Monday, May 4, 2009

Distractions, Pretence, and Baseball caps 2wo for 5ive bucks



Like an out of the fog mascara clad dot on the mental horizon, Panda Eyed Girl was back today - I was surprised to see her, I thought Big W had had a clear out, and perhaps she had been shuffled out of the front door with the best wishes of all and sundry, but there she was in Lay-by today, and lest anyone think she had developed a work ethic, she stood with hands on hips, blonde hair billowing under an extractor fan as she chewed idly and fitfully on a sandwich, each bite so slow and deliberate any customer would have to wait until the last crumb was devoured before she would regally deign to get their pram off the shelf out the back. The reason for her deliberation - and I will be honest, as a student of her work ethic, I don't suspect she deliberates about a lot except for lip gloss, which may just be snobbery from someone reading a book about The Baader Meinhoff Complex - and her pause and chew view is the same reason that I've stopped my daily idling for just a moment as Taylor Swift poisons the airwaves with her teenage muzak dreaming. There's an unreconstructed boy in a turned to the side baseball cap, white tracksuit and eyebrows shaved into shape who is within inches of hitting his girlfriend. They are arguing in the book section, and we're all in a strange cosmic rhythm - swearing, placating, chewing, idling, lather, rinse, repeat. Every time she tries to placate him he gets more and more angry, more aggressive, and we're caught up in the moment as he turns and looks at a book to compose himself. When I look at the book, it's a kids book, dancing unicorns or something - which seems somehow appropriate given the immaturity and childlike way his eyes furtively shift from side to side in awkwardness when he realises he's being watched, like a child caught with a cookie. His girlfriend clings to his arm as he sulks, and time continues to pass, in awkward fitful seconds until Panda Eyed Girl has finished her sandwich and goes back to idle staring and gawping, and I resume idling through the books for something intelligent to look. Sometimes I think Panda Eyed Girl knows she's part of my daily narrative, and plays on it, her act is so studied and so predictable, her stance so completely without guile or any trace of work ethic it feels like pretence, as much as the big angry bear in the white tracksuit is all sound and fury, scrawny and loud but not worth the attention of shoppers. Taylor Swift keeps on narrating of course, and I wonder if his girlfriend dreams of prince and princesses, and wonders how she ended up with the duncess instead...and all I've ended up with is a vague realisation that if the argument got physical, I'd have to be the one to be, at the very least, yell out oi that's out of order, and I've ended up with a real craving for a brown bread sandwich...

They moved a new shop into the space the foilament operator squatted in - another squatter’s lease, clothes and baseball caps lined up neatly on tables. Snobbery means that any time I see baseball caps lined up on tables, I flash back to the Barras market in Glasgow. Street kids manning the gates telling the illicit sellers of such dangerous goods as sports socks - always 2wo for a pound as if anyone would buy 1ne - and trainers when the police where coming so the market could be cleared within seconds when a raid was on. I don't think anyone is going to raid the new squatters, but they seem to be doing a much better trade than the foilament sellers. They know their market I think, since most of the population is in baseball caps but no one seems to want a washbashin cat. There's an invitation on my e-mail to something I don't want to go to, and in the space in my brain that tries to get out of going, all the devious little reasons I run through my head to try and get out of attendance, there now only exists meandering thoughts about baseball caps that I can't get rid of. People filter through idly as the man behind the desk keeps a close eye on the merchandise, and he briefly looks so dodgy that I think he must have a kid on the door looking out for a raid after all. Maybe my judgements are totally off though - my brain knows why I'm avoiding the invitation, and fitfully it jumps from scene to scene like a skipping vinyl record that can't get from one Cinematic Orchestra track to the next because the needle is busted. No 2wo thoughts today seem to connect. At the muffin shop, a gaggle - and really, isn't it always - of teenage girls huddle around a newspaper, picking faults in the Logies frocks, in Gretel Killeens hair, in who the cutest Neighbours actor is. Those conversations are easy; I could pull up a pew and join them to be honest, without a lot of thought on my behalf. Ah, those wonderful conversations when you don't have to think, when all you have to do is sip a coffee and make an in joke every now and then...in the baseball cap shop, there's no room to think, the crowd is huddled tight, and the dodgy seller is grinning idly. Somewhere I think a washbasin cat is being made with a frowny face...

There's a fantastic photo on my Mums mantelpiece - it's her and 2wo of her sisters in London holding pigeons, and Mum is in the middle holding her pigeon as if it's made of a precious crystal while her 2wo sisters ham it up and hold their pigeons with reckless abandon and broad smiles. It's a wonderful photo because it sums up my Mum perfectly - someone obviously has given her a handbook on how to hold a pigeon and she's followed it to the letter. It's what she does, she listens, she concentrates, she replicates the instruction. I can't do that at all - my mind wanders at important moments, just when I'm being given the key reasoning behind a decision I'm staring out the window and down the road at people in a nearby house. I might not be able to tell you the key reason why friend X and friend Y aren't talking, but I can sure tell you in vivid colour what's going on at the next table. My pigeon I suspect would have been dropped or flown onto my head. The sandwich store today was such a moment - Sandwich White Female, who at one time held me sandwiches and was very vocal about doing so, but now who seems dis-interested as if perhaps life had ground her down the way the taste of her stores muffins have ground down my palate, has apparently picked up. I'm not sure if this is the repetition of a previous conversation, and they are talking about it again, but in my notice of that I don't notice that another girl with a fancy wrist band and an even fancier badge promoting, I don't know, probably muffins, is standing with an attentive but definitely creepy smile spread across her prematurely aged face. Middle managers before 2ty3hree just always look so old to me, so wrinkled, so desperate to please it curves the arc of their face just the way the how to manual tells them to. Mum would have been perfect for the job. She drops the smile for just a moment to re-iterate that it's my duty to be served by her, and then throws a glance over her shoulder at the non working girls behind her and rolls her eyes in a manner which suggest I'm meant to agree with her worldview that society needs more workers and less slacking. I'd explain to her, via the metaphor of a pigeon, that I'm not really in agreeance today and I've wasted an entire day listening to Ladyhawke on the IPOD and not answering an e-mail, but I'd hold up the guy behind me who's telling his kid about the big day they are going to have at the swing park once they escape this corporate bakery, and somehow, it just seems unfair, so I merely not, turn up My Delerium super loud and wander off, with a task in mind...

The e-mail has sat all this time unattended. My e-mail at work not only makes a sound but flashes on the screen like a hypnotic grey square cursor. We used to have e-mail that you couldn't close until you had opened every last e-mail, even the ones that were just visual representations of the frowny face. I wonder if I could replicate panda eyed girls usual face as an emoticon...no, it's time to stop the time wasting and answer this damned e-mail. It's a difficult one, after all, I had so many examples today of pretence, that I feel a little uneasy about replying with some made up excuse why I can't wander off to a party. Especially given it's a while away. The strange thing about Tasmania is that a 1ne hour car journey is somehow a terrifying trip into an abyss, you are stuck there for the night, with all the implications that invokes. Whenever I go to this place, I'm uncomfortable, but then I'm always uncomfortable staying over at peoples houses, divorced from the Foxtel box and the Lily Allen CD collection stacked in the corner. I blame the posh kid I stayed with in Prep - he ate oranges and I did too because that's what they did and I got sick and broke out in a rash, which is such a perfect story for my whole life I'm surprised someone hasn't snapped up the film rights. Plus, I don't want to see someone I once liked but did nothing about - I should have, obviously, but I didn't, so shuffling about awkwardly, knowing everyone else knows I'm going to be awkward and drunk while listening to horrible music when I can't shuffle home...god help me if they serve oranges. Someone shuts the door, and I'm still staring blankly at the grey square, an entire day lost to indecision, to easy choices and plain boredom. To, thankyou Lily, The Fear. However, something springs to mind - a certain face, a certain attitude, a certain disposition...with the insouciance of a studied persona - and in fairness, hers is guileless and unthought about I suspect where as mine will have to be improvised on the spot - and a certain way to eat a sandwich, I click on the e-mail, say I'll go, and drift casually into the night, Lily Allen on the IPOD, not an expression on my face....

It might only last until I get into my hammock and resume thinking, but it's a start...

9 comments:

Young Ned of the Hill said...

Sometimes its ok to just say no.

If you dont want to go, then just dont. Be brave enough to ditch the guilt, its all kind of wasted energy anyway, isnt.

Now, get back to the white tracksuit? Is that specific to those parts, as I dont recall seeing one the streets before, and I do get about a bit.

squib said...

my mind wanders at important moments Reminds me of that scene from Black Books when Manny misses the security alarm code because the security alarm man has a little plastic man in his hair

Miles McClagan said...

The white tracksuit is more the domain of the "ned" - Scottish urban annoyances. To see one in Big W was unsettling. I had a white tracksuit in the early 90s...Scotland Italia 90 shell suit...horrible horrible...and it is OK to say no, but ya know, it's good to say yes as well!

I would not have remembered it was a security alarm man to be honest....

sparsely kate said...

I like panda-eye girl's work ethic, it sounds so much like my own when I was younger and worked at k.mart.
On a shift I was given the job of standing in the change rooms, giving customer's a coat hanger and garment counter. But it was boring so instead of putting away stock like I was meant to do, I snuck a book in from the book section and had myself a delightful time reading. Until I got caught..and they never asked me to do the clothing section again. Boohooey.

And I HATE those aggressive bastards that cause grief for their women. Man but would I like to hit him about the head with the thickest book on the shelf.

Kath Lockett said...

White tracksuit man probably couldn't even read the unicorn book..... and you said "yes", so maybe this time you can do something about it/her/the situation?

Miles McClagan said...

Oh there's no doubt when I worked at Coles I had her work ethic. I don't know what it is about reading books...I was always busted doing that...if you hit white tracksuit man with a book, I think it would bounce off his scone and he wouldn't notice...

Books about unicorns can be complicated...and maybe...although I'm in charge of making CDs, so that's my main job! That's my focus right now...

Miladysa said...

Another excellent tale from the world of Miles - thank you :D

You never know, it might turned out alright this time - fingers crossed.

I watched the film Ladyhawk this Bank Holiday Monday just gone - lost count of how many times I've sat and watched it on a rainy Bank Holiday afternoon.

Baino said...

I'm such a flake when I get invitations. Always say yes but rarely go. Isn't it weird that we think travelling an hour to a party or something is too far yet we'll travel 10 hours to go on holiday . .I say go . .make amends . . .find someone to share that hammock!

Miles McClagan said...

It could, or I could get drunk and sleep in my car, ha ha, such are the joys of my life! Is there a film called that? That must be where she got the name...I love Bank Holiday films...or eps of Only Fools and Horses!

An hour in Tassie is 5ive hours in real terms...it's frightening...no bus home! Mad! I hate staying at peoples houses...no Foxtel? Scary...