Sunday, November 22, 2009

It's Xmas time in the city...in November

It's Xmas time already where I work. My desk is now officially covered in a designated amount of Xmas tree gingerbread biscuits, biscuits that sit idling in a green bowl until such time as the dieting worker will succumb to temptation. We haven't got to carols on the CD player yet, but we will, doubtless. There's an invitation on my computer to my works Xmas dinner, but no nightmare shall ever come close to being squeezed into an Indian restaurant - nothing says festivity like a curry I guess - in a party hat with people I see all day long. I've already got my excuse lined up, something about having to go to the airport, something like that, something no-one can really check. Feign illness and you can be caught pushing groceries around a supermarket. There's a horrifically Xmas themed advert on TV right now for an online dating service, cloyingly attempting to poke and prod at the lonely. I certainly won't be lonely, that's for sure - my house will be full over Xmas, full of transient visitors and aunties from home, only some of whom will require me to lock up my valuables. Curse having a house with space. Xmas has got to the girl at the hand lotion table. They've stuck her with antlers, and every day we share a mutual look of woe, although she might just want my Smoosh T-shirt. She has to work every day with a man happy and toothy - a man with curly frizzy hair and a core of values from a self help book. He tries to flirt with every woman that passes, while she sits idling at the cash register, flicking through a magazine, surviving another dreary day. When they first pressed themselves into the mall, he was trying desperately to get her motivated, but he's long since given up and now they only talk in short 1ne word sentences. He's started adding Xmas themed words to his greetings, or at least he did until a woman in a heavy blue coat struggling with her groceries responded with 2wo well chosen swear words. He's been much less bouyant since, chastened and less likely to stand with hands on hip eyeing middle aged women to swoop and lotion, but she's been smiling and glowing, even with the antlers on. She's barely turned the page on her story about Nicole Kidman all week, and sits at her desk in a perpetual glow, smiling and nodding in his direction every time I pass. I smile back, but not too vigorously. She might be setting me up for a hand lotion demonstration. You can never be too careful...

Fitfully making it through the Xmas rush has become my annual event. That and weeding and guttering on the weekend before I get invaded. In Big W they've narrowed the aisles for Xmas, packing much more junk in, with the side effect that you can't walk anywhere bar some horrific pile of bogans stampede you to get near the new release of Nobleism. They've cranked up the Xmas music as well, to ear splitting levels, levels at which you can only form some sort of Reiseresque routine about Xmas music because all other thoughts are drowned out by Crosbyism. Panda Eyed girl has responded to the changes by wandering around saying everything is shit, although conversely she hasn't stopped smiling for weeks on end, an evil smile with thin lips and silver lip gloss to the fore. I try and think for a moment about, oh I don't know, the last Xmas I enjoyed, try and work out exactly what I'm such a miserable bastard every December, and how maybe it's just because of that Xmas in Scotland where I had to care for the elderly and sat in a pile of snow while my friends had all moved on. Maybe that's it, or I'm just a miserable bastard. Panda Eyed Girl is poking and prodding the packaging of a wrestling figure and calling it flimsy. I feel as though she was doing this last year, and the deja vu is striking. Time keeps on passing I guess. There's a kid in a South African cricket top doing zig zags in front of me, until I have to stop because the temptation to boot him up the arse is driving me insane. I used to be like when I lived in Penguin, I used to sprint and zig zag everywhere. 1ne day I was just sprinting in the middle of the road, and a kid was running in the other direction. It was Penguin, so it's not like there was any cars. As I ran past the kid, he said Penguin was just like Workington. I can neither confirm or deny that. I don't think this kid was likely to come up with anything profound. He was just running directly in blind zigs unsupervised. Eventually he plows directly into a pile of unsold Ray Martin books, and falls down on the ground hurt with some tinsel on his head, and a Ray Martin book on his leg. He lies on the ground for so long, staff rush from everywhere to help him, but his parents are completely unseen and unsighted. Panda Eyed Girl looks interested for the briefest moments, then returns to her rant about the wrestling figure, before swishing off to find something else to complain about. The kids parents meanwhile emerge and pick him up without even looking, propping him up under both arms while casually keeping up a conversation about crazy paving. Somehow, it really does feel Xmas...

We never make it to end of 1ne year from the previous year without at least 1ne farewell dinner. They all pile up to an inconsequential series of nights out, the same speeches, the same ill thought out gift and same card thrown in the bottom of a drawer. This card was baffling - that's all I took out of the whole evening. No one could figure it out, all it had was a woman in a bath on the front. I think it was supposed to signify relaxation in retirement, but it looked strange and ill thought it. I became concerned for this person that they had worked here for so long without making a single impression, until on their final day they got something that made no sense because no one could remember what they liked, but if I expressed that thought, it was only in a desire for them to hurry up with the mint ice cream. In an adjoining room, a much more upbeat party was in full swing - people in suits singing Xmas songs on karaoke under flickering lights while some1ne walked past our gathering with a stuffed reindeer under his arm. I was uncommunicative and sullen I must admit, the most peripheral figure in what was a solemn ocassion. No-one wants to go to work functions anymore, they don't have the time, and the ice-cream has a prohibitive cost. At the end of our table, 1ne of our younger, perkier and drunker members of staff is pontificating between nights out at Syrup about how her friend would be perfect for me. Such things bounce off me now, as my friend would be perfect for you seems to be code these days for my friend has a lawn she needs mowing or hasn't been out to dinner for a while because she's poor. It's only when she says her friends has a collection of Care Bears and cheerfully describes them as "vintage toys" that I even flicker. Vintage toys? It makes them sound like antique cup and ball games or something carved out of wood by a blacksmith. Time is passing. Too quickly. And I'm sitting around eating mint ice-cream. She doesn't realise she's just made me feel old, and continues blythely onwards without even stopping. The reindeer ends up sitting propped up outside the bar, unloved and unlamented, and the karaoke party ends up in a swinging and violent fistfight, apparently because someone wanted to Parton and got Rogers. They are thrown out past some wealthy dowagers sitting picking fitfully at a rotating shelf of chocolates and saying things like I never. I leave early, pretty much as soon as I've devoured the last piece of my mint ice cream. 1ne day this will be me, making the platitude speech, getting the platitude card, glibly annotated onto the end of some new employees welcome to work speech. When I step outside to get my taxi home, something brushes up against my foot, and it's only after trying to shake it off I realise it's the card the departee was given, thrown away as soon as they had left the building. To think, I came for the pistachio, and ended up with poignancy...and feeling about 100ed years old...

The card disappears down the gutter and vanishes, and since there's no cabs around, and it's probably the right time to get a talkative cab driver bemoaning the state of the nation anyway, I wander into a bar, somewhere that used to be my local, just to kill time, just I don't have to watch my terrible football team embarrass themselves again in living colour. There's no-one around in the entire bar, the barstaff discussing ethics in sport with the passion of those who can never change anything but think they can, except for a girl with a badly tattooed arm - the kind that looks unfinished and drawn by a hypnotised and dizzy 3rd grader - draping herself drunkenly over a man in a Nirvana flannel shirt. The man barely looks up from Guinness, his face cracked and craggy, like a road map of a thousand nights out. The band try and crank up some enthusiasm, running through their standard routine of Powderfinger covers in terrible warm up fashion. The beer is flat, but it kills time, time until something else happens, no better way to describe these nights. The girl, I realise about 1/2lf way through my 3hrd sip, used to work at Coles. She looked a lot more lively at Coles - she was our Xmas funshine girl, the kind who brought antlers in a box and planned outings I never went to because I couldn't be bothered. Or wasn't invited. I can't remember which. She used to always sell raffle tickets and hum happy tunes. Now she just looks exhausted. Her man is practically asleep, practically resting his head on a phalanx of Keno pencils and beer mats. I'd suggest she add antlers to her outfit, but it wouldn't go with the ennui. Everything just takes like mint ice-cream, even the beer, so my stay is short and pointless. I get up to leave, at which point a voice in the corner says didn't you used to sell oranges? Given anything else is likely to confuse and befuddle her sleepy little head, I shrug, say maybe, and leave the band still lost and running. When I turn around, both the girl and the man are fast asleep on the table, about 6ix seconds away from being thrown out by a grumpy Samoan bouncer. I've been there, I've seen that, I've been barred for wearing the T-shirt. There's a weekend to fill in yet, before the circus of my worklife continues to roll on for another week...

Time, as they say, continues to pass...

4 comments:

the projectivist said...

i'm ok with the decorations being up
i'm ok with the Christmas merchandising.

i'm just not read for Deck The Halls and Silent Night yet. and by 'yet' i mean ever.

i don't like those songs.

Miles,
let's meet up in your lunch hour for one of those Santa cupcakes over at Bakers Delight. that's a cracking name, isn't it, Bakers Delight? or not. it always reminds me of 'morning delight' which is code for sex in the morning. everyone knows that.

so, like i was saying: let's meet up for some morning delight.
is Tuesday good for you?

Miles McClagan said...

Ah, Bakers Delight. Ironic isn't it people who work there are so miserable huh?

Tuesday is good for me. I'll bring along my best Xmas grievances, and I'll even pay. If for no other reason than it'll break some Scottish stereotypes...

Baino said...

Weird about the card. After 10 weeks of writing policy and procedures for the business division where I work, they offered 3 long term employees voluntary redundancy and it was me who was consigned to buy not only the cards but the presents. I didn't even know the people and yet they all thought the gifts and cards were so appropriate (of course they didn't know it was me who purchased them). Sad to work somewhere so long that when you retire people still don't know you. Baker's Delight are making Santa Cup cakes? Ooooh!

Miles McClagan said...

I know, I think the person was really upset by the card. Maybe the messages were un-poignant? I thought mine was good?

Oh well, they've moved on now I guess. I'm more interested in going to Bakers Delight tomorrow. Sounds fun!