Sunday, June 20, 2010

Surface Skid Marks

In the space of twenty four hours, I've realised just how many 'masks' or surface appearances one person can assume.

Just before dinner last night, Milly and I were Litter Ninja-ing along busy Mt Alexander Road. I've had a beer can and 'LOSER' hurled at me before, but yesterday I was called a "slut."

Now my grasp of modern vernacular is about as cutting edge as my music choices but since when is a 41 year old woman, clad in baggy jeans, a man's jacket and accompanied by a friendly orange dog, a Slut? Do nymphos and females of flexible morality now earn their stripes by wielding a pair of barbeque tongs on their own garbage-strewn streets?

No matter. Later that evening, as we enjoyed our big bowls of spicy noodles ala Love Chunks in front of 'Australia's Funniest Home Videos', my graceless persona was one of finding eye-watering hilarity at seeing evidence of anyone - from toddlers to old ladies - publicly humiliating themselves in the most indignified of ways. An old chick slips onto some rocks: side splitting. A kid falls off a swing and plops into the mud: pants-wettingly funny.

My Bad Samaritan side is not unnoticed by Sapphire and Love Chunks who - out of the corner of my eye - I could see trading lifted eye brows and shared shame at my hoots of laughter. I honestly wish my reaction was a different one and I normally avoid watching the infernal show, because despite my best efforts at self-control, my hard-won maturity, kindness and empathy flies out the window.

This morning we were getting ready to go on a protest march. As you do on a rainy Sunday in winter. "Sapphire," I said gently, over our crumpets, "before we leave I want you to put on your extra thick jacket because it'll be freezing outside." She nodded with the added air of 'stop hassling me' that always makes me count to ten and remind myself again of her good points.

Later on, she'd cleaned her teeth and announced that she was ready. "Sapph, you need to get your jacket," I pointed out. Milly was put outside, the back doors locked and the umbrellas found. "Where's your jacket?"

That's when Sapphire's sigh and accompanying eye roll saw me change from Relaxed Kath to Malevolent Mother. "GET YOUR JACKET ON RIGHT NOW BEFORE YOU FIND YOUR iPOD FRISBEED OVER THE ROOFTOPS!"

As we walked to the tram, I cooled down, Love Chunks chatted about seeing a movie after the protest march and Sapphire's warm hand reached for my colder one. No grudges are held if I can help it and I leaned in to kiss her hair. "Stop it, Mum."

During the march, I was The Embarassing Weirdo. Most commonly found on public transport, but sometimes in slightly further-flung areas like LaTrobe Street in the rain, always doing her best to make her own flesh and blood blush. "Mum, stop talking to that smelly old guy over there - you don't even know him!"
"Muuuuuuum, saying the chant in a hillbilly accent was funny the first three times, but not now."
"Dad, can't you get Mum to stop pinching me?"

After the march we saw 'Robin Hood' at the cinema. We were sure that Sapphire, a veteran of the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings Trilogy would be able to handle anything the M rating threw up. Just to be sure, I became the living embodiment of Parental Guidance.
"King Richard isn't really a goodie in this version because he's made his army fight and kill for ten years and made his own country very poor," I whispered.
"I know, Mum."

"Marian needs to pretend that Robin is her husband or she could lose her land to the Sheriff."
"I know, Mum.

"Those young boys are running amok because they're orphans."
"Shoosh Mum!"

Several hours later, we hopped off the tram and arrived home. Love Chunks busied himself with preparing the roast beef, Sapphire went outside to cuddle the rabbit and Milly and I went for a walk.

Passing by the school I saw three boys, aged around thirteen. One had climbed onto the roof of the transportable used by the builders currently installing new science labs. The other two boys were handing him full cans of Pepsi Max. There were three boxes at their feet.


They froze. Red head in glasses jumped from the building. "Nothing, sorry."

I looked over the adjoining basketball court, already littered with around thirty crushed cans. "Let me ask you again. WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU DOING?"

They huddled together. "Um, we were just chucking these cans and----"
"Pick them up. NOW!" I yelled.

I was furious. Several times a week I pick up papers, litter and the smashed bottles and cans of Friday night bogans, but I'd never seen these gormless goons before. Instinctively, despite being outnumbered three-to-one, I felt safe. And strong. And red rage angry. None of them looked like 'bad news' to me, just stupid little boys with nothing better to do.

They scurried around, collecting the cans. I'm afraid to say that I started to relish the Angry Old Vigilante role and carried it further. I held up my mobile phone. "I've taken photos of you three and hey - I KNOW you, don't I?" I said, pointing at the tallest.

"Um, yes...."
"You live near here don't you? And you too?"
"Ye-e-e-e-s," they chorused, looking at their feet.

"Do any of you go to school here?" I knew none of them did, because I'm pretty familiar with all of the kids who walk past our house.
"No, but we know lots of kids who do," chubby boy said, trying to smile.
"Well what gives you idiots the right to think that their school is worth vandalising?"

Still they didn't move to escape or to tell me to bugger off. My voice got louder. Liar Lady mode then switched on. "I know where you and you live and I work for both the council and the police station so you'd better collect your stuff and go back home."

They nodded and as Milly and I turned to head off into the other direction, my mind changed. I decided to follow them.

Sure enough, they'd just done a lap of the block next door to get out of the Mean Old Bag's sight. "HEY! YOU BOYS! I've notified the school and they've assured me that the surveillance cameras are working and will have captured your activities, so unless you want me to take this further, TAKE YOUR CANS AND RUBBISH STRAIGHT HOME!"

They immediately turned on their heels ninety degrees and walked faster. Milly and I kept following, she enjoying the trotting pace immensely. When we were only only twenty metres behind them I dialled my mobile and said loudly, "Yes, I've taken a few photos of them and know where two of them live..... Yep, sure...... So, do you want me to lodge a report?..... Uh huh...... Yep, I've got the details, thanks."

Having left that ridiculous lie on my own answering machine, I saw the boys shuffle further and further away, shoulders hunched. My heart was beating as hard as it does on the treadmill and to hide my stupidly jubilant face I bent down to ruffle Milly's ears.

"Well, furry face, it's time for this old slut to pick up some rubbish."


JD said...

Keep up the good work, OS.

Baino said...

You're braver than I Kath. I mean, the march I might have attended but I wouldn't have tackled hooligans armed with Pepsi cans. Smart thinking re the mobile phone tho.

Cast Iron Balcony said...

Oh I was at the march! Shame I didn't see you and Sapphire. But shows the march was a respectable size, eh?!

The young'uns have been doing bad things round our way too - they arrested Nitin Garg's killer and he was only 15 - in school uniform when he was dragged into court after being arrested in the morning. HOw bad a day did that mum have. :-(

W/V = Bumbip

Kath Lockett said...

Er, thank you JD. I think....

Baino, I wasn't brave, just angry. I'm pretty careful at picking my battles. It was obvious that it was their first time doing something so dumb and they kept apologising profusely.

CIB - Benjamin Solah was there too!
Pepsi can throwers are pipsqueaks compared to the horror and tragedy suffered by Nitin Garg. And the families involved - his and the murderers'.

'Bumbip' - the tiny quack-like farts that slip out when a person bends over suddenly; usually in yoga class or in a busy work office.

franzy said...

A new-dad mate and I were discussing this phenomenon. Somewhere along with the immunisation book and "Don't Be a Deadbeat" pamphlets they give you at the birth, we both received Shouting Dad masks (with accompanying voice-altering microphone!).
We apparently put them on when someone tries to steal our park or walks their fat arses in front of our loved ones and stops mid-stride.
(queue accidental raking of dad boots down the back of the the blinker-wearer's Achilles tendon)
"Sorry, mate. Didn't see you there."

River said...

Oooh Kath! Right now I'm thinking I'm glad the boys were only primary school age. Older kids might lurk around and follow YOU home one day. Then they could vandalise your home.
You certainly are much braver than I am.

deepkickgirl said...

Good on you! I ache to catch the vermin (or very naughty little boys) who mess up our school and give them a piece of my mind. Can you believe some of them left a poo (human!) on the steps of one of the buildings a couple of years ago. Little shits! (Ha!) It's the brainless vandalism I can't handle. With your boys I am amzed that they were throwing cans of drink - surely these cost money, unless they pinched them - which is stupid, dangerous and expensive.

Benjamin Solah said...

Hope your enjoyed the protest. I had a heap of fun and got all radical but not sure I'd even be brave enough to tell them off, but then again I once told a racist on a train to shut up. Was fun.

Plastic Mancunian said...

G'Day Kath,

Word of the day - "Yapsy" - nothing to do with your post but funny enough to mention.

Crikey - I was scared reading about the Litter Ninja's latest exploits - I almost glanced out of the window looking for somebody armed with tongs, mobile phone and a dog - but then I thought "Hang ON!!!"

I have to confess that when I was a lad I used to do stupid things like those lads did - thank God I've grown up (well a bit anyway).




nuttynoton said...

the problem with boys and I was one is they egg each other on and do not realise the consequences, they will mature although we never grow up! Hopefully your lkecture may put them on the straight and naroow - well done

Pandora Behr said...

You're a braver woman than I am Kath - but good on ya. You've done something I wish I had the guts to do on many an occasion. Todays verify workd "Boarg". What those kids will be saying when they're in front of a magistrate and being served up with community service.
Keep it up.

* said...

I'm here by way of Elisabeth's nudge. Lovely blog!

PS: Saw Robin Hood last week. Loved it to pieces (and talked through it, to the annoyance of my 2 sisters and mum).

Elisabeth said...

Hey Kath, you're a brave soul. I'm not sure I could tackle such vandals but I know what a bit of rage can produce.

Years ago our oldest daughter had a party in the backyard of our place, about forty kids in all and accounted for with names ticked off a prepared list.

A few extras arrived unannounced. They seemed tame enough fifteen years olds. My daughter knew them but had not invited them and asked them to leave.

On her invitation they came inside the kitchen and we graciously offered the telephone so they could call a taxi. As one did so, another was on his mobile phone arranging the next party and in a loud voice he made rude and abusive remarks about our lack of hospitality to the person on the other end.

My husband - who is not particularly tall - saw stars and immediately frog marched the three, two tall boys and a girl out to the front nature strip where he ordered them to go either in one direction for Camberwell or the other for Hawthorn.

'We can stand out here if we want, one of the kids said.
'Not on my nature strip,' my husband said and the trio skulked off.

When we reported the story the next day to friends, they were horrified. What if one of them had a knife, kicked him etc etc.

There is something about that adrenaline rush in an older citizen that can occasionally work, but I imagine it won't work every time. So please Kath, take care.

Great post by the way, and as ever hilarious. I love the multiplicity of your personality types and the fact that you are fast beginning to suffer under the weight of that adolescent criticism from Sappho. It seems an inevitability of life with daughters. But it can be character building, of you don't drown under its weight.

Kath Lockett said...

Franzy you're spot on. And don't forget the new rounds of cursing you'll do as 'Handy Dad' too!

River, I never even thought about how they could have followed *me* home (gulp). However, there was just a sense that I was safe. I do try to pick my battles - I'm no hero.

Human poo, DeepKickGirl? Now *that's* taking things to a new,very low level. I think my gormless goons had taken the cans out of one of their parents' pantries or spare fridges. They were well-dressed, non-boganish kids just being stupid.

We did enjoy the protest, Benjamin and piked out when we arrived at the musuem. We're still not sure if we should involve Sapphire yet or not, because sometimes when I see kids at protests (admittedly for causes I'm against) it makes me feel uncomfortable about them being 'used' without their full knowledge. Then again, Sapph is no stranger to making her opinion clear.

I'm relieved to hear that you've grown up, PlasMan and if you ever do see an angry ninja with bbq tongs, just offer her some chocolate and she'll be purring instantly.

Thanks Nutty. "Lecture" is a kind way to describe my angry, curse-filled rant, so they might learn something just out of sheer terror.

Thanks Pandora. I'm not brave - there have been so many other times I've kept quiet and looked the other way due to feeling unsafe or unsure and will no doubt continue to do so. Thirteen year olds on MY patch however - too easy!

Thanks Terresa, I'm now a follower of your blog which is such a beautiful one. I'm obviously your 'bit of rough down under' in comparison!

Crikey, Elisabeth - it is stories like yours (and the relief of living in a tiny house) that make me hope and pray that Sapph never wants any more than one or two mates over for a sleepover in her teen years. Your husband deserves a medal for that, but you're right - well placed anger can do wonders and there is something about 'sensing' when we can get away with it and when we can't.