Today I Got Served

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Random Banter

Today, karma happened; I did something naughty, and got punished for it.

I’d been in possession of an old, slightly tired laptop with a dent on its lid for some months, which sat bored and unused in a cupboard in the living room, waiting to be dealt with someday in the future. Early last week, I finally took it to a shop that buys used laptops, DVDs, etc. Something like a pawn shop, but more of an “upmarket” one. (Who am I kidding – it was a pawn shop.)

They told me they’d buy it for $480 and I tried to keep a poker face. You see, I thought I’d get no more than $200 for it. To think I’d had $480 sitting inside a dusty cupboard for so many months! I just couldn’t believe it. I asked the gentleman behind the counter if he’d be so kind as to put all of my photos, music and documents on my external hard drive, a process we soon discovered would take approximately 36 hours. The lovely man offered to make it happen overnight, I’d just have to return in the morning. However, the next morning happened to be a public holiday, and I was unable to get into the city all other days that week, so I ended up returning today.

I got greedy in the meantime. Perhaps this has something to do with knowing I’d be $480 richer, and it is in our nature as first world humans to want more once we get more. Who knows.

Anyway, I returned to the shop to pick up my loaded hard drive, and to collect my cash winnings. But here’s what happened: the man behind the counter was new, one I hadn’t dealt with previously. I took advantage of the situation and explained that myself and his co-worker had agreed on a price of $500 last week. And with that lie, things went downhill just as good morals should have it. The new man called his boss (the man I’d dealt with last week) to come from his office and look at the computer. The man came out, and explained that he remembered me but couldn’t explain the price he’d told me, but knew it mustn’t have been $500 as my computer was not in $500 worth of condition. He told me he’d buy it for $470. In a coy, flirty manner I pushed for $480. He said no way, so I agreed.

I walked out with my tail between my legs, and $10 poorer – and boy did I deserve it.

The Art Of Being Alone

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When I was much younger, say between the ages of five and 14, I used to feel sorry for people I saw dining alone in cafes and restaurants. I’d especially feel sorry if they had a book, as I thought their reading was some sort of cover up for not having friends. (I also used to fake a limp when I walked past physically disabled persons, as I felt guilty for being able to walk perfectly. I regret ever having done this, but perhaps my owning up to it here is some sort of atonement.)

Now, years down the track, I’m the person sitting in cafes alone. But please don’t feel sorry for me – I do it by choice. You see, I’m lucky to be loved by many, and to love many in this world. If I needed company – which I often do – there is a spilling handful of wonderful people who would come running. But sometimes, I need time to myself. Every so often, when I have an hour or so free, I’ll go to my favourite cafe, sit alone, and treasure every minute of selfish solitude. Does it make me an ungrateful friend to admit that sometimes, these moments alone are the best part of my day?

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised there is a big difference between being alone, and being lonely. Loneliness is sad, something we’re all bound to experience whether for short moments or long ones. But being alone, and enjoying it, is something entirely different; something we should all make time for, something we should treasure, something we should absolutely not feel sorry about. We spend our entire lives conversing, arguing, debating, exclaiming, shouting, discussing, stating, saying things to people – we owe it to ourselves to spend some time in silence.

I’ll admit, it takes a certain kind of confidence to do something alone. Once upon a time, I’d never have done it for embarrassment of people thinking I didn’t have friends. But as years have passed and I’ve hopefully developed some maturity, I care less about what people think. I’m happy to do something for me. And if I walk past someone who’s sitting alone, I respect and appreciate their chosen moment of solitude. Of course some of these people might be lonely, but I no longer jump to the conclusion that lonely are the majority.

Things I Saw Today: Part 1

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Personal / Random Banter

I’m introducing a new regular segment to Taggle Talk called “Things I Saw Today”. The title pretty much sums it up, but I must insert a disclaimer: not all of these things were seen today. You see, the last few weeks have been ridiculously busy (what with it being my final few weeks of university and all), and I haven’t had time to breathe, let alone put a post together. Perhaps you’ve noticed? If so, I’m touched. But not having time to breathe doesn’t mean I’ve not had time to observe the world around me, and make mental notes (literal notes, actually, but mental notes sound better) of things to write one day in the future i.e. today.

I present to you a selection of some of the noteworthy things I’ve observed during the past few days, which I’d safely jotted down at the back of my diary. To me, each of these things are so wonderful they deserve their own post entirely, but I’d much rather put them out there for you to appreciate now.

A list of things I saw today (and yesterday and the day before, etc.):

I saw today’s sun setting over the beach while I was driving, and my heart truly skipped a beat or something corny like that. It was magical – so magical in fact that I had to break the law and capture it for good.

I saw a big man stand on a small girl (approximately one-tenth of his bodyweight) who was bent over on the footpath tying her shoelace. I am still very confused as neither the man nor the girl reacted, and he most certainly stood on her with some force.

I saw the same man three times in one day in various locations and I know this because I recognised the tiny anchor tattoo on his face, beneath his left eye. It made me wonder how often this actually happens.

Today I yawned on the train. The man across from me caught my yawn, and the man across from him (sitting next to me) caught that one quickly after. It was an awesome zigzag of yawns and it made me wonder, what could possibly be the world record for the greatest number of yawns transferred from person to person? I doubt anyone knows, but I’d really like to.

As I waited for my takeaway coffee, I saw a man seated in the coffee shop scribble on a pad of yellow post-it notes, then scrunch the post-it note in a ball and pile it on his empty plate, then repeat these two actions close to twenty times. After approximately five minutes there was a perfect pyramid of scrunched-up post-it notes right there next to him. What was he scribbling, and what was so wrong with it all those times?

I saw a fat version of Drake. He was literally identical, apart from being fat.

On the train home yesterday I recognised a girl who was five or six years above me at school, which is an unlikely occurrence considering our school was (still is) small and we’ve both moved to a city much bigger than where we grew up. We caught eye contact and I’m pretty sure she recognised me too, but I guess I’ll never know.

This morning on the train I sat directly across from a suited, middle-aged man who was writing in a diary. Not the ‘October, November, December’ sort of diary but the ‘Dear Diary’ sort of diary. It was A5 and he’d written the day and date at the top of the page, and filled it perfectly to the bottom by the time he arrived at his destination. I attempted to read his words upside down, and managed to capture “I’m so looking forward to…” before I felt guilty and looked out the window. I have spent all day wondering what the man is “so looking forward to”. I also noticed that he dotted his ‘i’s’ and ‘j’s’ at the very end of the word, instead of during the process of writing the individual dotted letter. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do that before.

I saw a person hang up their phone and mutter “fuck” under their breath. I am unhealthily desperate to know why “fuck” was so necessary.

It’s been a pretty interesting few days, really. Watch this space, for I’ll be posting “Things I Saw Today” regularly.

How Does One Know When And Where To Draw The Line?

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Random Banter

The title question isn’t just to grab your attention – I genuinely need an answer here, people.

You see, I’ve recently encountered a number of different situations, mostly in public, which have left me confused and unsure as to where I should draw “the line”. (There’s no such thing as a straight line in my world, by the way. My sort of lines are crooked, wavy, or swirly. And I’m yet to master the art of stopping myself from crossing them, hence why I’m desperately after your advice.)

A number of mornings ago a tall, dark-suited man stepped onto my train three stops after mine. I gave him the subtle once over (as I often tend to do when someone tall, dark and handsome steps into my vision) and noticed a bright flash of red somewhere around his crotch. Intrigued, I paid some attention and realised that the man’s fly was open, revealing his hot red jocks to the public world. I became conscious that my eyes had perhaps spent too much time focussed on the region, but in my head I was facing a massive dilemma. Did I, as a fellow member of the public, possess some sort of duty of care to tell this man that there was just one threadbare layer between his willy and the world?

I nervously imaged the man’s day – walking around his office space, his co-workers giggling behind his back – and was filled with a strange sort of anxiety. It was now or never: Did I intervene and save him from humiliation, or would the humiliation in telling him I could see the distinct shape of his penis do more harm than good? What would be the right decision to make, with the greater good of the people in mind? Honestly, if that had been me, I would like to have been told. But I wonder whether a stranger would have been the preferable person to do it. Thoughts?

Here’s another situation, though this one doesn’t involve a penis (as far as I’m aware): This very morning, I was pushed uncomfortably close to an impeccably dressed woman, all in black, on the jam-packed train into the city. (It always amazes me, as much as it discomforts me, how impossibly close strangers are willing to get during peak-hour on public transport. On numerous occasions I have come scarily close to kissing people on the lips, and not very many of them have been the kind of people I’d like to kiss on the lips.) Anyway. The woman looked absolutely stunning, and I imagined she was the envy of her workplace: The Woman In The Black Coat. After realising I had developed some sort of girl-crush, I noticed a single long blonde hair on the back of her coat, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. That one gleaming hair – impossible to ignore – threatened to ruin the woman’s image, and probably her flawless reputation too. I considered reaching out and plucking the hair from her coat, but the croaky little voice in my head made me re-consider. If all the other commuters on the train had seen me do such a thing – which of course they would – would they consider me helpful or creepy? What do you think? Because in all honesty, If I had a hair on my coat, I would be forever grateful to discover it had been removed by a stranger, considering hair (when unattached to the head) is absolutely foul.

One more situation – the last, and again on a train. Last week or thereabouts, I noticed the old man to my right and across the aisle, had fallen dead asleep. (Perhaps I shouldn’t use dead in this context as he seemed to be about the age.) Anxiety arose in me once again, as I internally debated as to whether I should wake him to prevent him from missing his stop. If I’d been sitting next to him, I might have accidently-on-purpose bumped and woken him, but that wasn’t an option. I would have had to go out of my way, stepping over schoolboys and their schoolbags – always dangerously strewn across train aisles, threatening to brake your ankles – tap him politely on the shoulder, and potentially give him a heart attack in doing so. I decided against it, and I wonder whether that poor man is still dead fast asleep, heading south towards Antarctica. What would you have done? Further, what would you have expected a stranger to have done, had you been the old man?

Help me, please. I figure there are going to be many situations in which I will be required to know when and where to draw the line, and I’d like to master it before I find myself in a seriously uncomfortable, penis-involved situation.

Why We Should All Talk To Strangers

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“Love between strangers takes only a few seconds and can last a whole life.”
– Simon Van Booy, Love Begins in Winter: Five Stories

We need to stop telling our kids not to talk to strangers. I don’t even know if parents still do (what with all this new-age parenting and feeding babies paleo diets) but on the likely chance, I’m advocating change.

The other day I was thinking about all the wonderful conversations I’ve had with strangers – younger, older, locally, while travelling, weeks ago, years ago – and I had some sort of epiphany: so many lovely life moments, and so many immeasurable learnings, come out of our accidental encounters with strangers. I realised the importance of all these people with whom I bonded for just a moment before going my separate way and momentarily forgetting their existence (only momentarily).

I remember a young girl with dark curly hair who waddled up to me in a shop while I was trying on sunglasses, and suggested I buy the pink ones. She tried on sunglasses alongside me – just the ones she could reach at the lowest level – and we spoke for 10-minutes or so about our favourite colours. I asked her favourite colour, assuming pink due to that being the colour of her shoes, dress and hat; “No silly, it’s yellow!” And now whenever I put on my tortoise-shell cat-eye sunglasses (her top pick), I remember our colourful conversation, and my bright world brightens. If not for my conversation with this darling girl I’d never have known that wearing round sunglasses, I look like an ant.

I remember another moment, on a train, after saying good-bye to someone special who I already missed. The lady across from me noticed my tears, leant towards me and said “Honey, I hope you’re okay. I’m going to be sitting here for the next hour so you just talk to me if you need to talk, or don’t if you don’t and I won’t mind.” Then she offered me a rock-hard boiled fish lolly, which I gladly took, and we talked, my tears forgotten. Fish lollies will forever be a powerful reminder to always look on the bright side, learned once upon a time from a stranger on a train.

I remember an unforgettable conversation while waiting to cross the road with a 90-year old Italian man, about love. The serious topic came up naturally, and he shared personal memories of his wife of 60 years, recently passed away. I think there were tears in his eyes as he encouraged me to treasure every moment with those I love. I passed the man on the street a few days later, and we exchanged a smile but I doubt he remembered me. And I do treasure every moment with those I love. Not necessarily because the old man told me too, but I still won’t forget him saying it.

I remember so many inspiring strangers I’ve met over time who have popped into my mind randomly and wonderfully over the years.

We have many things to learn from strangers, just as we, as strangers, have many things to teach. With each encounter with a stranger we gain knowledge, new perspective, and insight. Whether we agree, disagree, like or dislike, our minds open and we’re encouraged to think about something new. The little wires in our brains ignite and with each exchanged word, we grow. These conversations find a little place in our heads and they stay there to be used at some point in our future, whether consciously or subconsciously. At some point along the track, in weeks, years or decades, our mind will make use out of every conversation with a stranger, even if its only use is to produce a smile.

We should encourage kids – adults too – to talk to strangers, because how else will we learn about life if not from those who are in it?