Sunday, 27 November 2011

Four more weeks.

With only four weeks until Christmas, shoppers are out in force and the blaring Christmas music provides a soundtrack to the push-and-shove shopping experience.  Is it any wonder online shopping is doing well?  You can click and buy from the comfort of your own home over a cup of tea and fruit mince tart with pleasing music to accompany.

Why then, did I think a visit to Federation Square's Mark It would be a good idea?

In the Atrium and BMW Edge, at least it was safe from the unpredictable spring weather.  Most of Melbourne was crowded into this space and most of Melbourne had missed its manners today.  From the glimpses I caught over dandruff sprinkled shoulders and through the crook of elbows and past enormous ears, there appeared to be some very fine wares for sale.  How one made a purchase was not clear to me.  As soon as I thought I would be able to make it to the front and have an unimpeded view, a woman with an enormous bag or boobs would shoulder charge to the front.

I didn't get to fondle and I didn't get to see.  I didn't get to smell and I didn't get to dangle.  So not a single purchase was made.  At one point a woman behind me commented that she wanted to get the business card of a particular stall so I snaked my hand through and gave her a bundle.  She asked me if I worked there and I replied that I just felt her pain.

Shoppers' faces were frowning.  The smell of anxiety hung heavy.

As I stood locked in by people and bags on all sides a moment of catastrophe came into mind.  What would happen if there was a fire?  I would surely die.  We would surely die.  Except those people with the giant bags and boobs who seemed to be able to get to wherever they were going.

I think my consideration of other people is what works against me in this setting.  I don't say this to sound like some kind of angel - I'm not - but rather I work with awareness of people around me.  I think that everyone else does too.  This is not true.

I returned home empty handed and had also endured the bus replacement service.  No trains are running on my line today because of track work.  This will lead to improvements at some unspecified future time.  At this current time, it's a gigantic pain.  The buses are unpredictable in their arrivals and departures.  The drivers are ill-tempered.  The passengers are frustrated and lost.

Studying the signs on the various buses lined up and waiting at Footscray station, I opted for one that said it was stopping all stations to a station far down the line and then was express after that.  As I boarded, I stated my station to the usher who was supervising all comings and goings.  He looked alarmed and said no.  This bus was express from where we were standing.  I pointed out the sign to him.  He agreed it was confusing.  I disagreed that it was confusing and said that it was just plain wrong.  He considered this.  He came back five minutes later and told me he agreed with me about the sign.  He made no move to correct it.  I imagined lost people at the mercy of ill-tempered bus drivers on the expressway to some outer suburb they'd heard of only because it was the end of the line.

This conversation was peppered by a hard-faced woman and the ferret featured man accompanying her making accusations of abuse against one of the ill-tempered bus drivers.  I had heard the ill-tempered bus driver in question speak to her and thought he had a "tone" that went with being ill-tempered, but I didn't think he was abusive.  I considered her as ferret features tried to pull her away.  They had the look of people strung out for their next hit.  People probably steered clear most of the time, so I could understand why she would assert herself by then yelling at the line of large men wearing bright orange vests announcing that they belonged, somehow, to Metro trains.

My ill-tempered bus driver shook his head and put out his cigarette.  He hoisted himself into the driver's seat and flung the bus into gear, driving wildly through the narrow back streets of Yarraville, straddling tiny roundabouts and riding the kerb.  Several signs and markers were lying flattened on this route and I wondered if the streets would ever recover from this episode of track work.

As I left the bus, I heard the driver's response to questions from people about whether this was the bus to the city.  "No," he said in a tone that made it a four syllable word.  "City's on the other side," and "side" took on the rising scale of frustration.  He may as well have just called them idiots and been done with it.

One last stop before heading home and I was confronted with Christmas music playing through a radio turned up too loud and hidden behind a cheap tinsel Christmas tree.  The fact that Santa Claus is coming to town sounded like a menacing threat, rather than happy news.

And there are still four more weeks.

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