Customers

We’ve all been customers at one time or another, unless you’re that stinky hermit. But wait, where did you buy all your stinky hermit rags from, huh, huh?
THE STARS:
Everybody should work in retail for one year of their lives. Like mandatory military service, this would provide the necessary empathy for people to never be jerkoff customers again. I have worked several jobs over the retail/customer service spectrum, for many, many years. As a result, I’m almost a fawning sycophant in shops now.
“That will be forty dollars and seventy cents, do you have an everyday reward card?”
“No milady, many apologies milady. I offer my firstborn as penance.”
“Would you like any cash out with your purchase?”
“But you have already done so much!”
By far the best customer I ever had was late night at the Duty Free store at Sydney Airport, and I was wandering around desperately trying to appear busy, but not do any work. A man approached me and asked if I had any whisky recommendations. When I said I knew nothing about whisky, he then took me on a magical, two hour journey where he taught me everything there is to know about malt liquors, complete with humorous anecdotes. However the only thing I’ve managed to retain is this following advice –
“There’s no trick with selecting whisky. But here’s the trick – look at the label. See what it says, if it says smoky peat bog flavours, and think to yourself, do I like the taste of a peat bog? No, so move on.”
LACK OF STARS:
There are a lot of different types of bad customers, and I’ve probably dealt with them all. Some are so unbelievable, you can’t even get a good story out of it. Like the guy who spat at me because I wouldn’t serve him, as his plane was TAKING OFF. By far the majority of these stories are awful because in order for me to keep my crappy retail job that was paying the rent for my crappy apartment, I had to take the shit and keep on smiling and provide extra services to keep these people happy. In me, this corresponded not so much as happy, upbeat energy, but as a kind of manic verbal tirade, as I thrust wine into the bewildered hands of tourists.
You can always identify problem customers by their crowns and blue, blue blood.
But after three years I’d decided I’d had enough of that particular job, and I quit.
I drew this for my personal blog about four or five years ago
to illustrate my personal selling style.
However, I still had another month of work ahead of me, where I tended to lounge about, chat with the perfume girls and generally make a nuisance of myself. I was working at the collections counter at this point, a strange antiquated system which involved buying products in another store and then picking them up in this one. Certain products had to be physically run from that other store, which was quite a distance away, and through several layers of strident security. This very arrogant Englishman came to the counter and threw his receipt at me, and then without saying any words, tapped his watch and looked meaningfully at the plane departures board.
We had already started off on a bad foot, and I decided that on this particular day I wouldn’t stand for any of that guff. I went to collect his goods. They weren’t there. I called up the runner, and he was on his way. Unless there were unforeseen raptors in that particular corridor, the runner would be there in 10 minutes max. I told the customer this, and he lost it.
Swearing, slamming the counter with his fist, throwing his hands up in the air, this hypothetical ten minutes of waiting was apparently the worst news he’d ever had. His plane wasn’t leaving until three hours.
I simply stood there wearing my largest grin, nodding my head every so often as if he was telling me a funny story, until he went a strange red colour and got in really close to my face and said 
“This is what I’m not seeing – I’m not seeing you actively making my parcel arrive any quicker. I don’t care what you have to do, but it needs to be here now.”
I reiterate the fact that it’s on its way, and the runner can’t walk any faster.
Then he said, and this is one of the weirdest concepts I’ve ever heard –
“Wait, you’re bringing it in by hand? Isn’t there some sort of tunnel or a conveyor belt where it comes through?” Now in order for this guy to buy his goods in the first place, he had to know the substantial geographical distance between the two stores, so frankly an underground conveyor belt is wildly ludicrous. So I feigned great dismay.
“Well, sir, the conveyor belt is faster, but it’s jammed and I don’t fit in the tunnel. I’m the only person on shift, and by health and safety regulations, I’m just way too tall.”
And then he yelled at me to get in the tunnel. So I went into the backroom, with a horrified look on my face, like a man approaching death, knowing full well that the runner would make it to the desk in a manner of minutes. I then hid behind a shelf for a while.
This wasn’t in the job description. But they did ask me if I was any good at slithering…
In about two minutes, I heard my co-worker from the other store open the door, and say,
“Uhh, Patrick, the gentleman said you could come out of… the tunnel now.”

 I didn’t say anything, and waited until they left. I hope to this day that guy has on his conscience  the fact that he possibly sent a really tall person to a horrible death in a make-believe tunnel.

THE SCORE:

1/5 stars. Because that guy with the whisky was awesome.

Mugging

That awkward moment whence people try to take your objects on the street and you are not OK with it.

THE STARS

I’m sure if one is a mugger then this is a highly lucrative position with a high risk to reward ratio.

LACK OF STARS

I’ve only been mugged once, and even then it was a strange and awkward experience based off terrible misconceptions. It was also very scary. Me and my friend Anna were in Newtown many years ago, and we’d decided on some form of whim to visit her ex-boyfriend.
Now, the problem with any story involving Anna and I at this point in my life, is that you can never tell at what point or stage or level of drunk we are at. Perhaps we went there already drunk, or perhaps we got drunk there. Who knows. But an accurate summary of the night involved sitting on this guy’s windowsill screaming at each other that the other was a communist and should be sent to the Gulag. Then Anna stole a bunch of his knick knacks, and we stumbled out the door.

As we walked out the front of the apartment building, a gang of youths surrounded us. I believe there were close to twenty, and each of them were very aggressive.  Opposing this dread crew was the drunken spine imitation of a sick giraffe that I resembled and a tiny drunk redhead with Russian roots and one kidney.
The spokesperson muscled into my blurry vision and jabbed his finger into my chest.

“Were you those cunts that were calling us communists?”

I am confused. I am speechless. I am scared.

Anna, however, was only exhibiting one of those flaws.
“You know, it’s not a bad thing to be a communist.”

As if this was some sort of signal, these democracy loving hooligans put me in a headlock and started punching me in the face. Others took Anna’s handbag and rifled through it, taking her iPod and various other electronic paraphernalia.

As I am being beaten (fairly mildly, I must say) Anna is spouting an admirable diatribe about the comparative benefits of socialism and the historical relevancy of communism.

Lenin loves ya, baby.

This eventually weirds these people out to such an extent, that they stop hitting me with their fists, and GIVE BACK all of our stolen belongings, with the strange mission statement of
‘that’s just not what we’re about.’
Perhaps they just really don’t like communism. Maybe they hadn’t heard that the domino theory was debunked around the same time Jim Morrison died.

Anyway, so after a bit more pushing and shoving, THEY BEGIN TO LEAVE and as they recede into the darkness, one turns around and says ‘Don’t fuck with the KJA”.

In the manner of drunks the world over, I ask Anna in a much too loud voice,
“Is that a radio station?”

This is Hooligan and Addict with you on your morning ride to the crack-den.
Thank God it’s Tuesday!
And congrats to Marty, who guessed that our secret sound was, that’s right, a shivving!

This kind of guff is apparently over the threshold, and they all come storming back, to go through EXACTLY THE SAME PROCEDURE we had already gone through. This time Anna got a bit hysterical, and started roundly abusing them. She managed to construct entire sentences which were 9/10 swears. I’m not sure if it was scary, but it was grammatically implausible. Perhaps this drove them away. Regardless, somehow, we survived to tell the tale, as blurry and hyperbolic as it might be.

THE STARS:
0/5 stars

Valentines Day

If I had a pet deer I would call it Valentine and then I’d spend a whole day with it.

THE STARS:
Everyone knows this isn’t a real day. Yet, every second person you see are carrying flowers. The answer? They’re doing it ironically. OR they are in new relationships and despite the girl being cool and ironic and into Iggy Pop, you’re still too scared at the possible ramifications of NOT buying flowers or a card. That’s where the Spontaneity Review comes in with a host of alternatives to Valentines Day cards. You’ll always win with these five star alternatives.
1. Try to say plainly what you are feeling.
Umm. Not a fish? 
2. Make reference to your relationship. This is a day about it, not just the other person. 
MORE LIKE TERROR-DACTYLES, AM I RIGHT? 
3. Make it personal. Everybody who knows my girlfriend knows that she just loves puppies.
I love you like that old man loves his dog with the big tumour on its head.
4. Not only diamonds are forever. So are the undead.
DREAMBOAT!
5. Puns and plays on words are a fun way of proving you are witty and have a great sense of humour.
So.Romantic.
LACK OF STARS:
Do I even need to say? Stupid made up love holidays. Here, I got you some flower corpses. Hope you enjoy watching them decompose. It could be worse I suppose. It could be Hitler day. Or another god themed holiday. 
THE SCORE:
1/5 stars. 

Flying

Another really unnatural thing that we do.

THE STARS

I’m not scared of flying. I tolerate it, because it is WILDLY CONVENIENT. I worked at Sydney International Airport in the departures section in Duty Free for about three years, and it always filled me with gallons of bewilderment the way people behave in airports. Oh, your MIRACULOUS FLYING BUS WITH WINGS IS LATE BY TWO HOURS? MAYBE YOU CAN JUST CATCH SOME OTHER FORM OF TRANSPORT WHICH ACTIVELY DEFIES THE RULES OF GRAVITY. YEAH, YOU SHOULD HAVE CAUGHT THE TELEPORTER, THEY’RE MORE RELIABLE AND FICTIONAL.
 Fuck you gravity. I’m shouty today.
But seriously, the fact that the entire world can be accessed via a day or more of sitting in an uncomfortably vibrating chair strapped to a giant motor and flimsy manipulation of aerodynamics is something that we should still be slow clapping at.

“Yeah, I’m going to be late. My miracle-chair has to fight dragons.
 I know, can you believe it?”

The other thing about flying is that it’s always guaranteed to pop up in a conversation about what superpower you want. I can understand that, I’m sure it would be a remarkable feeling being able to glide effortlessly through the air. I think the key to that statement is effortlessly – I can get behind the kind of weird supernatural air-thrust that Superman does. (I can get behind Superman’s air thrust? Wow.) But what if it involved having enormous, albatross style wings. For one, they’d have to be huge to lift you, and then you’d probably never walk again, or fit through doorways. Two, they’d probably be a lot of hard work to flap. In order to get anywhere substantial, you’d need Olympic levels of fitness. I’d have to say, having giant wings on my back would probably motivate me in ways that shotput never did, but still.
I have a certain friend who I love very dearly, but in one of those conversations he put the most hilarious image in my head. He was arguing for having wings, the majority of his case leaning towards the beauty of looking like an angel, rather than the half-man half-seagull I tend to imagine. He then said, no joke, “imagine the erotic possibilities”.  Now, I don’t know if I’m some kind of repressed square, but the ONLY erotic possibilities that I can imagine for a dude with giant wings, is swooping out of the sky and pecking people with his penis.

ALL THE POSSIBILITIES.

Personally I’d choose teleportation for my super power. Or immortality.

LACK OF STARS

Despite my earlier impassioned plea for the marvelling of flying, there’s no going past the fact that the 42 hour flight from Sydney to Qatar with the 7 hour stop off in Abu Dhabi, or as I like to call it, ‘the land that shops forgot’ (This was over fifteen years ago, mind you. These days it’s like a gaudier Las Vegas mall.) is an ordeal. Especially if you’re like me, which is like if you got a normal boy and stretched it.
The last time I flew internationally, me and my sister were going to visit my dad in Dubai for Christmas. After a few hours, when I realised that Kerouac’s less popular novels were a really uninspired choice for flying, I decided we should have a drink. Julia agrees. So we order two gin and tonics. After they sip, I wonder if I somehow forgot to use the word ‘tonic’. To all appearances, we had two giant tumblers full of straight gin. Still, when in Rome.

So we choke them down, and settle back. Until I realise I’m intensely drunk. Even when I was sixteen, it took at least TWO lemon Ruski’s to get me drunk. Then I hazily remember that each standard drink is worth 3.5 at altitude. Or something like that. It was hazy, and I’m not fact checking at this late point. So, I decide I need to pee, and stagger off. Note to everybody – walking trashed down an airplane aisle is HILARIOUS. There’s somebody in the bathroom, so I smile blearily at a lady standing in the aisle. She says, in a thick English brogue of some kind,

“Don’t mind me, I’m just doing my squats. Doctor told me I need to do them for deep vein thrombosis!”
I regard her squatting with great interest, agreeing with her. “No, nobody likes thrombosis of any sort.”
After a few more moments, I ask if I can join her. She is surprised, but willingly runs me through all the different squats we have to do to ward off flying disease.

I return to my seat, tired by exuberant and with the beginnings of a dreadful kind of nausea. Julia is sitting there with tears streaming down her eyes. When I ask her what’s wrong, she says she has no idea. This makes her cry more.
Flying + gin is a potent combination.

THE STARS

4.5/5 stars

Washing up

The endless battle of man against his own filth.

THE STARS

Probably the weirdest you’re ever going to see me is if you have the misfortune to find me washing the dishes. I’m someone with pretensions of cleanliness, but am all too deterred by strange sociological issues like ‘It’s a tuesday’ or ‘or there are too many cups’. So I tend to let things get dramatic before I finally snap and clean the shit out of everything. Part of the problem is that just before things get excessive, I tend to have a flip to the other part of my personality. After days (weeks) of silently despairing at the state of things, I suddenly decide to embrace the mess. It’s a feeling of punk type liberation, where I decide that not only am I OK with the mess, I’m going to wallow in it.

That’s right, that’s Keith Richard’s high-fiving me for causing domestic mess.

Then I flip right back in when there’s maggots in the tupperware and mould climbing the forks. I don’t mind the actual act of washing up too much, because I usually listen to music and come up with ideas for writing and things. It’s pretty great, but it does mean I sing a lot and mumble to myself and chuckle at little ideas. Also, because I hate getting my fringe in my eyes, I wear a sailors hat of Bridget’s.

LACK OF STARS

Well, today something hilarious happened. Huge washing job, weeks of excess. Unfortunately, one of the pink rubber gloves has a giant hole in most of the fingers. I wear them anyway, because I hate touching old food. Somewhere about 3/4 of the way through the three hour job, there’s a knock on the door. I kinda assume it’s my girlfriend, cause I haven’t see her all day. (Where are ye?) So I just run to the door and open it. Instead it’s some lady doing door knocks about the proposed St Peter’s gas mine. She looks me up and down, noticing all of these things in her shrewd profiling.

1. Shirtless
2. Wearing a sailors hat
3. Wearing ONE pink rubber glove
4. Big wet stain at my crotch, because I’m way taller than our kitchen sink.

However, she pushes through this and extends her hand. I shake it, and notice only from the sudden limpness of hers, that my hand, after three hours of submersion, is pink and wrinkly and moist. Now, after the debacle at the swimming hole last week, I’ve been fairly wary of my stupid face and the stupid things it says, but at this point my brain is saying ‘go with good natured explanation, surely lots of people wear nautical head gear while washing up.’
So I say, “Ahoy!” and chuckle a little. She decides to come back later.

A gas mine, ye say? I knew a man with half a face who fought with a gas mine for two days
and three nights in the South Pacific. They ended up married and live on a submarine,

Once I worked as a dish-washer at a retirement village in North Sydney. The job was fairly easy, as I just had to rinse the dishes and then load them into this giant robots brain type industrial washer which blasted them with super powered steam until they gave up and washed themselves. However because this is the elderly, and they can only eat food which has been reduced to a fine paste, the dishes always looked like Tarantino gore. For some reason, they always made me a little queasy, but I didn’t want to be pathetic so I moved on. Anyway, one day I came in, and because i’d gotten up at four in the morning, I didn’t really notice that my vast nausea was perhaps a symptom of more than simple tiredness. All I remember is rinsing a splattered zombie off one plate, and then this vast ringing noise began in my ears. I must have looked like death, because people asked if I were feeling all right. Then some of the geriatric nurses started looking at what I thought was a particularly virulent pimple on my neck. Turns out it was a spider bite from a White Back, which had gone necrotic, which means the skin had actually started to die around it. When I asked if they were sure, they all rolled their eyes and said ‘If there’s one thing we can recognise instantly after working in this place, it’s necrotic flesh.”
Shudder.

Also, there was a lady who made me sneak flowers into her tea, and claimed to be a Polish princess. I always humoured her, just in case she was and then she put me into her will.

Anyway, I’m fairly sure that when I die, I’ll be made to wash up for an eternity. I just hate the pointlessness of it all, the Sisyphean repetition. My most hated thing in the world is when you finish a big load of dishes and someone comes in and starts cooking immediately with them. For gods sake, give me some time to rejoice.

THE STARS

3/5 stars

Swimming

One of the most unnatural things that humans can do.

THE STARS

When I was a kid, I was a surprisingly good swimmer. I never really did anything with it, because I lack anything resembling competitiveness in my body. Or maybe it’s because when I was doing swimming squad in primary school, the scary instructor guy spent the entire time on the side of the pool calling me Wilhelm. When I didn’t answer (because it’s not my name) he would get increasingly apoplectic. I remember at one point wondering why he ignored me, and why he hated that Wilhelm guy so much.
Then when I was in high-school, I entered the breast stroke race at the swimming carnival because I was hot, and then I won and had to go to regionals. At regionals, all these swim-mums hassled me and asked who my coach was and tried to psych me out. It worked.

LACK OF STARS

Today I decided it was time to do something about my incipient heart disease and given the excessive sun that we’re dealing with (see last post) I thought swimming would be the way to go. There’s an aquatic centre around the corner of my house, so I felt like it was meant to be. Admittedly, the hangover was probably a bad idea. I didn’t realise that I would drink so much at a chess themed party on a thursday night. Obviously I haven’t been playing chess right. My second mistake was hubris. You see, I remembered my time as Wilhelm, and still had all his cocksure swimming arrogance.

What I was scared about, was the whole administrative side of things. I’m really bad in new situations, where I don’t know precisely what to do, and was worried i’d create some sort of large international scandal when I hang my backpack on a child and discover that my swim wear is now illegal. But I was so excited about getting rippling abs and a new pastime that doesn’t involve alcohol, that I pushed forward anyway.

So after finding my century-old bathing suit, I strut on down to the pool, and walk confidently up to the attractive, tanned young man at the desk, where I proudly announce ‘that I’m making my long awaited comeback to the sport of swimming’. The poor  gentleman blinks and nods slowly. I then proceed to thrust money into his hand saying “I’ll have one of your finest pools, please. I understand the general notion is I swim from one end to the other.” He nods again. I shake my head enthusiastically, quite aware of the fact that my nerves have given me a vastly psychotic demeanour. To cover the awkward silence, I mutter ‘rinse and repeat’ a few times, before confiding to him that it was all in aid of ‘my health’.
With exaggerated care he picks out the six dollars needed and sets me on my way.

Despite the ludicrous nature of my initial foray into this bold aquatic world, I’m not ready to give up, and even believe the worst to be behind me. So, padding awkwardly around the pool, I discover the sensible planning of three different lanes, from fast to medium and slow. I scoff at slow, and vaguely consider the fast lane. I did use to be Wilhelm, you know. But, considering the fact that it’s been over a decade since I last swam a lap in a pool, I decide to play it safe and start off in the medium. Maybe when I’ve hit my pace at around 30 laps, I can leap over the barrier like a Mako shark and speed out the home stretch.

I dive into the water, and start a few awkward strokes. I am secretly jubilant, as the breathing rhythm and everything just comes naturally. It’s like riding a giant wet bike. The next thing I notice is that the water is ridiculously warm. Disappointing, yes. The water is also… rather burny. Then it’s really burny. It’s a weekend at burnies. My eyes are spasming in pain, and my skin is crawling, but I’m pushing on. I do an entire lap, and things are great. I start out on the second lap, and everything feels wrong. My arms and legs are really sore, and it’s getting harder to breathe right. Maybe i’m supposed to exhale more under water, I think, doing so and choking down a big lungful. My clean, economical strokes become claws pulling desperately at the water, and my breathing, even above the roar of the water, sounds distinctly gaspish. This is all wrong. Maybe the water isn’t as buoyant as it used to be.

I’d like my abs now, please.

I clutch the wall, breathing heavily, trying vainly to rub the chlorine from my eyes. Two pregnant ladies are next to me in the slow lane, bobbing around. One is worried that she’ll be picked up by the transit officers on the train, because she hasn’t got a new concession sticker at university yet. Still clawing my eyes, I shriek at them the valuable news that last years sticker is valid until March. They are taken aback. Then one gently suggests I buy some goggles.

Can I help with any more administrative matters, ladies?

I decide to do a lap of breast stroke. If I take it ridiculously slow, I’ll be fine. But then I discover it’s hard to stay afloat without momentum. And some large walrus man has lapped me, and is bearing steadily behind me, at what I can only describe as a terrifyingly slow speed.  I barely make it to the other end. By this point, all illusions are gone. But I need to do one more. At one point, I start bodily hauling myself along with the barrier rope. People are looking at me. The lifeguard is sizing me up. I actually think I’m going to die, startled at the lack of air making it into my lungs.

I AM INEXORABLE!!!!!!!!!!

But I make it, and on rubbery legs I stumble into the change rooms, to face the mirror and look into the boiled red pits that used to be my eyes. They are like two meteors jutting out of my face. It’s like somebody tried to pack my eye sockets full of weed and smoke a bong through my nostrils. Suddenly the incredible fear of the pregnant ladies makes sense.

So tired and despondent and skin irritated, I prepare to make the final humiliation and hand in my locker key to the tanned young man at the desk, about 15 minutes after receiving it from him. He stares, I stare back. Not so witty and psychotic now, I think.  Nevertheless, a rapport had been forged, not a great one, but it was there, so I dredged the depths of my exhausted mind (can I just reiterate how tired and trembly my muscles were? I’m pathetic) for something to say. I end it simply on…
‘Next time I’m using the slow lane.’

And then, because humiliation this complete needs yet another layer, as I exited the Aquatic Centre, a small girl was sitting on the stairs, playing a clarinet, and the two notes she played were

‘Bom boooooooom.’

THE STARS

2.5/5 stars. Cause let’s face it, most of that was my fault.

The Heat

Old Yeller beaming down on us like a nuclear hat.

I hate you Ross Geller.

THE STARS

I’m sure those of you who are currently stuck in a blizzard, watching the mobility being frozen from your fingers and using an ice pick to chip away at the frozen black tears on your face will think i’m just a big whinger.
WELL FUCK YOU THAT SOUNDS LIKE FUCKING BLISS.

LACK OF STARS

You see the thing is, you can always put on more clothes. If you’ve reached the limit of long-john’s and stylish yet thermal jackets, then you can always go into a warm house and light a fire and get warm that way. I think I just vomited in my nose. No more talk about more heat.
What you can’t do is take off more clothes. I am currently entirely naked, cowering in the ‘coolest’ place in this fucking woollen jumper that we call home. This is it. There’s nothing I can do to get cooler now. Unless.

I regret nothing.

I live in a country of lunatics. When people are inevitably talking about the excess heat roaring through our city like a herd of horses that are on fire, they always end with “great beach weather though!”.
No, no, no. Yes, the water itself is cold. Swimming does provide relief. But what about the journey there? And more importantly, ON THE WAY BACK. Any momentary respite you have garnered from the water, is taken away on the way home, and that is even crueller. Plus, heat doesn’t just mean uncomfortableness in the moment – it also means being burnt to a crisp which is pain that lasts for days. And here’s a tip – the sun will follow you into the water. The sun is more powerful than the ocean.
Old Yeller > Poseidon.

CURSE YE OLD YELLER!

I’m the whitest individual in the world, so there is a reason I hide away from Old Yellers fiery embrace. But here’s where things get a little stupid. From the way i’m bitching about the heat, you’d think i’m from Little Dankshire in England, where snow falls every time people fall in love. But actually, the list of places i’ve lived in my life could be a ‘who’s who’ of deserts. Everywhere I’ve ever resided in my life has had 40 degree heat as a matter of routine. When I lived in Qatar, I was given a bike. After riding it one morning, I left it on the concrete outside of my house, and its wheels melted.

I still get scared of seatbelts. That’s what Western Australia taught me.

You’d think I would be one of those tanned, surfing jerks who shrug off the heat and can splash around the reflective ocean with the sun only giving them tiny kisses. But because the heat has always been so extreme for me, we never spent any time out in it to develop any kind of resistance. When we did go swimming, it was always in so many layers of rash vests and sun cream and zinc, that no exaggeration, when I dived in the water, an oil slick would mark my passing.

My goal in life is to live somewhere where I can develop seasonal affective disorder ALL YEAR ROUND.

THE SCORE

0/5 stars