Wednesday, August 12, 2009

First Impressions, 8:50am

She's in her dark charcoal power suit, snug leather trenchcoat and matching boots and a bright red slick of lipstick kissing her curly haired son goodbye at the school gate.

She glances over at me: worn runners, leggings dusted in dog hairs and puckered at the knees, baggy mens' t-shirt, polar fleece over-run with fluff balls and a voice yet to unravel. "SAPPHIRE! Don't forget you've got viola at 11am, guitar at lunchtime and junior strings after that, OK? Oh and Sapph - tell your teacher that I didn't have any soft drink bottles or food scraps for the class excursion to the Council depot today because it was bin night and it's all been taken away... and don't dawdle home because you have tennis lessons straight after school, so SEE YOU LATER!"

She glances away, perhaps thinking it's no surprise that Sapph is in an obvious hurry to get through the gate and away from a woman who clearly rejects morning showers or clean clothes.

I nod to a few other parents at the gate who hail from the Horn of Africa. They all reel back in horror as Milly the dog trots past - one goes so far as to hop to the other side of the street. They've seen her now for eight months; their children all eagerly rush to pat her after school and I throw out my most dazzling and approachable smile but still they avoid me. Is it because I haven't brushed my teeth yet?

No matter, I have a meeting to get to. I'm joining John, the irrepressible Chairperson of the Flemington Association as he meets with a local graphic designer to discuss a new project that we'll hopefully get some funding for. They're at the corner cafe having coffee and a chat before they leave for their respective workplaces and I'm keen to express my enthusiasm for the project and offer what I can to help it get up and running.

On the way through, I say "Good morning" to the Lollypop man on Mt Alexander Road, who Never. Ever. Smiles. Or greets me back. Ever. It has now become a battle of wits - I say hello, he snobs me off with contempt, I smile as if to say, 'You acknowledged me, you git, just by deliberately snubbing me' and walk on with an exaggerated swagger. ....... Is it my eyes, with brows and lids still so puffy with sleep that they lap over my pupils, suggesting I'm Clive James' lovechild but without the wit or wardrobe mistress?

No answer from John as I call him on the mobile; Milly yanking forcefully on the lead attempting to catch the pigeons feasting on the bread thrown by the mechanics on the corner of the street as I slip on the cobbles and lean rightwards to balance myself. Some vaguely-familiar parents are passing by with their kids dressed in pyjamas for a fund-raiser today: Batman, Dora, The Hulk and Barbie feature on flannelette trousers with pale pink ugg boots already stained with mud.

I throw out the comment, "Boy, I wish I was still in my pyjamas" at a Dad passing by and he snorts a response that I choose to interpret as friendly agreement when I suspect it's more "Yeah well you look like you still are, lady."

Oh for Pharksakes, it's EVERYWHERE. Litter. Wet junk mail brochures, greasy Red Rooster boxes, paper serviettes, crushed mixer cans, bendy white straws and fruit boxes. For Sapphire's sake I quickly look around to check that no kids are watching and start picking it up, still struggling to pull Milly back in my direction. Scoffing Dad looks back for some reason and sees lycra straining at the seams as my butt is facing his way, me busy picking up a coke can. More Crazy Bag Lady-like I could not possibly be.

Further down Wellington street, the other Lollypop man is on duty, but this one is far friendlier. And more vocal. And, quite clearly more simple. "HALLO" he waves at me, as if we're halfway house sheltered-workshop buddies. My attire suggests that we are. "Hello," I chime back, smiling. He ventures over to ruffle Milly's ears. At least he's not afraid of her, or of me.

We reach the street that the cafe is on. Milly stops stubbornly which means one thing - time to hatch a nugget. She looks sheepish and ashamed and hates me standing there staring at her so I look at an elderly couple with matching zimmer frames shuffle past, whistling as I wait. Zimmer Lady mutters, "Messing up our streets...." to Mister, so when Milly's done I ostentatiously rustle my doggy doo bag (a nappy bag in this case) and pick it up in a pantomime pose Marcel Marceau would be proud of.

There'll be a bin somewhere along here, surely....? I keep walking but only spot other litter and furtively forgotten turds along the footpath. The warm, slightly peach-scented bag is swinging in my hands when I'm in line with the cafe window and see John and Tess sitting there.

"Come in," John mouths, and I automatically wave back, forgetting about the bag in my hand and that the thin plastic is transparent. Tess turns around to look at who John is gesturing to and her smile is frozen when she sees an unkempt, shabby woman brandishing two enormous snags of shit in her hands.

"Nice one," says the apprentice builder, standing on the kerb watching my embarrassment.

BAM! A sheet of rusty corrugated iron from the roof is flung by his comrade onto the ground, scaring another butt blast out of Milly and causing me to let go of the already-filled bag which lands at his feet.

Let's hope that second impressions overtake the first ones.


Cat J B said...

I'm still laughing girl, wish I was a fly on a shop wall somewhere close by when you do your morning rounds some day.

And isn't part of the job description of a lollypop person "must be overly friendly" or something along those lines? You've got to wonder, is it so hard to crack a smile?

Benjamin Solah said...

Sounds embarrassing. I've had days like that where the planet seem to align aiming straight for you and things just never go in your favour.

River said...

Eight months and they STILL don't talk to you? Those sorry people don't know what a great friendship they're missing out on.

Helen said...

That's awful! Particularly the nasty looks at Milly when you've been picking up their litter...

I'm sure after a year he'll smile!

Baino said...

Hhahaha . . what a way to start my day! Poor you. I don't understand why people don't say hello. We're becoming so urbanised and distrustful.

I still don't do the doggy doo thing but Lily manages to divest herself of lunch in the paddock before we venture out thank goodness. Then I'm not in the inner city! Tell me you found a bin and didn't take it into the caff?

franzy said...

How busy is Sapphie on a Wednesday???

I honestly thought that when I read about the snug leather trenchcoat, you were about to start telling us a story about the kid whose mum was a high-class hooker.
Next time you see her, tell her that you love her fitted coat and that you used to have one just like it!
And leave it at that.
Silent Lollypop man? Quietly offer him a nip from a hip-flask.
Tell him that you're writing an article on local Flemmy identities for the paper and ask to take his photo and interview him.
Then take his photo and interview him and sell it to the local paper.

Rubbish? Every time you pick it up, you just make more room for more rubbish.

Doggits and no bin? Surely surely you passed some kind of 4WD on the way? Next time, just loop it over the wipers.

Thank you, thank you.

Cinema Minima said...

Oh dear. One of those mornings hey?
So can Milly fill two bags, or do you pick up other barker's eggs?

Kate the Retail Girl said...

"Hatch a Nugget?" That is the most awesome phrase ever. We Americans just aren't clever enough to come up with something like that.

Louisa said...

Oh Kath you do brighten my day! Our lollypop man is lovely - he's teaching my son french as we pass by - and only raises his eyebrows when he notices that yet again I've forgotten to change out of my slippers!!

Margie and Edna said...

Oh dear. Some days it really doesn't pay to get out of bed, does it? (Incidentally, we applaud you for picking up street litter and your dog's, er, "nuggets.")

--Margie and Edna

Plastic Mancunian said...

"Hatch a nugget" - I'm still laughing at that one.

You are so funny.




drb said...

Imagine Pauline walks you to your primary school with uncombed hair, crusted eye lids, in trekkie and saying dragon breath- hello to all the other parents....

eleanor bloom said...

i literally have tears in my eyes i'm laughing that hard. ROTFLMAO as the kids would say.

ah kath, thanks. i needed that.

i'm sorry you had to have a slightly unfortunate morning to brighten up my afternoon however.

i would happily walk alongside you on such outings kath. i'd be proud to (what a good citizen you are!). but, i may have to purchase an incontinence pad first...

drb said...

Also, you have inspired me to pick up rubbish on the way to and from work. But I also pick up plastic rubbish.