat sweaty girl from Big W was back today, fat and sweaty as always, putting books on a shelf. I wonder about exhaustion based entirely on stacking books, but that's her way. I've got things on my mind anyway, not just work stress, although fully in context by a greater appreciation of the fickle nature of life, not just the strange melancholia of the sandwich white female at my bakery, who yesterday was like a gambolling lamb in her haste to tell me she'd kept me a sandwich, but today seems incredibly depressed as she struggles with either paperwork or a particularly difficult Sudoku puzzle. For what it's worth, the work stress melts, and I buy a cake to celebrate the very act of survival that my Dad usually thinks is my forte. When I buy some cake, I'm staring directly as a poster of a well known footballer, in the window of a shop I haven't seen before. One of the female girls at the cake store, blonde, promotions model, over officious with the coffeee pumps, thinks I'm staring at her, and she flashes me a smile as she pours the coffee, one of those smiles which, as denizens of Hobart nightclubs would know, is an invitation to speculate as to whether or not 3hree seconds more staring will invite you home or invite the police. As one of said denizens, I'm well aware of the correct response, which is to flash the knowing smile which means get over yourself sweetheart, blue eye shadow girl has you covered. It's such a wonderful piece of non verbal communication that happens between us, I wonder why people use words at all - oh right, it'd be much harder to get a brownie. As I walk away, my place in the queue is taken by a shuffling, befuddled and confused homeless man in a white cardigan using a walking stick to help himself get around. He begins a series of unrelated tangential conversational jumping points to the blonde girl, mostly about a film with Anthony Hopkins and the relative merits of popular culture. He entraps the blonde girl in a continuing web of Grandpa Simpson conversation, without a single one of his points likely to end in the ordering of snacks or coffee. This allows to me throw another one of my little non verbal smiles, the one that says sucked in, isn't retail just a blast. As I walk off, I walk past a girl wearing deely boppers, with an imploring smile and a pile of leaflets she seems far too keen to pass on. I decline, I've had enough of human interaction for one day. When I look over her shoulder, the blonde girl is still being polite as she possibly can, as the old man is up to 1963 in his one man monologue play...I sincerely hope I get that way when I'm older...I've got a robe and slippers already looked out. I think I'll start conversations entirely about The Divinyls...that'll stump the young folk...

My Dad right now is out on my deck. He's not in the hammock, but he's come to visit without really visiting. He takes a call on his mobile phone from one of his gossipy friends, a little mini cabal of power to the people teachers broken down by the man. I suspect to some it might be a little undignified a man of nearly 60ty sitting on a banana lounger having the same conversation for 3hree years about a job he never got, about a terrible interview experience that left him drained and questioned his very ability to hold some chalk. Do they still use chalk in schools? My Gran, one of my main memories of her was the venom she used to spit at the TV whenever I watched a childrens show called Charlie Chalk, her face contorted as she told the writers of the show to get a proper job like coal mining, as I balanced a white plastic tray with my dinner on it on my knee. Dad doesn't have many friends, because Mum won't be friends with his friends. One time in Burnie, we got in the car like homeless people who had just sold all their Shakira albums to Cash Converters just to hide from this weird science teacher Dad knew, all of which I remember about him was he had incredibly pulled up socks, always white, always pristine, always knee high. We stat their for hours, just talking about the world, until we presumed he had gone. I've turned up Shakira really loudly just to drown him out. It's not that I mind the conversation, I just think he loves the misery too much. He's using phrases like restorative justice and deputy principal just way too much, but like a man hypnotised on stage, he's always blinking bewildered wondering how his life turned out the way it did. I think he believes in the essential goodness of man, something I long ago disagreed with. Eventually he leaves, taking a pile of my books with him, a passing comment about the merits of Shakira or Andy Murray mentioned as he goes. I think he sometimes wishes we talked about more than sport, but neither of us make too much of an effort beyond that, and that's fine with us. I know at times he's tried or I've tried to get beyond what certain football teams should be doing 70ty minutes into a game, but it never works. At some unspecified point in the mid 90s, he decided my life would be infinitely better if I lifted bricks in some sort of body building fashion because my PE teacher told him it was a great idea. He said this would make girls like me, although he said it in far more cringingly uncool mid 90s sub Bruno Lucia tones. We had one incredibly hectoring session in the garage while he tried to make me into Lou Ferrigno, I said I wasn't a laborer from the 1920s, and the whole thing unfolded with a tedious sense of inevitability. Next morning, he came down to the breakfast table, sat down, and said did I see the Liverpool Coventry score...boundaries drawn, natural order back in place over jammy toast...maybe that's what restorative justice is...

My weekend is mapped out. Comedian tomorrow night with someone I like but who I hope doesn't talk too much, mean as that sounds. We've had entire conversations sometimes where my only words are yes and sure if I'm lucky. Lunch on Saturday with someone I hope talks for hours, so we know whats going on with his headspace. Maybe some flag waving on Monday. Some tennis player is on my TV, talking about what a miserable life she had, depression, some such gubbins. No one rings, no one talks to me, a television flickering in the corner with some early 90s videos. A glamorous granny is standing outside my window waiting for a lift, squeezed into some sort of Madonna like corset as she stands perfectly still in a howling gale. I'm not surprised at the effort she's made, she walks my window sometimes, and she truly suffers in her bid to stay young. Every interaction I have during the day at the moment makes me glad for the peace and quiet. I get one of my periodical spam e-mails from one of those companies that links you with your old school friends, and throw it straight in the virtual trash. I had an uneasy interaction with a particular comedian a few years ago, when I was dragged up on stage to do a bit of a turn. Got a laugh too. Afterwards, it became apparent that two people - having seen me on the stage with the comedian - that I went to school with wanted to talk to me, and they wanted a photo of not just me, but them with the comedian. Without seeing the joins, you would think we had just picked right up where we left off in Grade twelve, but there was a conversational sour point, something known only to us, I can't remember what, but it was enough to make me turn back and talk to the comedian about his other life in London, freezing them out until they left, a one night brief re-union that ended quickly. They never got their photo either. I try and learn something every day, take something out of every interaction, make a note, but I don't live up to that, some behaviours keep repeating. The glamorous granny is the last person I see for the day, as she bundles herself into a car pool, muttering loudly something about Karen, and how she's unreliable. It's the last interaction I see, tomorrow it begins again, the first day of the rest of my life, a blank canvas with people who will educate me, who will frustrate me, and in the end, vanish without a trace for the most part into blog anecdote and their own private space...

I suspect what I may take out of tomorrow is another sandwich, but we shall see...

8 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I've spent quite a bit of time in the equivalent to Cash converters stores. One person's trash is another's treasure.

sometimes that holds for intimate relationships as well.

squib said...

Coal mining, way to go. All my Scottish ancestors were coal miners

I was hoping one of them would be something a bit more glam like - I don't know - a children's TV show writer

sparsely kate said...

You captured the pathetic and desperate air of a cash converters store so well... oh God that place and those staff are quite dreadful. The one I used to go into (and sell a heap of stuff too) was in Midland in Perth. I shudder at the memories.

Have a lovely long weekend!

Kris said...

I had a maths teacher years ago who used to dress like that and was very tightly strung, and thus easy to get a rise out of as a student.

Last I heard of him was when he went missing all of a sudden. Just vanished without a trace.

I think that he resurfaced about a month later. No idea what happened. Some sort of breakdown.

Parklands High will do that to you.

Jack Dorf said...

I knew an anarchist shoplifter who used to focus on Cashies. He'd steal stuff from one franchise and sell it back to another.

Jannie Funster said...

Why don't ya go back to the brick lifting? Start a t.v. show on it. make tapes of it, sell 'em at C.C.

??

And could you please send a cheesecake poster my way to complete my collection.

Oh and yes, I think chalk is still used in schools. But mostly as an inhalant.

Helen said...

I've always been fascinated with those stores, but i must admit, I started to notice the sense of misery last time I went into one. Which was about a day before you posted this. so now we have officially had a cross-continental coincidence! Awesome!

Miles McClagan said...

That is true, I know of one relationship that to the outside world seems like a disaster and yet...and no, it's not mine! Although it sounds like 99...

She saved most of her wrath for a show called Bodger and Badger. My relations were shipbuilders, at least they had a song written about them. I would have loved to have written for kids TV, but alas, I don't think I had familial approval...

They are all the same...it's so depressing...the one in Kingston, ironically, went bankrupt...write your own jokes etc...

Seriously? That's mad, we had a history teacher who went missing in Grade 12. Fled to the hills, had a breakdown, it made the news...maybe it was exposure to West Park?

That mans a thinker. Did he get an invite to Kevin Rudds ideas summit?

Funniest Home Videos would have been better to film the brick lifting. I have so many posters. Any one in particular? Chalk in my Dads heyday was mostly used to throw at sleeping kids...

I love a Cross Continent Cash Converters Coincidence! A CCCCC! That's rare! Those stores are so depressing...I don't want to think about where the DVD players come from...