Monday, April 13, 2009

Post 248 - The unfinished fragments of other peoples lives



Easter has a rhythm all of it's own, mostly the rhythms surrounding my life being people standing next to me gazing out at, say, a shop or a football crowd, commenting on the lack of people around us and with great depth perception saying that everyone must be away for Easter. Where do people go for Easter? They don't linger in Hobart nightclubs, they don't gather around the shops in the morning queuing for groceries and wondering what happened to the local newsagents, and they don't gather around big screen televisions wondering where the barmaid from Customs that boasts a lack of intellect as her most appealing quality is. That's my job, and I feel like a seat filler at the Oscars, filling in time and space in an empty part of the world. It gives me more time to think though, this blissful stillness. Time to put on the radio and hear vengeful people saying vengeful things about footballers who couldn't care less about them, time to pick at the fringes of an Easter egg or time to go on a pointless hunt for Newcastle Brown Ale for my Dad. I wish I had a greater sense of adventure on days like this, but adventure only leads to inquisition, and my brain isn't in the mood for it. I'm taken aback standing in the empty car park, struggling for anything to look at as the cold air sweeps through me, so much space around me, so many little shops in the Kingston Shopping Centre now shut down, leaving behind empty buildings, for sale signs limp in the window, other shops now coated head to toe on the outside by fliers, tattered pieces of paper flapping in the breeze, lost dogs and French lessons struggling to be heard in the middle of the early morning maelstrom. So often I have moments where I can walk by, hear a tiny snippet of a conversation or see something, just a moment, just a little fraction of time where I don't get everything that's happening, and the moment passes without the full story unfolding. It happens all the time, but it's not happening today, in the cold of mid morning, and as I clutch my little big of groceries and shove them into the boot, the entire scene is so ridiculously quiet, I think for a moment it isn't just the shopping centre that's ground to a halt, but my own brain. Luckily, my struggle to think is interrupted by a rogue trolley skidding guilelessly across my path, and normal order is more than restored...

It's Saturday night, although it's hardly live. A pub, a waitress struggling against the offensive comments about her weight mingles through the crowd with a swish, holding up a plate of meat while her own plates of meat ache against tight heels. A crowd gathers around a television set. A group from a table across become entangled with our group, joining our social circle and spilling their stories freely. There's an arrogant surfer boy amongst the group, who begins telling me about his whisky collection, with such surety and tedious detail I'm sure I drift off and when I come back, he's looped his conversation back to the start and seems to re-opened the whisky cabinet for another go. I drift off, watching the TV, watching the chunky waitress, watching girls having a handbag fight at the ATM on the wharf. He leaves, and his friends nudge and wink as they presume he's used his Mick Fanning hair cut to woo a lady, but when he comes back, he looks like he's about to burst into tears and seems woefully uncomfortable. I presume his charms, or his potency, have failed him, and he shuffles from foot to foot, suddenly a smaller man, diminished in stature but not in quality of whisky collection. What happened I will never know, as he drifts into the night, his last drink downed with undue haste as he spirits away into the night. We're left with his drunken mate, loud, offensive, making smirking comments with a racial sting at the end that hang in the air uncomfortably. He follows us out, and in the blink of an eye, he's gone from an annoyance to a threat, the smirk gone as he menaces a busker with threats and an aggressive piece of posturing out of a how to be a wanker manual. I'm left wondering what happens when I leave the scene at an awkward moment, shuffling off to the taxi rank as the argument breaks out. I'm left to wonder about the transformations people go through, the way confidence ebbs and flows and the way eyes can glaze over in an instant when alcohol sinks in, but only much later, as the taxi drives off into the night, a woman driver beginning her own life story and letting it sink into a mind, mine, that simply can't take it all in, as the argument flickers behind me in dim light and continues to unfold as the engine splutters, the radio hisses and crackles and my mind shuts down for the evening...

It's Sunday evening. I need some Red Eye, to shake off the lethargy of the night before. I didn't go to Syrup, which I was proud of, when the group I was with headed off that way to dance around with the bored DJ. I also didn't make fun of the waitress, for I understand the difficulty of not looking your best, as I think I do now, but my local store isn't the kind of place you want to be too dressed up. It's a flannel and ugh boots kind of store, basic products and the ever changing rotation of Greek owners who appear to be running some kind of immigration scam. I'll never know what's in all those damn boxes that pile up out the back and clog up the walkways, but I don't think it's Samboys somehow. The boy behind the counter has a Forrest Gump expression when I walk in, the doorbell that chimes perhaps should play duelling banjos such is his never changing monosyllabic tone and fiercely unblinking gaze from behind a mind as closed as Irish Murphys is to anyone who isn't blonde and 18teen. He goes quickly back to his Mercury, scanning the pages of the funnies and making strange grunting laughs. He's discomforting, which perhaps is the point, trying to hustle out the customers with blank stares and airless laughter, but I'm used to this store by now, and I take my time, sliding around the spinning rack of porn and heading straight for the fridge as his eyebrows follow me around. After a while trying to decide between Red Eye Gold and Red Eye, er, Red, a fight breaks out behind me - a man in a tracksuit so nylon it seems likely to combuse, who's doof doof mobile has pulled into the car park with ridiculous speed, is trying to get a Chiko Roll and wake up Forrest wasting his breath against a wall of indifference, turning to swearing as he verbally pokes the bear right in the middle of his grey hooded top. Suddenly thrust into the hurly burly of customer relations, Forrest doesn't really know how to respond, and the argument curls around into pointless loops of point and counter point and the chiko roll seems further and further away from being eaten as it sits unloved turning in the little metal grill it sits upon. The argument seems never ending, tracksuit sparks flying as a history of poor service tumbles from the aggressors lips, and I put the Red Eye down, go past the rack of porn, and leave the shop, as Forrests eyebrows follow me out, and with a weary flourish he turns back to the confrontation, and while I don't know how it will be resolved, I do know that that chiko roll seems absolutely unlikely to be eaten...by anybody...

It's Monday morning, the shuffle of single mans slippers slip across the supermarket floor as the early morning staff stack groceries and a 15teen year old boy eyes the shoppers with youthful disdain. My own basket is such a classic grab-bag of single male shopping it feels like I'm trying to be cliched, and I look less than appealing, so luckily it's not Thursday night and singles evening and I don't need to go and grab a melon. I'm still a bit hungover, and my manky green jumper is such a loud shade of flouro it's really not helping. As I turn the corner an even more shambolic looking woman in an even more disgusting jumper that seems to have a pattern designed to follow me around the shop, a mess of swirls and twirls so lurid I suspect if I stare long enough I'll see a Magic Eye dolphin. Round about the cake section there's a wide open door and a woman with loud and plain anxiety says loudly that Sarah must be dreading 4 o'clock. There's real concern in her voice, and it doesn't seem right to linger, no matter my curiousity. The 15teen year old doesn't look old enough to shave, and gives me cursory service, blank eyes and a tie that only a mother could tie. It doesn't seem right to linger once again, it doesn't seem right to criticise someone who is only doing this part time, as I once did, and I wasn't the warmest of checkout operators, but I packed a mean bag. I shuffle through the less than packed urban sprawl, past the closed down shops and past the bottle shop where a woman with straggly hair and puce coloured cheeks can feel like a queen once she is flirted with by the young lifter of the beer, with a swipe of his mighty fist lifting up her beer carton and she giggles and twirls her hair as if he's personally asked her out. I don't even mind that meanwhile I'm left struggling with a distinct lack of service and am hanging as I grow idly by the counter as they walk slowly, joined in a mutual moment that they'll never get back. I guess the guy just doesn't like the cut of my gib though - or doesn't know what a gib is - because I have to lug my own beer carton through the car park, past where the old pizza shop used to be, past a thousand memories of ugly nights out and hanging around on pointless unemployed weekdays, as my fingers grip the cardboard and cut against the easygrip handle, I think the carton of beer is about to snap in two and send beer cans cascading down the road, but if someone makes a twat of themselves in a carpark and no one is around to offer moral judgement...well you know the rest...

That's how I ended up alone in the car park, that's easy to explain, but how I ended up here in life, that's a far greater jumble...

12 comments:

Patricia said...

very interesting story and creative flow about the car park...like the Kindle Surprise joke..

I need to read this a couple of times and the video is very interesting.

G said...

"The boy behind the counter has a Forrest Gump expression when I walk in..."

It's funny that you mention that, because it seems to me that whenever I walk into a small store, the clerks usually have that very same expression. Which in turn usually makes me act roughly the same way.

Shoot, I used to act the same way when I was on the other end of the equation. After dealing with a hundred or so egotistical maniacs, you have a tendency to act like Forrest Gump, just so that you can get them out the door as quick as possible.

Miles McClagan said...

It's a great joke isn't it...I'm waiting for it to catch on! The video is Lily Allen, that's my girl...hopefully she'll catch on too!

I know I'm not one to criticise FG syndrome, I was perpetually in that state at Coles...god, when the old women asked for home delivery it was a nightmare! My expression then was one of utter hopelesness, although I didn't have the eyebrows or big dumb look this guy did...I hope!

sparsely kate said...

Once again, a tragic look at life in the pointless, suburban bubble in which many of us exist, written in such a wonderfully gloomy way ;)

You should have come to Sydney with me..it would have been heaps more fun and you could have bought lots of show bags!

Kris said...

You make it all sound like so much fun.

Miles McClagan said...

I think weddings would be so much more fun if the guests got showbags...god they are so great...I never try and be gloomy, but man that carpark...

Kingston isn't for fun of any kind of bolded font...it's for retiring to! And buying shoes at low low prices...

Kettle said...

One thing I particularly like about your posts is how the urban mundaneness you describe is so often coupled with baffling and ordinary cruelty, like the drunken guy with the busker. Life is no fairytale and all romantic comedies are lies!

I'm with Kate: it's wonderfully gloomy stuff.

Miles McClagan said...

It's entirely my Scottish upbringing, where any hopes or aspirations tend to be mocked, sometimes cruelly, and the urban decay is readily pointed out to you. In fact, unless you are an especially brave wee woman from a village who sings Les Miserables songs, life is amazingly gloomy...

Kath Lockett said...

Wonderfully Gloomy is indeed the best way to describe your poignant writings, young Miles!

...and why the manky green jumper? Was that from Elvis Costello's shop?

Miles McClagan said...

No it's a Glasgow Celtic hooded top I bought in Scotland last year - I wear it as my throw it on top, and it's a bit worn out looking. I'd love to claim it's shabby chic, but it's just manky...

Baino said...

Miley I think this is one of your more amazing pieces. I find if I read it with a Scottish accent it works so well. Although I am concerned about a 30 somthing wearing a green fluoro jumper.
We did the 'show' thing. I wasted 20 minutes of my life 'shuffling' through the show bag hall without buying anything. It didn't look anything like the Boiler Room it is during the Big Day Out . .ntz, ntz, ntz . .

Miles McClagan said...

Thanks mate, although obviously Lily made it better...as I said, it's my Celtic top...doesn't make it better, but it was bought in good spirit! A whole hall of show bags would have been my childhood dream...imagine the joy...so much choice, so many great cartoons lining up...if they had a Snagglepuss showbag, imagine...