Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Queue, and how to survive it



Some people call Wednesday hump day - appropriate because I've got the hump. Not really, but I'd quite like to be a bit more wealthy, to be debating yacht choices in the Bahamas instead of flavoured milk choices at Banjos. I'm in a queue in KMart - there's not much going on, and in the interests of full disclosure I'm buying my Mum a Michael J Fox book, but don't tell her. The girl behind the counter is blonde and awkward, pressed into uniform service before her time - there's a women with a gigantic cardboard cutout something sticking out the front of her trolley, which is just seemingly purchased to comically bump into the back of shoppers with hilarious results, and the counter girl is just staring at her with weary disdain. By the time the girl asks me about the whereabouts of my frequent shopper card, I feel as though her performance is forced. Maybe she's stressing about the impending 24/7 opening of all the KMarts in Tasmania which will just give drunks somewhere to hang out and throw Miley Cyrus books at each others. I can see an escape route as she wafts my purchase idly over the counter. It's then that, quite oddly, I notice she smells entirely of sandwiches. This is a disquieting notion to me, but it's definitely there - white bread if I'm not mistaken. It's quite interesting to me that my brief relationship with Vicki the baker girl back in Penguin has for some reason made it possible for me to tell the smells of individual breads baking. Is that even possible? Or is it some sort of strange nostalgic flashback? I know I don't look at jelly slices the same way...anyway, by the time I remember the story about the jelly slice, and realise that I've had a nostalgic sandwich influenced flashback like I've probably grinned inanely for long enough and jolt back into the present with a thud, at which point I realise that inane grinning to no one in particular is probably not a sign of rich mental health. The girl behind the counter is now grinning at me widely and broadly in return, and emphasises that I have a great day, and she's within an inch of putting the coins in my palm with the kind of flirtacious manner reserved for drunken London barmaids. I'm not sure what happened in my brief moment of mental wandering, but it's definitely melted the frost in her, and I'd like to know what I did. It says a lot for my Scottishness though that rather than take this as a compliment, I instantly worry that since my own grinning was brought on entirely because she smelled of sandwiches...maybe it's best not to think too hard about what I smell like...

Behind me in the queue is a short, slightly hairy guy in acid wash jeans. Even in the midst of my sandwich hallucination, I had been aware of the guy struggling to breathe, short gasping wheezes floating up to the ceiling like the rasping death rattle of a wounded snake. When I look at him, I can see the remnants of a million long, hard nights out at the pub etched all over his face, little tangential wrinkles joined up all over his visage like a pub crawl road map. He looks like a rocker, like a man who's stood up at the front of 70tys rock band and belted tunes to indifferent milling crowds for many hours of his life, and his boots are sparkling, pointed and exotic looking, and I've sketched a short mental picture of him as a sort of love em and leave em bar singer with rock in his heart - so it breaks my heart that I then notice he's holding a Vileda mop and bucket. It just seems jarring somehow, not quite right. Maybe it's to clean up spilled beer, that seems appropriate. I'm sure he's noticed the mutual grin fest in the line of front of him though - he seems like the kind of guy who would complain if he was genuinely held up by too much conversation, since his bottom lip is twitching and his body is shuffling foot to foot with hyperkinetic energy. Maybe he's having an allergic reaction to Taylor Swift on the system PA, and is ready to storm the Layby section to demand some Rose Tattoo. I notice by the time he's served he's almost fully extended on the heels of his fancy shoes and is almost leaning over the counter in excitement as he puts his Vileda mop up for scanning. Having seen the smile of the girl at the counter, I get the impression that he's up for a bit of flirting, and he positively bounds to the counter to continue the good vibrations built up by the mutual meeting of sights and smells which we've just engaged in. It's then that I hear in the most disappointed, flat monotone voice a female voice respond to the cheerful g'day with nothing more than a request for a frequent shopper card. She's had her moment of people pleasing, and is back to business. I'm sure that the rocker will get over it, but it seems somehow a shame he didn't get a little courtesy. I see him later in the Wendys queue, and he seems a little bit better, chatting to the older woman with the mole and leaning like a cockney window cleaner with his elbow against the glass...I feel better for him, but I hope I never hear him sing...pub rock, it's not for me...

Behind him in the queue is a girl, maybe mid 20tys, one of a cat food purchasing duo, with thick glasses and strangely coloured hair - not quite brown, not quite blonde, not quite anything really, just a colour, an indescribable colour of flatness, a messy colour unromantic and flat. She's wearing clothes that somehow feel the same, glasses that somehow feel the same...she seems entirely flat as a person, unremarkable to look at in a dowdy brown T-shirt and gray brown pants, her shape shapeless, her eyes joyless. Her friend is vaguely more glamorous, having spent some of the government stimulus money stimulating her lips with a fancy shade of lip gloss, a sort of dazzling silver that looks in this light the colour of a less than reputable piece of cookwear, and a T-shirt with a slogan on it too trendy for mere mortals to comprehend. They were in front of me in the queue at first but retreated like defeated soldiers when they realised they hadn't bought their trashy magazines yet and they stand stock still letting the queue pass them by as they pore over the front cover of one of the magazines, one of those horrible she's too fat she's too thin no one is quite right editions with close ups and helpful arrows...the lip gloss girl is making gesticulations towards one of the girls on the cover, a transformed celebrity who went from fat, and you could tell they were fat because they wore a black bra and looked a bit sad, to fab, and you could tell they were fab because they had been photoshopped and looked quite happy. I couldn't quite tell, but I think the implication from the discussion from lip gloss girl to the girl who wasn't there was that if this celebrity could shed some pounds and look fab, it could act as motivation for her to...I'm not sure KMart is the place for someone to point out you aren't looking the best, the magazine rack of a chain store not the best place for a chip at your self esteem. I'm not sure exactly which of the helpful arrows on the magazine cover was supposed to the most helpful, and I'm not in the mood to stop and work it all out...I've wasted too much time and I still don't have any food...

Vicki would often stick up for the underdog and whenever one of her less attractive friends would be down in the dumps she would tell them about inner beauty and how there was no such thing as out of their league...she was good at re-assurance, and good at making sure everyone felt good and was pretty philosophical about the future, to the point she'd pay more attention to these discussions and smoking than she would making hedgehog slices if I'm honest. She'd quite like KMart, it would give her scope to cheer people up I think. There were less people in there today than there were in the dodgy clothes shop - for some reason, the dodgy clothes shop squatting in the space where the foilament shop was is doing a roaring trade, although most of their clothes just seem to be the same, but different colours - and they all seem to have skulls on them. I leave it all behind to climb into Dads car and go out for tea - we don't so much talk now as just playfully bicker, bicker about football and music and a million little events from 10en or 20ty years ago - the time he got out of the car to get a scarf that had blown out the window and my cousin snuck up behind him and tooted the horn, or my awful attempt to throw a javelin - and I realise even in a KMart queue I can be reminded of a million things I thought I had forgotten, little bits of my brain fizzling and crackling, even for things as simple as a smell of sandwiches or a girl struggling with the way she looks...it's probably no surprise given the way the day has gone that when I ask the girl at the restaurant what desserts they have, she says they have jelly slices, and smiles blankly while I go back a million years to a time when the possibilities seemed a lot more diverse than ice cream or jelly...

Mind you, I'm happy where I am now...somewhere between bad acne and Vileda mops...the true middle age of man...

5 comments:

Samantha said...

my sisters possess a couple of t-shirts i'd love, sigh. One is "Ninjas can't catch you, if you are on fire!" and the other is "come to the dark side - we have cookies"

the projectivist said...

would someone please explain that whole 'hump day' thing to me?

i saw that woman from that morning show, the one who works with Larry and is just so insipid that i cannot for the life of me remember her name. ok, Kylie. that's it. Kylie something-or-other.

anyway, i saw THAT woman wish everyone a happy hump day and i just wanted to scrape the inside of my eyeballs out with a spoon.

because it's just wrong.
wrong! Kylie? you are not hip.
you are not 'down with the peeps'.

please do not use that phrase.
(this is just in case she reads your blog, Miles. i'll stop now. carry on.)

word verification?
gagosted.

precisely.
thank you.

Helen said...

Wednesdays are horrible! because you suddenly realise exactly how good your procrastination was on monday and tuesday. And week starts looking very short...

Baino said...

I really hope I'm never spotted in a queue by you! I can't imagine how you'd describe me in my dusty baseball cap, tracky daks and Velida mop . . .I still think you're clueless meandering about sandwiches when someone is clearly flirting with you . .men! Hopeless. I actually like that Taylor Swift song. *gasp*

Miles McClagan said...

I had a phase of obsessively wearing T-shirts with slogans...I've stopped now and gone back to good old tracky tops! No slogans, just zips!

I personally blame camels...and Kylie Gillies, if you google your own name, consider yourself TOLD!

I know, there's a tantalising glimpse of Friday on the horizon, but there's still 3hree full days of work to go...awful day...it gives you the hump!

I know, but if I hadn't been grinning like an eedjit, I'd not have been flirted with. Taylor Swift is my personal nightmare, someone should nail her with a Vileda mop...right in the chops...