Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Listen More. Mumble Less.

I often mishear people. Mostly, this is not my fault. It is the fault of people who mumble. But through some annoying quirk of society, somehow the onus is on ME to understand these people who don’t know how to enunciate. When I don’t hear what someone says I will generally respond with “I beg your pardon?” When they repeat themselves and again, and again I haven’t been able to understand them I will ask “sorry, could you tell me once more?” and if, on the third attempt, I don’t hear them I give up and chuckle and nod. Sometimes I repeat key words I did understand and chuckle and nod. For twenty four years of my life this was a pretty harmless solution to this fairly common problem. Until a little while ago when this solution stopped working and just made me look like a bitch.

I was delivering coffee to a lady up the road from where I worked. I arrived, coffee in hand, and made some small talk – you know, the weekend bla bla bla, the weather bla bla bla, business bla bla bla bla. And then it all went to shit.

“My back hurts mumble mumble” she told me.

“That’s no good!” I replied. “What did you do to it?”

“I was mumble mumble lifting mumble mumble weighs one hundred kilos” she said.

“I beg your pardon?” came my response.

“I mumble mumble doing so much work mumble mumble lifting mumble one hundred mumble kilos!” she lamented (I assumed).

Forever the people pleaser that I am, I tried to sympathise with her. Despite the fact I wasn’t entirely sure what I was sympathising with – but I figured she’d hurt her back lifting something heavy.

“One hundred kilos?!” I exclaimed “That is heavy. No wonder your poor back is sore. Wow! Isn’t one hundred kilos, like, a ton?”

She gave me an odd look and I smiled broadly and sincerely, wished her a nice afternoon and left.

You know how you only think of fantastic comebacks after you’ve finished an argument with someone? Or when someone asks you the name of that character from Family Ties and you can’t think of it until a few hours later when you’re not with them anymore? And sometimes after you leave a conversation you realise retrospectively what someone was saying to you, when earlier you had misheard them. Well, this was one of those times. So of course, it was only after I had walked back to work that I realised what this lady had told me.  In my mind the “mumbles” left her sentences and it became very apparent that she’d just told me that it was difficult to lift things because she had put on weight and weighed one hundred kilos. She had hurt her back because it is harder lifting things when you WEIGH one hundred kilos.

So in real life our conversation had gone something like:

Her: “I weigh one hundred kilos”

Me: “Wow! That’s so heavy! Isn’t that like a ton? Geez your back must be sore!”

Moral of the story? Start. Using. Correct. Pronunciation. And. Diction. In. Your. Sentences. Or I will be accidentally cruel to you.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Things Nick Says To Me: Part 1

On me telling him that when I was a misguided youth, my tag was "EXPLOSIVE".

Nick: My tag would be "DILIGENT". Or "RARELY LATE".

Bruce Almighty

Disclaimer: This is not meant to be funny. It's just about how much I love Bruce Springsteen.
The great thing about marriage is that you always have someone to go everywhere with you. When you say “we are going to see Hanson” for example, your spouse is legally obliged to respond “sure Pumpkin, here is my credit card.” So when my husband gleefully told me Bruce Springsteen was coming to Australia, I put on my married face and booked the tickets. I will freely admit that I was not a Bruce fan at this point in time. But BOY OH BOY am I one now. I read in an article “10 Reasons I Hate Bruce Springsteen” that any Bruce fan to whom you mention that you are not particularly fond of The Boss will respond that you can’t make this call unless you’ve seen him live. I have to whole-heartedly agree.

Last Monday night saw me arriving at the Allphones arena in Sydney and taking my B reserve seat. Hotdog and mid-strength beer in hand, I was fully prepared for the boredom which inevitably comes with seeing someone perform you don’t really care for. Shockingly, however, from the first strains of “American Land” I was enamoured. I literally had to hold back tears as the lights came up on Bruce and the E-Street band; it was just so damn stirring. I could feel the bass deep in my sternum, the brass section filling my ears and Bruce’s rugged, handsome face broadcasting a heart-warming smile to the stadium. Ah, Bruce. I now truly believe in the notion of love at first sight. His flavour-savour immediately made me regret all the times I had mocked Nick for his own stylish facial hair decisions, the deep crow’s feet etched into his face only giving more credence to the heart-wrenching, comical and stirring lyrics he sings. By the time he was crowd surfing the audience, he owned my Hungry Heart.

Looking around the stadium I could see that the feeling was well and truly not limited to my one little self. The audience, which was conspicuously sans-hipster and amazingly, missing the usual plethora of mobile phones – held high above the head recording the moment to be savoured at a later date – all appeared to be as smitten as I was. Even with the tiniest tilt of his head or wave of his hand, the crowd was under his control. And how could you not be? Bruce is like a god. The giant screens which hung high above the audience focused on Bruce’s face, making it all too easy to imagine I was sitting in a stadium somewhere in Middle America in 1983, not 2013. Either by design or just by some quirk of the lighting, the shadows which fell across The Boss’s face took years off him; the imperfection of his nose, the thickness of his hair and the glimmer of his eyes revealed him to be someone in their mid-thirties, not someone almost twice that. So I felt myself fall straight down the rabbit hole landing in a deep infatuation with a man who is forty years my senior. He moves around the stage staggering slightly, almost as if the legend that is “The Boss” weighs heavily upon him. Each time he lithely breaks into a dance or swings from his mic stand, he delivers on this legend, more beautifully and delicately than I could have imagined. I am occasionally distracted by what I think is the audience voicing their dissent – and then I realise they are simple saying “Bruce”. It must be difficult being a rock star with a name that is incredibly similar to the word “boo”.  

The kicker, though, is this. His inner beauty far surpasses his tight jeans-and-waistcoated-sexiness. Throughout his performance he constantly singles people out; giving a smile, a nod, a wave or a point, undoubtedly touching thousands of individual lives as he moves about the stadium. It is amazing to witness one individual having such reach, spreading unbridled joy throughout a stadium which holds 21,000 people. “Dancing in the Dark” became my new favourite song as he pulled an audience member onto the stage and held her tenderly in his arms; I have never been so overcome with jealousy. Every single woman in the audience swooned, those who didn’t were either lesbians or asexual.

Even writing this, I am still in some sort of shell-shocked state. Bruce turned a few of my fundamental beliefs on their head over the two nights we went to watch him. Upon returning home I knew we had to go back, “this can’t be the last I’ve seen of him” I thought “we had a connection!” So we purchased tickets for his final Sydney show and hopped back on the train to bask in the glory of his Friday performance. We were not disappointed. While he failed to play Born in the USA on Monday (a fact which I had lamented all week) he delivered right at the end of his epic final performance. Now, I usually loathe the type of Americana which makes those born in the States feel compelled to constantly remind us of this fact. However, this song is in a whole other dimension to even Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” or Lenny Kravitz’s “American Woman”. Springsteen’s rendition of this iconic song encompasses some sort of stirring magic usually reserved for only the best national anthems. There’s something in the way he delivered this song, like it wasn’t his, like it was all of ours. And to be fair, it kind of is. A shared history of war; a camaraderie we forged in the jungles of Vietnam and the difficult and unrewarding return home shell-shocked and broken, ties the Australian people to this histrionic hymn almost as much as it does the Americans. Every intake of breath and soul-shaking note sung conveyed this to us and bonded us more closely, uniting every audience member. The fact that he so rarely plays this, the best known of his hits, only solidified the impression that we are as special and important to him as he is to us.

As his three hour performance drew to a close, I felt like my favourite character in a novel was dying. “Don’t go!” I silently screamed. In that moment I felt I would never be the same again, how could this man who I have so recently come to love be walking out of my life, just like that? The house lights came on and I urged Nick not to leave immediately. Maybe we could see him one last time? I desperately wanted just one more glimpse. And while these sorts of hopes are dashed more often than not, again the almighty Bruce refused to disappoint. He emerged from beneath the stage and stalked towards us, handing out picks and signing autographs along the way. One fan even dropped the pick he was thrown and Bruce made a point of picking it up and returning it to him, ahhh, what a hero. He stopped right in front of us, a look of glee gracing his strapping features as he spied a young boy immediately to my right. A brief word to the security guard and he returned with a harmonica for the lucky young’un. The goodness that is at his core continues to give me goose bumps. “See you later” I called as he strolled down the hallway that lead backstage and out of my life. And I pray to God that I do, because until I am in his presence again I really will feel like something is missing. That essence of Bruce. That Springsteen magic. Those very specific tingles which can only be evoked by THE BOSS.  

Sunday, March 17, 2013

How To Succeed In Molestation Without Really Trying

A friend once told me a story about when she was backpacking in Europe. She met a girl whose boyfriend had been murdered. When my friend was told the story of the devastating incident, she burst into peals of laughter. This may sound horrendous, but I can totally relate, as I have NO IDEA how to act in awkward situations. Generally, I cast aside all simple, sensible and obvious reactions and respond in the worst way possible – as was the case one day on the way home from university.

I hopped onto the bus, eager to get home and not do any of my assignments. I sat in my favourite seat, immediately behind the back door of the bus. I like this seat because it has a Perspex partition directly in front of it in which I can admire myself and I am also able to check out the people behind me. Sometimes this is directly above the motor of the bus which means there is a warm little platform on the floor –a total coup for me, because my feet never reach the ground. When I am in my favourite bus seat they do, and I feel like a normal sized person. So on this fateful day I sat down, rested my head on the window with my hand, palm up, on the seat beside me. This was peak hour and at the very next stop a large group of people boarded the bus. A business woman came to sit beside me in the empty seat. Before I knew what had happened she had plonked herself down.

Onto my hand.

I am that incredibly awkward that I said nothing. I was so paralysed by the feeling of her arse being cupped by my hand that I didn’t immediately pull it away either. I sat there unsure what to do for a whole minute. Meanwhile, she was completely oblivious to the whole “me-molesting-her” situation. And you know once a minute has passed, you change from being an innocent girl with your hand on the spare seat to some incredibly creepy letch who has let this woman sit on your hand for a minute without saying anything. Because it’s not like you’ve been sitting there completely unaware that you are feeling up a stranger. In my mind’s eye I could see her recoiling in horror as I withdrew my hand from below her derriere. So I made no movement at all and remained in the same position with my head against the window, hoping my eyes would not betray me to my new companion.

As the bus made its way along the 470 route, dropping off passengers, I began to hope she would move into one of the newly empty seats and this problem would be solved; no harm, no foul. Even in the depths of my dilemma though, this was conflicting for me. I never know if it is rude to leave the person you have been sharing a seat with. I usually feel a little offended when people launch themselves at the nearest free seat as soon as it becomes available, suggesting that sitting beside me was anything less than a pleasure. But on this day I silently told Business Lady that I would not be offended at all if she wanted to stretch out, sit nearer the front or just have room for her bag to sit beside her. But alas, she didn’t move.

As my stop approached, my concern grew. What if she went all the way to the end of the line? Would I forever be captive to her bottom? Or worse, what if I was discovered and she told the bus driver? Would I be banned from the bus forever? I watched with bated breath as we pulled into my stop. No movement. Four stops later she finally relinquished her hold on my hand and alighted. She was never aware of what had transpired between us. I waited until the next stop before I finally got off (I didn’t want to look like I was following her) and walked the kilometre or so home. My hand felt weirdly warm for most of that walk and I washed it for a good ten minutes when I got in. Trying to cleanse myself of the whole incident more than anything else.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

When People Say Foxes Are Cunning, It's Not Just A Figurative Thing.

Oh lord, I am thoroughly Gen Y! Apart from my all-encompassing LOVE of all things Real Housewives and Dr Phil and the fact that I always have at least three devices running, I’d have to say my worst generation Y trait is my constant need to find the quickest way to do something.

It started out innocently, probably about three or four years ago, when I began saying ‘LOL’. I swear I meant it in an ironic way (I know, that’s what they all say), it was mocking – witty even. But you know how these things are, it all starts as a joke and before you know it you’re watching Everybody Loves Raymond, he calls Deborah “smelly tramp” and you look at the person you’re with and exclaim “OMG LOL!” And actually mean it. Oh, dear.

So now, logically, I am going to discuss my love of audio books.

I thought I was a genius when I downloaded Tina Fey’s book ‘Bossy Pants’ and put it onto my iPhone. I listened to it every day on the way to work, had a good chuckle and then told everyone that I had read it. I’m still unsure whether or not this is a lie, although given my history (see here and here) I’m going to go ahead and say that it is probably some sort of untruth. Anyway, on the back of my one-whole-book-read-in-a-single-week-while-driving, I thought “let’s branch out and try some serious literature”. So I went ahead and downloaded all thirty of the little six minute chapters of Cormac McCarthy’s ‘No Country For Old Men’. I love violence and I love good prose, so this book had been on my list for ages. And so began the most confusing few days of driving to work I have ever experienced.

I need to preface this anecdote with the fact that at this point in my life I was leaving home at 5.09am to drive 25 kilometres from my house in the inner city to Sydney’s north shore. This was a dark and quiet drive to work which could sometimes be a little strange. Once I got literally every one of the red lights between my house and Hunters Hill (probably about thirty sets in all) and was punching my steering wheel in fury when I arrived at one of those sets of lights which can only be triggered by someone pressing the cross walk button. Of course the lights went red, and as I looked around for a culprit whom I could silently hate for the rest of my drive to work, a fox walked across the road. How he pressed the button I never found out, but it was a weird moment in my life none the less. Anyway, I digress.

It was on this long and quiet drive to work that I began to listen to McCarthy’s tale of Llewelyn and his accidental involvement in an illicit drug deal gone wrong. The setting and people were painted beautifully in my mind, but I couldn’t get past how little regard McCarthy had for an even remotely linear story line. Just when I would start to understand what was happening, the whole story would be shaken up and I would be utterly lost again. One moment a character would be dead, the next he was walking and talking, he’d be crossing a plane and suddenly he was in a motel. After five days of listening to this almost nonsensical story as I drove through the silent streets of Sydney (which were thankfully sans-fox) I started to wonder if I was going mad. Why couldn’t I understand this acclaimed novel? Had I lost my smarts? Had I sustained some sort of head injury? NONE of the reviews spoke of difficulty simply understanding the transition between scenes and situations. Finally the novel came to an end. I picked up my phone (slightly relieved at the silence) and went to play a song. It was then that I realised my iPhone had been set to SHUFFLE the whole time.  

So now I’m back to reading books like a normal person – with my eyes. Yep, totes a Gen Y epic fail. LOL.