I have realised this week that I only blog when I'm grumpy about something. Like a couple of days ago I was in the queue at the Foodtown when this random dude behind me struck up a conversation. Actually he struck up a monologue and it involved a lot of insulting my toilet paper choices and some TMI moments.
So there I was minding my own business in the Foodtown queue wondering if I should splash out an buy a magazine when this happened...
Random oldish man: "Your friends will think you're cheap buying the paper with no pictures on it ha ha." (He was one of those guys who had a slight overweight person's wheeze when he spoke (always slightly louder than was necessary or appropriate), elasticated shorts and a moustache.)
ME: (inside) "Oh no seriously?"
(out loud) "It's really good toilet paper."
ROM: "blah blah blah paper blah blah" (Over loud incongruously jovial tones with undercurrents of "hey everyone look how clever and hilarious I am")
ME: (not really listening) "insert random half arsed attempt at witty come back"
ROM: (aggressively "funny" reply completely unrelated to what I just said, offensiveness enhanced by slightly disconcerting invasion of optimum personal space) "blah blah blah toilet paper blah blah blah"
It becomes clear to me at this point that ROM has an agenda and isn't really listening to me. I try not to listen to him but I'm trapped between him and the old lady slowly going through her purse at the check out and my socialisation has taught me not to be rude. So I smile half-heartedly and look to the other end of his trolley. The man's wife is looking everywhere but at me and I can tell from her expression that she's glad someone else has to deal with 'Mr Opinions' rather than her.
I'm trying to feign a pressing interest in the canning jars I'm putting on the conveyor belt. (the canning jars are a whole 'nother story... leading my flatmate to say "Hey T. The 1950's called and they want their pastimes back!" - too much time on my hands... you're lucky this blog isn't about the 101 uses for jars.)
Back to the story...
ROM: "blah blah blah you don't work for the government do you?"
ME: (inside) "What?"
(out loud) "What?"
ROM: "The government - you know. You probably work for the IRD."
ME: (inside) "WHAT?!"
(out loud) "Yeah. That's why I'm here, buying this white toilet paper in the middle of the day. Ha ha"
ROM: Frankly I can't stand them... they're completely useless. ("humourous" tone dripping with just a touch of bitterness)
I wonder if he realises that by supposing that I work at the IRD and then saying how much it sucks that he's actually being a bit offensive...
ROM: "Do you know that the IRD made more mistakes with my business than with any other business in the history of the IRD."
ME: (inside) "I don't care."
(out loud) "Oh that's terrible."
I look over at the wife, she makes guilty eye contact with me for about a second and then becomes very interested in the lighter and antacid display that lines the passage to the check out.
ROM: I even declared bankruptcy and they still said I owed them blah blahblah (I don't remember numbers sorry). It took them 6 months to work it out.
ME: (inside) (very uncharitably) I CAN'T imagine why your business didn't work out - you seem like you'd be a TREAT to work with.
(out loud) Oh. Gee that's awful.
At this point I stop making eye contact because I don't want to talk to this guy anymore... this does not deter him.
ROM: "Are you sure you don't work for the government? I bet you're John Key's personal assistant."
ME: (inside) WTF?
(out loud) Yes Mr Key loves his plain toilet paper."
(out loud) Yes Mr Key loves his plain toilet paper."
ROM: "I can't stand the guy. How do you know when John Key is lying?"
ME: (censorship is gone now. Why would I work for John Key? Is it his way of working in the only joke he knows?) UM let me guess (dripping sarcasm)... when he opens his mouth?
ROM: No no when he scratches his head he's telling the truth... when he opens his mouth he's lying ha ha ha.
ME: (inside) Didn't I just say that?
(out loud) .... (nothing, at this point I pull the plug on responding to anything the guy says)
Mercifully I get to the check out lady at this point. She is a lovely Indian lady. I want to hug her for not being ROM. She asks me about the jars. I tell I'm going to make lemonade concentrate. She asks how you do that, I tell her. It's a nice conversation. And then...
ROM: (loudly interrupting the conversation. Smug that he has managed to find me out and recognize my accent) "What part of South Africa are you from?"
ME: (inside) Fuck off
(out loud) Johannesburg... and then you keep the syrup in the fridge and you can add soda water and make lemonade. My friend does it. It's amazing.
Check out lady: "That sounds great. I'll try it. That's 52 Dollars"
ROM: "Don't tell her that... say it'll be 349 Rand. I can do foreign exchange calculations in my head. And no I'm not an accountant or a mathematician... ha ha."
ME: (inside) Seriously... fuck off
(out loud) "......"
Check out lady: "Are you collecting stickers? To get the glass set?"
ME: "Ooh no, but I'd like too"
ROM: "Don't drink any Nederberg out of those glasses, those are Kiwi glasses. ha hahah ha ha" (the word Nederberg is pronounced like it's some kind of $1 dollar vodka made of of gasoline and the unwashed calluses of Russian field workers")
ME: (inside) "I hate you."
(out loud) "I only drink South African red wine." (I don't but this dude makes me want to be patriotic)
Check out lady: "I've heard that the red wine from Italy and Spain is great."
ME: "Yeah, Chile too."
ROM: "Do you want to know something about red wine?"
ME: (out loud - with barely veiled sarcasm) "I bet you're going to tell me anyway."
ROM: "If you ever go to the blah blah blah region blah blah blah Australian blah blah bubbly red wine blah blah blah refrigerator blah blahblah"
ME: (inside) Your poor wife
(out loud with no veiling of sarcasm) "WOW you learn something new everyday."
I took one look over my shoulder at his partner and thought 'better you than me lady" and hightailed it out of there.
I sat in my car for a bit wondering if I was an anti social person. It did weird me out when I lived in Christchurch and the local butcher recognised me. "Hi there Miss. Beef Sausages again?"
I felt strangely intimidated. I didn't want a personal connection with the butcher - I just wanted some beef. And it was none of his business if it was sausages again. Just shut up and give me the sausages.
Being from a big city, you learn that you have to be careful who you make conversation with... they could be weirdos. And I like the fact that you really don't have to speak to anyone like on the London Underground. Sometimes I, being a bit of a natural introvert, find making conversation unbearably difficult.
It also brings up the question of lack of community in urban environments. People need people. I particularly feel for the elderly. I can see how it would be lonely when no one takes the time out to speak to you or acknowledge your existence. Maybe having a bit of a chat in the Foodtown aisle makes us all feel connected again. Maybe feeling connected would make us nicer. And the more we shut off from other people the harder it becomes to open up. I encourage everyone who reads this to have a chat with a person in the Foodtown aisle. Especially if they're a lonely looking little old lady.
Just please refer to the above conversation to see what not to do! (If I see Random older mustachioed man at Foodtown again. I'm hiding until he goes through the checkout!)
Also please find attached some canning jar information (good to know I'm not alone in the world)