Tonight I cruised into the supermarket to grab some fixin’s for dinner. Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. I noticed the trolley wrangler was wearing a green Santa’s helper hat. I remembered how my friend George had commented about the horrors of having to wear crap hats to hold down a job. Demeaning, he called it. I tried to drag myself nearer the festive part of the festive season. Three weeks to the day one of my colleagues announced today, in tones of joy that I didn’t know and chastisement that I didn’t know, blended with a subtle nuance of terror because she did know, and she knew what it meant. She also knew there was only one pay day between now and then. Almost like knowing there was only one more breath of air left in the car you drove off the wharf … sinking …
The supermarket. Instead of the usual blitz of frenzied looking faces grabbing calories to get through the night, no, tonight there was a bit of a crowd around the door, trays of slightly used looking snacks, and was that a barbecue? And someone in a penguin suit? No, not a tux; a suit what is a penguin. Handing out gee-gaws to sticky children prodded to the fore by grateful mothers. ‘Thank God that’s solved today’s demand.’ Is this how we want to live our lives? One of my other colleagues asked me today, ‘How do you approach xmas?’ Before I had a chance to answer he finished, ‘With trepidation?’
‘No’, I reassured him, ‘With fear and loathing.’ He laughed. We both laughed, in the way that those deep cellular memories laugh, the way our ancestral hunters laughed, around the camp fire, knowing full well that in the darkness just beyond the glow the sabre-toothed lion awaited. Patiently.
Xmas seems a bit like this for me this year. Been a long, long year – lots of laughs, but in the shadows, who knows. I grabbed me nuts (Brazils, keep it seemly) and me buttermilk, and headed for the checkout. Gotta get out of supermarket city … standing in queue. I turn, look at the next checkout queue. Checkout Chuck is wearing felt antlers. One proudly erect, one flaccid, spent, hanging over his be-pimpled face. And I think to myself, no, not what a beautiful world; rather, have I been somehow slurped into a Bosch painting?
Back, paying attention to my checkout. Wait, no, I’m distracted by a person (?) in a suit that looks a yellow coin with legs and arms. My mind evacuates itself. I am completely unable to … the switch goes to autopilot. I stare at the coin outfit. It makes no sense. I look for help to the checkout chick. She follows my glance and shrugs. At least I’m not hallucinating, she sees it too. ‘You must’ve been good’, I said. ‘Why?’ ‘You didn’t have to wear the yellow suit.’ ‘No’, she agreed.
We looked at the yellow suit, and back at each other. She seemed a trustworthy girl. ‘I want to make a deal with you, ‘ I said. ‘Sure, ok.’ ‘If I ever lose my job and become desperate for work, and I have to wear the yellow suit, I want you to kill me. Do NOT let me wear the yellow suit.’ ‘Sure, ok.’ ‘Deal?’ ‘Deal.’
I trust her.
I pay. I leave. I find out as I get closer (trying to be more invisible than my ancestral hunter confronting the sabre-tooth) it’s not a coin, it’s a crumpet. A crumpet. Someone came to work today and got paid to dress up as a starch-based food product. I walk back to the car. That was close. Too close. Oh, I know all about fear and loathing. I remember the year, that xmas, I came to work the crowds dressed up as Coogee Bear. You know, Rolf Harris. Coogee Bear. C’mon, you know you do.
Dressed up. For free. Where was that checkout chick when I needed her?