Hypocrisy kills, Donald

The Australian, 7 Nov, 2017

Responding to a US mass shooting for the second time in six weeks, President Donald Trump said that it wasn’t “a guns situation” that was behind the slayings of more than two dozen worshippers at a Texas church a day earlier.

As he did following last month’s Las Vegas massacre of 58 people, Mr Trump resisted any discussion of gun control during a news conference in Tokyo, where he was beginning his first presidential trip to Asia.

Instead, Mr Trump characterised the shooting as a “mental health problem at the highest level.”

 

Yes Donald, it is, as you so presidentially put it just hours after another mass shooting in your ‘land of the free’, a ‘guns situation’.

It is also, obviously, a land of those in fear, and a land of the blind, with your propaganda around mental health issues copping the brunt of your blame for another US citizen’s decision to use a firearm to lash out in anger at his fellow humans and community members.

No. Having a ‘mental health problem’ is not a choice, but automatically identifying guns as a practical option to hurt people – an entire nation, the world even – physically and emotionally, to exact what can often be petty revenge, is a common choice, and seen as normal behaviour in your land.

Using and owning guns is a normal everyday activity in your country because despite the well-known lyric, yours is not the home of the brave. Yours is the home of the shit-scared, and with good reason.

13,203 of your countrymen, women and children have died from a gunshot so far in 2017, and devastatingly, by the time I finish writing this piece, that figure will be inaccurate because more people will have died due to a bullet fired from a gun by someone who saw it as an option to solve a ‘problem’, or accidentally because the gun was just ‘there’, not securely locked away or respected for the ultimate life-and-death power it wields when care is not taken.

For more sobering statistics, like the fact there have already been 307 mass shootings in the US in 2017, go to http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/

Donald, you continue to perpetuate this ‘solve my problems with a gun’ culture, by blaming everything else, even the pathetic ‘you are crazy’ line.

Guns do not solve problems; they create them. They are designed to cause death. That’s why people use them. That’s why armies and militia and terrorists and murderers use them – because they kill, efficiently.

Because successive US administrations have failed to exert gun control, it has become more and more entrenched as a way of life, and ultimately death. You choose this death culture by not owning up to controlling guns. We can’t always control people. We can control guns.

Look at Australia. Guns are feared and respected because they end life – life is sacred, isn’t that what you believe? Guns are rarely seen or used in Australia, except for the purpose they were designed. To kill or maim, or to warn that this could be the outcome if you disobey the operator. If you are an animal, you have no idea what is about to hit you or yours. We don’t have that luxury.

Look at the US. Mothers routinely ask the family of a child who wants to invite a new friend on a playdate, if there are guns in the home and if so, are they securely locked away. This is how she decides if little Johnny can play with his new friend Olivia. Is there a greater chance that little Johnny could be killed, either accidentally or on purpose, while playing hide and seek with his new friend Olivia? How chilling. How anti-social. How anti-human. How anti-life.

Because you all know little Johnny could be accidently or on purpose shot in a drive-by either before, during or after said playdate, or while he’s still at school, or even at church or doing the shopping. These activities – playing, learning, worshipping and shopping – are normal. Doing them with a gun is not.

Why is this so hard for you to understand, Donald? Or are you really as dumb as they say?

If guns were not seen as an option for dealing with a problem, your administration might better support organisations who are trying to provide all important mental health support to American citizens who need this help – that would be a normal thing to do. Having a mental health problem is a normal thing for most people at some time in their life – even you. Will you resort to using a gun to solve your problems? Or will someone take that option and use it against you? The stats show either is a strong possibility in your country.

Talking to someone, each other, reaching out, offering help would be a normal thing to do. Eating a healthy diet, participating in regular exercise and committing to belong to your communities would be a normal thing to do.

Not stocking up on ammo, sleeping with a gun under your pillow, buying the right suspender to discretely and fashionably tote an undergarment gun, or shooting a classroom of innocent children.

Do you get it yet? Your nation has a ‘mental health issue at the highest level’ which you are enabling: that gun ownership and use is normal.

It is not.

When Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns (according to a 2015 study by Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama) via http://www.nytimes.com, life is cheap.

You continue to nurture a nation of civil terrorists. And hypocrisy kills.

 

With profound sadness,

An objective outsider.

 

Image credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

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Mass media means misogynism

It’s finally happened. I’ve been MIA for some months, but today I’m up in arms enough about something that I had no alternative but to put fingers to keyboard and share my disbelief. And fury. And share an awesome learning opportunity!

What’s my problem this time, I hear you mutter? Misogynistic perpetuation in newspaper headlines – stay with me, it’s just the one headline (for now) but it illustrates how saturated western society is in the myth that women are second class citizens worth making a public joke of.

This is the headline (The West Australian, Page 7, 31 October 2017) that’s offended me – Ashamed Broad sorry for ’heartache’.

What does it say to you?

One the one hand you could interpret it as saying an embarrassed woman is guilt-ridden for causing distress and sorrow.

On the other it could be saying a shame-faced person named Broad is apologetic for the misery he/she has caused.

What it actually says is that a humiliated man named Mr (Nathan) Broad is feeling guilty over the misery he caused to a woman, or as some may think of her, a broad.

So why the need for the double entendre, the play on words, the cheap shot?

We all know the word broad can also mean ‘woman’. The use of ‘broad’ in this context apparently originated in the USA in the early 1900s, referring to a defining characteristic of the female form – their hips – which are proportionately wider (broader) than those of men.

According to Online Etymology Dictionary https://www.etymonline.com/   this use of the word may also trace to American English abroadwife, the word to describe a woman (often a slave) away from her husband.

It goes on to say that because of this negative association, and the rise of women’s athletics, the track and field broad jump (1836) was renamed long jump, circa 1967.

But back to the story and it’s tacky headline. AFL Tigers premiership player Nathan Broad has avoided sexting charges despite broadcasting via social media a photo he took of a topless woman wearing his premiership medal.

The act of Nathan Broad taking the photo was consensual but, as Insp Everett Moutsidis of Victoria Police pointed out, just because a person consents to having a photo taken does not mean they automatically give permission for it to be broadcast far and wide.

Nathan Broad will miss the first three games (oh dear, missing out on playing a few games of footy – harsh!) of next year’s AFL season and has apologised to the woman, whom he refers to in said apologetic statement as a ‘young woman who I cared about.’ Bless.

It’s a slap on the wrist for a crime many others have rightly been charged and convicted of, and penalised for. Forget double entendre, what about double standard! Reportedly, the young woman in question dropped her complaint to police. That’s her call but it doesn’t mean sexting without consent is acceptable – it’s a criminal offence.

And apparently it’s ok for a sub-editor and an editor of a newspaper to write and/or cast a blind eye over a headline, which they probably think is clever and witty, but which has a double meaning that demeans women.

Or perhaps they didn’t even recognise the double meaning? And this is the point I’m making – the negative representation of women in mass media is seen as normal in our society, in fact it’s so normal people don’t even see it when it’s right under their noses in bold black and white print.

Ignorance is no defence. The media continues to take advantage of these unimaginative, low opportunities while some of its reporters earnestly report on the damage misogynism has done and continues to do to generations of girls from the gender pay gap to being entitled to half the superannuation of men despite contributing to society by raising small children and caring for sick parents while either not earning a wage or working casual jobs with no security, for years lest they be shamed for seeking permanent fulltime work and the security it offers.

Yup. It runs that deep. Misogynism and its effects, I mean. Just ask Australian author Clementine Ford and West Australian blogger Constance Hall.

We did not need a headline that apportions blame at this woman’s feet by intimating she should be ashamed for having had her photo taken with her top off and a premiership medal around her throat.

No. She did it consensually. Nathan Broad was in the wrong. He sent the photo to his footy mates to brag about how good he thinks he is at winning over members of the opposite sex with his premiership bling. Or just to make the young woman he described as someone he ‘cared about’ feel and look stupid for the rest of her life.

End of story.

I love you, maaaate

I recently heard something so beautiful, it stopped me in my tracks. It wasn’t birdsong, or a baby’s gurgle. It was a man speaking openly and publicly of his love and friendship for some significant men in his life.

Even more strangely, the man doing the speaking was a high-profile AFL footballer, relating his affection for his fellow footballers during a media interview in the lead-up to one of last week’s Round 5 games.

It made me feel warm and fuzzy…no, not “that” sort of warm and fuzzy – refreshingly, I was filled with respect, relief and high regard, not to mention hope, happiness and humanity at the words of Brownlow Medallist and new West Coast Eagles midfielder, veteran Sam Mitchell.

Following injury the previous week, there was speculation whether Mitchell would be fit enough to play against his old team Hawthorn, where he spent his entire AFL career until six months ago, and where he has many old friends.

This is what he had to say:

“At the end of the game, you know, we’ll shake hands and have a cuddle and tell each other you love ‘em, but for the two hours before that, it’s footy and I’m going to do everything I can to help the Eagles win.”

If you don’t want to listen to the entire 12-minute video interview (unlikely, I know), fast forward to the 7min.14sec mark to hear the golden sentence.

http://www.westcoasteagles.com.au/video/2017-04-18/mitchell-wellingham-press-conference-180417

Golden because men expressing love for other men out loud and in public, because!

Blokes rarely speak openly of their love for their male friends, and it’s a shame, because friendship is golden and it’s always nice to hear such heart-warming affirmations. Especially in a world full of online trolls, nasty jibes and just plain bad, sad news. Some of it unfortunately about the less than complimentary behaviour of men.

Yes, men love their male friends, should tell them that they do and hug it out to boot. Why? Because it feels great and should be normal social discourse, and not just with a few beers under the belt. We girls do it alllll the time!

Besides, science long ago proved the benefits of oxytocin, the hormone our bodies produce when we give, feel and receive love, including everything from healing burns, to strokes, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney malfunctions, schizophrenia, and autism. Read more here: http://bit.ly/2poVlMy

Disappointingly, I only heard this clip played once on a radio news bulletin, but did see and hear many other snippets of the same interview played ad infinitum across the media landscape that day.

Personally, I found this the most fascinating, meaningful and memorable part of the entire interview.

Onya Sam Mitchell! I love your frank, open, honest, down-to-earth, emotional, straight-talking style, even if you are an Eagle 😉

Thanks to © 2017 The Roar – Your Sports Opinion for the awesome photo of Sam Mitchell enjoying a friendly onfield embrace from former Hawthorn teammate Shaun Burgoyne.

Telly’s fading light

We used to have a thing.

Me and the Telly.

We would meet every night, around 8.30 to bask in each other’s light until, satisfied with my daily bout of visual stimulation, my ‘just resting’ eyelids would dampen my consciousness into a helpless, exhausted slumber on the family micro suede lounge.

My Telly would watch over me, whispering sweet god knows what into my shell like (the one not crushed into pins and needles upon the lumpy cushion), standing guard until I’d finally manage to remotely kill it and drag my pop-culture drugged body and brain to my waiting bed.

This went on for a couple of years. I would hang out to give in to this always waiting nightly companion, to indulge its silliness or seriousness; it never stood me up…unless there was a power blackout and candles became my fairweather friends.

Granted, sometimes Telly was a bit boring and repetitive, but I forgave it and pushed through those times with gritty determination not to lose our connection, sealed with my inevitable petite mort.

Telly was my daily release from the stresses of full time work, accommodating the needs of growing children, keeping my mind off emotionally draining personal issues. Until…

Telly began to appear jaundiced, less interesting, untrying, no longer addressing my fickle changing needs. I’d seen and heard it all before, the predictable one-liners, ulterior motives, self-serving messaging and imagery. Our connection was waning.

And my head was eventually turned by another more soothing, dependable suitor.

My Bed.

Pimped with new linen, soft lighting, a plethora of bedside novels, my Bed and I began a torrid affair that continues to this day.

Some mornings I can barely drag myself away from my Bed and the hollow I’ve made in the very fabric of its soul. We eat together, read together and sleep together, often enjoying an afternoon delight I could never dream of experiencing with Telly.

Occasionally I flirt with Telly, and although I sometimes hanker for those old days, I know the magic’s all but….gone, like the pinprick of light in the centre of the screen when “there’s no more Telly, it’s time to go to bed, as Neil from the Young Ones was want to moan.

We know each other intimately, embracing each other’s faults and lumps, celebrating them no less! Bed doesn’t try to sell me new PJs to replace my old faves, instead becoming my bed clothes without complaint or jibe.

We even have our own song…Gonna live while I’m alive, and sleep with my Bed.

Thanks for the inspiration Jon Bon Jovi.original-philips-television-ad-retro-tv-1960s

 

A pocketful of practicality

LET me take a moment to pick your pocket. I mean your brain! About pockets.

There are so many other important issues I could and probably should be writing about, but I’m here to lighten your cerebral load, and mine, with unimportant piffle.

Pockets.

I love them, don’t you (no answer necessary). In fact, I feel pockets should have featured in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s My Favourite Things, because they are in fact, among them, much like schnitzel with noodles.

I appreciate these nifty sacks in my jeans, coats, shorts, shirts, skirts and dresses. Except that their presence in women’s clothing is sorely lacking, especially in professional clothing, which these days seems to constitute figure-hugging dresses and pants, floaty blouses and tiny, ineffectual jackets, usually without a practical compartment between them.

My work means I often carry a notebook, pen, phone, keys, business cards, camera….Ok – the camera can go over my shoulder, but if I already have a handbag there, it just becomes cumbersome. And running from danger, or towards deadlines, becomes, well, inelegant and lacking in vital speed.

Except for when I wear this one dress with the most bottomless pockets I’ve ever experienced! So deeply satisfying and right on Target (shameless promo alert), it is now very well worn. My keys, phone, pen, small palm-sized notebook, lip balm, a couple of mints and a credit card all fit in these two generous storage silos, leaving me hands-free. And only partially bulky, and jingly.

It’s just like a gentleman’s suit pants and jacket with their overabundance of easily accessible and/or secretive receptacles for … stuff, which men probably don’t even use, especially now that fob watches are a thing of the past.

Is it a marketing conspiracy between designers of womenswear and handbags? If women’s clothing remains largely pocketless, handbags will always be necessary, along with our imagined need to squeeze everything, except for the kitchen sink, inside them just in case.

These purpose-designed clothing cavities prevent a security blanket approach to life. They also prevent that quaint habit of prancing around a sticky pile of handbags on the dance floor, or tripping over the strap as the bag plummets to the floor during other…activities.

And I’m so over being cheated by that flattering pantsuit or snappy jacket that appears to have pockets, only to discover they are sewn-on pretenders. That’s just cruel! Almost as barbaric as those flimsy pockets that develop a fraying hole after just a handful of key insertions.

Maybe it’s about cost. Pocketless clothing does seem cheaper that the pouchified alternatives. But like diamonds, I’d prefer to pay for the real thing than settle for the zirconia version. Yes, it’s that crucial to my daily happiness, and the warmth of my hands during winter.

It’s time to stand up for our pocket rights! Women too, need and value pockets. Maybe even more than men.

For a sing songy reminder of what would we do without pockets, Sesame Street has this beauty from the YouTube vault.

Be head strong

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I CAN be an arrogant arse at times.

I know! Some of you are saying, “Arrogant? No, you’re not!” (thanks mum, and Aunty Sue) but sadly, it’s true. And it could also be true of you – prepare to navel-gaze.

I admit this unenviable trait is not completely obvious – it’s not like I throw tanties at restaurant wait staff over below average food, or refuse to let cars merge in front of me on Kwinana Freeway. It’s something more subtle.

It’s the harbouring of ingrained attitudes that really are just plain selfish. Let me explain.

As some of you may know, I had a bicycle accident a few years back, and no, I wasn’t wearing my helmet. Apart from my bitumen-biting chin, my head remained injury free (on the outside, anyway) so I was very fortunate not to have sustained more serious damage…even when you consider my two broken arms, I got off very lightly. I thought I knew this.

Turns out I don’t . Or I didn’t. Until a couple of weeks ago.

With a long Sunday riverside bicycle ride tantalisingly ahead of me, I made the decision not to wear a helmet, and discarded it like yesterday’s news because “I’m an adult, I shouldn’t have to wear a helmet if I don’t want to. Bloody nanny state!”

Before I go on, the ride was blissfully incident-free. I rode along with an unencumbered head like some faux European, wind blowing through my loose locks, a sensory-overload smile on my face.

The riverside dual use path was a popular route and it was a bit like peak-hour traffic at times, especially with the addition of dogs, prams, toddlers, errant soccer balls and chatting or headphone-wearing pedestrians.

Slowly but surely, as I passed and was passed by my smug fellow outdoorsy types, it dawned on me that I had not seen one other cyclist not wearing a helmet on their precious head.

The realisation hit me like that bitumen did all those years ago and I immediately tried to rationalise it; the Lycra-clad racers needed helmets in case they ventured onto the road, it was part of their trendy uniform. But recreational riders, too, were wearing them. Maybe it’s because they are a bit doddery and have a higher chance of falling off. (Yes, I realise that was both arrogant and hypocritical).

The only person I did see without a helmet was a boy of about 13 and even if he is arrogant, he has youthful ignorance on his side.

Belatedly, I’ve decided I should know better and pledge not to endanger the lives of others or my own by not wearing a helmet when I ride a bike. There. Now I’ve typed it in black and white I have to honour it.

But seriously, being the only one not wearing a helmet made me realise how incredibly selfish that is. I was basically giving the finger to all other pedestrians in my vicinity, ignoring the fact that they were taking as much responsibility for their own safety as possible. Even if I caused someone to fall off their bike, their helmet would go some way towards hopefully protecting their cranium, and saving me the added trauma of feeling responsible for causing them a traumatic but preventable head injury.

Yep, sometimes I get quite cosy gazing into my own navel, despite the lack of lint furnishings.

I think it was all that fresh air in my hair as I rode along, giving root to some profound thinking processes.

Anyway, if I’m brutally honest, one of my main “concerns” about wearing a bicycle helmet is that it causes helmet-hair and makes me look even sillier (for those of you familiar with my rat’s nest, you’ll know what I mean). But, honestly the mat of hair created by the wind was no better.

Culturally, perhaps it goes back to women and girls being conditioned to think they need to look ‘pretty’ at all times. If that’s what prevents some of us from being safe, its well past time we discarded that baseless notion. As Swifty says, “shake it off”.

So, featuring far too many similarities with another community service announcement, simply put, if it’s not on, it’s not on!

 

NB – You have no idea the difficulty I faced trying to find a useable image of a woman wearing head armour! These femme fatales were either holding their helmet for show or it just didn’t feature in their warrior uniform, replaced instead by arbitrary long flowing locks. (teamed with very prominent breasts, but that’s another story)…. 

 

Howling with a heavy brogue

IF a man indulges in casual sexism in an unintelligible accent, is he really being an ignorant oaf?

Or consider this.

If a woman doesn’t realise she is the butt of a man’s casual sexism, does it mean she’s no longer a feminist?

Hard hitting questions, all.

This post is a confusing one for me to write – so I’ll just tell it as it happened, because, it was an amusing blip in my otherwise ordinary day.

It was a Monday. I’d happily survived another one and was walking post-work from the train station to where I park the car – about a five minute walk; I’ve convinced myself if I don’t have time for formal exercise on any given day, at least I walked briskly for 10 minutes. And used the stairs instead of the lift. And only had two chocolates at 3pm with a cup of tea.

Deep in aimless, western society thought…what should I make for dinner, damn I forgot to book the dogs in for a groom, again, that champagne on Saturday was really nice, what brand was it…I was pulled from my mental meanderings by a rogueish brogue.

Well. I didn’t know that’s what it was until my mind had caught up with the situation – someone was talking to me, or attempting to.

As I turned my head toward the train station access road beside me, I noted a white 4WD ute had slowed to walking pace and a male driver, dressed in hi-viz, was talking out his open window. Probably to me. Because there was nobody else around.

My thoughts began to speed up, I checked my surroundings wondering if he was slowing to give me a warning about some sort of nearby danger, maybe someone was nicking my car, but how would he know which car was mine, and why do we suddenly think these weird sorts of things?

There was only one thing to do.

“I beg your pardon,” I genuinely asked, looking for clarification of the impending danger.

“Yaprollydoneffennohowotyearrrr,” came the repetitive, slur-ry reply.

Now, I know the helpful grinning man was repeating his statement so I could better understand it, but it sounded just the same, only slightly slower.

As my brain worked overtime to decipher it, and matching it with his boofhead smile, I instinctively realised bodily danger was not imminent. Besides, there was a fence and a car between him and me.

And then it clicked.

“You probably don’t even know how hot you are,” was the helpful offering of life advice, in a thick Irish brogue.

And what was my brilliant reply?

“Okey doke.”

Brilliant! A wordsmith without the wherewithall to wield them.

Well, what was I supposed to say? And what was it all supposed to mean?

But, back to my first question – was this harmless gent a sexist oaf?

No. I think he thought he was giving me a compliment. Because, it’s a looong walk from the train station to the deserted car park and I don’t know how much more silence I could have endured without a reassuring ‘compliment’ from a stranger. Withdrawals already!

We women need reassuring that we are hot, don’t we. I will refrain from making a dad-joke about the weather at this point. (Ooops, was I being sexist then? Sorry dad.)

Was I being an anti-feminist by not calling him out as a sexist or in fact, not realising that’s probably what he was being? It only became clearer when watching this week’s hooha following Chris Gayle’s clumsy and inappropriate flirtation with TV sports reporter Mel McLaughlin. I’m a bit slow on the uptake some days.

I say inappropriate because it’s not nice to show someone up in public for your own entertainment. If a romantic relationship did eventuate from this shallow televised attempt, expect more of the same top quality respect for your feelings. Privately and publicly.

But, unsurprisingly, I digress.

In a nutshell, I was momentarily confused. I didn’t feel like a victim, because I don’t think our Irish friend set out to make me feel that way. I think Chris Gayle distinctively did. Ms McLaughlin certainly didn’t appear as a slaughtered lamb.

So, I am not an anti-feminist for just ‘shaking my head’ at the thoughtless things some men will do to communicate to a woman that they think they’re a bit of alright. I don’t think I needed to take any stronger action…I think my ‘okey doke’ will have convinced him beyond doubt of his stupid, sexist actions…pfffffttt!

But, seriously guys, what do you want us women to do when you offer an uninvited impression of our attractiveness? Scale the fence between us, clamber through your open window and plant sloppy, thankful kisses all over your dusty, stubble-pocked face, then use a hanky to wipe the spittle away and remind you to put your dirty work clothes in the laundry basket and not on the bedroom floor?

No. Well, behave then.

On another aside, we women don’t publicly voice our impressions of men’s physical appeal because from the moment we are born little girls are conditioned to behave politely and be sensitive to the feelings of others. It’s as simple as that. Or is it?

Blokes, it’s time to be awesome role models for the little men in your lives. It can’t just be mum’s job any more.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Picture: Norbert Rosing/Getty Images

 

 

Going round the Benz

 

It’s morning peak hour, just as harried working mothers are ferrying their children to school in the nick of time, up and down already congested roads, when the unthinkable happens.

Your car conks out right at an insanely busy intersection to an arterial route linking to the main freeway of the capital city in which you live.

This was me today. I apologise to everyone behind me in the metal line-up that stretched as far as the eye could see as cars, trucks, bikes, taxis, utes, SUVs, limousines (ok, that might be stretching the truth – ha! See what I did there…), did their best to steer around my forlorn 1975 Mercedes-Benz as it languished in the turning lane.

A remarkable woman for her age, the white automatic I’ve dubbed Ida – because she’s my private Idaho, not after the popular Germanic woman’s name – decided to have a little nanna nap at the lights.

Yeah, tell that to the frustrated, previously on-time drivers, doing their utmost not to erupt in road rage as they attempt what they do least best – merge.

Thankfully, as I fumbled in my purse for my gold RAC card, which I couldn’t find, then Googled the magic phone number and dialled it, only one fellow road user honked in desperation. But I was very focussed on trying to get myself out of a pickle so there were probably multitudinous birds being flipped, and looks trying to kill.

Finally, after what seemed like an absolute century, I successfully made contact with roadside assist who would send a tow truck forthwith to pull me off the road, freeing up the congestion I was sure must now be part of every commercial radio station’s droll 8am traffic report.

“A silly wild-haired woman is stranded in her posh (near) vintage petrol-guzzling Merc at one of the most used intersections linking to the City’s only congested freeway system, otherwise known as the carpark. Will someone give her a hand to push the clapped out piece of art onto the bloody median strip! Doesn’t she know we’ve all got deadlines to meet and rubber to burn at this time of day!!!”

Then, just as my stress levels peaked, a knight in shining armour pulled up beside me in a deep cherry red 90s Landcruiser, having logically mounted the kerb to do so, and offered to pull me off. What! That’s two offers in the space of three minutes! Maybe my luck was changing.

Michael ‘The Practical’ said he would happily attach a rope to the front of his car and the back of mine, before reversing up onto the generous, grassy median, removing me from harm’s way, and letting morning peak hour catch up with itself.

I couldn’t have been more overjoyed, especially when he mused that someone really should have offered help well before now, shading his eyes as they gazed into the distance at the endless snaking vehicular centipede.

Resolved to take action, I looked down at my gearstick and realised, sheepishly, that it was sitting neatly in ‘drive’…possibly the reason for my ignitionless ignition…oh, ooohhhhhh.

I gently put her in ‘park’ and turning the ignition again, Ida’s rhythmic pistons sparked into throaty life.

While she had stuttered on take-off due to her customary flat spot on acceleration, she probably would have started again quite quickly had I put her in park before trying to turn her over.

I admit it. Sometimes I am a silly wild-haired woman. But I guess you’ve figured that out by now.

So, why, when I have a perfectly serviceable 2010 Nissan sitting in my garage, was I driving that dinosaur, you ask?

Just to keep the motor ticking over 🙂

Confessions of a check-out chick

As a customer, I might be a bit…well…shit.

How do I know this, and why am I only finding out now?

Do you want the long story or the short? Ok, I’ll get straight to the point.

I spent two hours behind a cash register in a retail environment the other day and some of my customers were annoying. And I’m embarrassed to say, I too display some of ‘those’ habits…the ones where we think we’re being helpful.

Wrong!

It is not helpful to say you don’t want a bag when I’ve already packed your goods in one. Environment 1, me, the patient checkout-chick, 0. Now you’ve made me feel like a dimwit,  there’s a bag on the loose in my cramped workspace and I’m second guessing my formula for not charging customers twice for their goods, by putting those already scanned in. the. bag.

It is not necessary to give me a $20 for your $13.45 purchase and then, just as I have counted out your $6.55 change and am handing it over, you decide you do have the right change after all! You empty the contents of your purse onto the counter and start behaving like The Count from Sesame Street. Do you have any idea what that does to a numerically challenged wordsmith?

When you are third in line and waiting patiently for a numerically-challenged wordsmith to remember how to do an EFTPOS transaction, don’t pretend to smile and instead grimace as you realise your lunch hour is draining away like your very lifeblood.

It just makes me more nervous, I start to flap, and I go s.l.o.w.e.rrrrr…..

Another interesting observation was that some customers think the server is a servant, and somehow beneath them.

Please do say ‘hi’ when I greet you and let me know if you’re having a good day when I ask – being economical with your words is not saving you time. It is making me wonder though at how often our service personnel have to put up with being ignored. And customers complain about bad service!

I’ve never learnt how to work a cash register which means that a skill vital to perhaps jagging a lifesaving job during hard times is an intimidating mystery to me – a generous family member stepped in and offered to have her staff teach me. They said it was easy. I’m not so sure.

These women have been working the register in a retail environment for years and the role is an extension of their personalities. They are generous and knowledgeable and friendly, and see the gamut of humanity as it slides through the checkout daily.

From the woman who bought eight $1 cards for the birthdays she will be helping others celebrate this month to the unsure young fellow who spent 30 minutes searching for just the right gift for his girlfriend, to the elderly parent taking their middle aged daughter with Down syndrome for her weekly shopping outing, to the headscarf wearing handyman in search of mousetraps to halt the unwelcome vermin insistent on sitting in front of his heater as he watched the 6 o’clock television news, the rainbow of human allsorts will generally go through a cash register at some point in their normal day.

I realised that the time in service both flies and drags, that the feeling of exhaustion after standing for only two hours almost gets through to your marrow, that a 30 minute lunch break is gone in the blink of an eye, that checking a $100 bill transaction with a colleague can prevent a suspicious discrepancy over the correct change, that sometimes going through a checkout might be the only social intercourse some people will have all day.

Little old ladies with their old fashioned clip top purses, jingling with coins, mums on the look-out for cheap craft items for their children, grandmothers treating their progeny with an inexpensive purchase just for fun, men in search of cheap batteries and light bulbs, others for that perfect gift for the woman in their lives.

And then there is the retail environment itself – these women notice if their local shopping centre is having a busy day, it’s a subject of earnest discussion, like the weather. When people don’t spend money, discretionary or otherwise, people’s jobs are on the line.

One till operator, who unpacks and marks down goods between customers, was adjusting to a third less hours as staffing numbers were adjusted in line with the shopping habits of our cautious, cash-strapped society.

There. I said it would be the short version! Never look a gift shop in the mouth – it is a microcosm of human experience that ends with the patient operator at the exit counter. Give them a real smile and engage in some simple banter. It’s priceless.

Mums, don’t look now, but you’ve been Snapchatted!

PARENTS – especially mums – of teenagers, be alert, and possibly alarmed.

It’s very likely your ‘little angels’ are using their parent-funded mobile phone to send unauthorised, unapproved and unfiltered (ie sans soft focus) images of you to all and sundry. Even if it is just for a moment or two.

I have become aware that my little darling – a nearly 16-year-old daughter – regularly sends Snapchats of me to her friends for momentary entertainment.

The other day while driving her to one of her many social engagements, I realised a neck-heavy image of me on her phone had been sent to a close friend, just in passing, as a visual indication of her how school holidays were panning out.

Now, my neck from a low angle is not flattering, but I also have to admit it could be one of the nicer uploads of me her friends have seen, as me cooking in the kitchen in my “thank god work is over tracky dacks” and unwashed hair and “what do you want now” expressionism is probably more the norm.

It started to dawn on me when I came across one of my daughter’s friends waiting at a neighbourhood bus stop as I clocked up my early morning walk a few weeks ago. I stopped for chat, it would have been rude not to, and what did I get in return? A Snapchat!

Later that day, my daughter quizzed me about what I’d been doing that morning and where I’d been going? (Why did she care, and) How did she know, I asked. “Oh, Rosie sent me a Snapchat of you walking,” she said as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

So mums, and dads, beware. Your image is out there, unapproved. In all your glory, ripped footy shorts, hair in rollers, chucking a wobbly or sunbaking nude on the trampoline, there’s every chance your kids are sharing you with their pals.

And if you’re really lucky, some of those ‘friends’ will be saving those images for posterity if recorded within the 1-10 second window before it disappears from their phone’s screen. Yeah, you didn’t know that did you.

Welcome to your future. Thanks circa-1986 computer geeks.