Friday, May 08, 2009

Victoria Hotel Lobby, 6:30pm on a Thursday night

I’m waiting for Georgia to get in from the airport. Thanks to NoStar airlines she’s late and SMSed me to advise that there’s been a further 45 minute delay with the luggage carousel and the queue for the taxis were starting to approach Essendon.

I sit in the worn vinyl bench seat and decide to enjoy one of my most favourite free activities: People Watching. Traveling back to my year nine English class assignment, this is what I saw…..

A young girl, dressed in leggings, tartan skirt and short jacket in the ‘I have some money’ student-style walks past the reception desk trying to hide her steaming paper bag emblazoned with ‘Lord of the Fries’. She cleverly positions it alongside her right thigh so that the left-hand-side desk staff are none the wiser. They smell delicious and my stomach growls.

A fifty-something couple wearing Sumo-sized skiing jackets then enter but obviously couldn’t care less if the three blokes at the desk see their family-sized pizza box and stuffed Subway bags as they head towards the lifts. Seems like a lot of food for just the two of them.

On the seats near me, a tired Asian mother is doing her best to entertain her two year old child who grins at me, runs away to ‘hide’ and then runs at me from the other side. Acting out the required ‘Oh dear, you surprised me!’ facial expression comes naturally to me. Mum smiles faintly in thanks and resumes her conversation with her husband’s business colleague.

A man wheels in a pram as the automatic glass doors wheeze open. The blonde cherub being transported whips off his right sock, waves it in the air at me proudly, giving me his dribbliest smile. I seem to be the toddler magnet this evening. “Er, he’s just thrown his sock in the pot plant”, I say to the father, “…and his feet might get a bit cold.” Dad sits alongside me as he finds the sock, uses it to wipe of junior’s drool and then places it back on his foot. “That’ll be OK until we get him upstairs to bed.” He pushes off, cooing, “That’s right little man, it’s beddie bye byes for you…..”

“How do I get to the casino from here?” Momentarily feeling offended that I’d look like someone who frequents such a place and repressing the urge to tell the lovechild of Ernie Singley and Myra Hindley standing in front of me to shout himself a cheap meal in Chinatown instead, I tell him where to go. With a slightly different frame of reference inside my own head.

The rush of cold air means the door has opened again, this time admitting two teenage boys dressed in Richmond footy gear. Why? It’s Thursday night; surely that’s a huge effort if they just saw the team do training? The red spots on their white, pinched faces make me wonder if their physical bodies would prefer to barrack for the Swannies.

My stomach grumbles more insistently and I call up Love Chunks and Sapphire. Like a foodie pervert, I ask, “So, what are you eating?” Piping hot tortillas with garlic butter, capsicums and parmesan with a chili prawn pizza to follow. “Hey Mum?” “Yeah love?” “I’m giving a speech at the school assembly on Monday.” “Oh, that’s wonderful! What’s it about?” ----- Pause ----- “Um, compost bins.”

I ring off and look up to see the people sitting in the hotel bar that overlooks the Art Deco stairwell and lobby. Invariably, each time I look up, I find the same old fat bloke meeting my eye. I look away immediately and make a show of checking my SMS messages. As if I, dressed in target jeans, 13 year old boots and a sensible black jacket look like a certainty for his affections…! Or do I just remind him of someone back home, like I often do?

Oh here’s a nice view. Some chick has wandered in wearing grey leggings, white thongs and a black t-shirt. All the trend boxes are ticked but it’s 11C at the most outside, so she must be freezing and, I don’t believe this, is giving her arse a good scratch as she stands at the reception desk. Did she not check behind her before working on her own behind or am I beneath her notice? Humph. Lack of social graces notwithstanding, it’s apparent that her youthful disregard for exercise, sleep and good food is no longer a sure thing for slimness. Skin-tight grey marle is very unforgiving.

Inexplicably, ‘Rock Lobster’ by the B52s is playing over the tinny speakers in the lobby. “Going down, down, down….”

There’s a sigh and a rustling of plastic clothes shopping bags as Mrs Just Retired flops down behind me. She struggles to get her husband’s mobile phone to work. When he wanders over after perusing through the tourism brochure rack, she throws it to him, hissing, “YOU call them.”

Leaving Grey Arse Groper for dead, young Miss Fashion Victim minces down the stairwell, legs as far forward as a gangly spider as she vainly struggles to remain on her feet after a session in the bar and due to the ridiculously stacked heels she’s got on. Added to the mix are the essential skinny jeans, tiny leather jacket with a huge fur-lined collar, chandelier earrings, sticky lipgloss and a lounge-sized handbag and she’s Ready. For. A. Big. Night. Out.

Not so her boyfriend, who, despite the frosticular weather, is by her side in a t-shirt, rubber thongs and cargo shorts. Perhaps the beer has already given him his own numb protection from the cold.

Suddenly, there’s a gaggle of black, over-the-shoulder laptop bags whose owners are all sporting long lanyards with laminated tags the size of phone books. Presumably they’ve been at a conference nearby and their stingy bosses only approved the three-and-a-half star accommodation package for their minions.

Boooong! Some poor old sod walked into the glass door. “He’s not the first, lemme tell you,” said the reception guy across the floor to me. Clearly my people-watching (and note scrawling) hadn’t gone unnoticed. Bruised but not deterred, the old guy hobbled inside looking for all the world like Martin Crane from Frasier: silver hair, checked shirt and walking cane. Where was Eddie hiding?

The mobile-phone challenged couple have been met by their daughter and son-in-law. “Let’s go out for some Chinese and then I’ll work out where I left the car,” Dad says.

Fat bloke upstairs eyes me off again, as if to say, “But you’re still here; I know you want me.”

Oh Yeah, but you’d never afford me.

......Now here's a nice looking person walking through the door.......

Georgia's here! “Hello Gorgeous! Let’s get a DRINK!”


Baino said...

Excellent! Fantastic observations - Miles McClagan has some competition! I love people watching. Clare says I stare too profoundly tho and it's a bit obvious. What is it with younglings wearing no clothes on freezing cold days?

Benjamin Solah said...

Love people watching!

Kath Lockett said...

The Young and the Fashionable are oblivious to extremes in temperature, Baino. They instead prefer to look hot instead of comfortable, or warm.

Me too Benjamin. I could have written a much better piece at the Queen Victoria Markets this morning, but would have struggled to have found somewhere dry and peaceful enough to sit down and take notes!

River said...

I have a problem with people watching. As a very young'un, I was taught,VERY FIRMLY, that it was rude to stare. So I watch a bit, but pretend I'm not, then feel guilty.
All those young people getting around in freezing weather wearing not much more than their scarves and boots make me want to run over and wrap them in a blanket.

Deep Kick Girl said...

It's all very well but I'm not sure about your Swannies reference. I'm pretty sure it's not a flattering one... After today's flogging I'm a little sensitive re: all things Swannies.

Kath Lockett said...

Same here, River, so I don't stare. Instead, I've perfected the art of idly looking around whilst inside I'm madly taking down the visual details, ideas about the person and noting what 'stands out' about them.

And yeah - let's start a Blanket Club where we offer warmth to freezing young fashion victims!

Sorry DeepKickGirl - Love Chunks is upset too because he's only got one footy tip correct so far this weekend!

River said...

I've tried the taking notice while pretending not to look, but I always forget something I've seen as soon as the next funny/horrific sight comes along. I may have to try carrying a notebook like "Harriet The Spy". Or not.

Terence McDanger said...

I wonder how many times Desmond Morris had his ears clipped by his parents for staring at people when he was a child?

Kath Lockett said...

I think kids get away with it so much more easily, Terence. We adults have to pretend we're gazing vacantly, or deep in thought when really we're thinking: "Crikey, what on earth possessed her to squeeze herself into those leggings - she looks like a pork sausage with a bit of string tied around her middle!"