See this post for the brief description of the challenge.
This week I haven’t done well at all – partly because I’ve been preoccupied with people I already know, and patly because I haven’t got out much. I realised that this project isn’t quite as trivial as I might have thought when I went for a walk by the Cooks River one afternoon and passed maybe 20 people of a range of ages, ethnicities and genders, and try as ai might I couldn’t even make eye contact with one of them … except for the one who features at point 5 here
- Saturday evening, 7 o’clock, walking down Marion Street in Leichhardt looking for somewhere to eat, we had to make our way through a crowd of partygoers, carrying balloons and wearing funny hats. Three young women seemed the most approachable, especially as one of them was carrying a huge slice of sponge cake on a paper plate dripping with whipped cream. I said something inane to the cake-bearer. She laughed.
- Tuesday. I went to a shop to pick up something that someone else had ordered. At my first words to the young man at the front of the shop, a voice from behind a tall display called out, and its owner emerged with the thing I was after in his hands. It turned out we had met briefly before in completely different circumstances, and had a brief and friendly chat about bike helmets as disguises
- Thursday. At the pool with our granddaughter, I was paying to get in, and having trouble making my phone make the payment. I made several attempts that produced only clicks, no card image. The young man behind the counter – without a hint of pity, contempt or disdain – said, ‘You have to click twice. You’re pressing the volume button at the same time and taking screen shots.’ Quick as a flash, I said, ‘I knew that,’ and we were in business. (Just now I deleted three photos of the pool’s Covid sign-in screen from my phone.)
- Thursday evening, the eve of garbage collection, I took our non-compost food scraps out to put in the appropriate council bin. Two women of a certain age were going through the recycling bins from our whole complex of units, collecting bottles and cans that can be redeemed. ‘Having any luck?’ I called to them. People mostly don’t seem to grasp the actual words I use in my opening gambits. ‘Bring it over here,’ one of them replied. ‘Oh no,’ I said, ‘This is rubbish.’ ‘Okay,’ she said, and they both lost interest in me.
- Friday evening. Walking beside the Cook River, just as I was despairing of making contact with anyone we passed, a couple of tiny dogs in a house yard took noisy exception to a harmless-looking Labrador who was approaching us with a woman in tow. The Labrador ignored the hostile yappy dogs. The woman looked our way apologetically. I said, ‘Your dog’s handling that well.’ She said, ‘Poor thing.’
- & 7. Saturday midday. As we were heading out on a walk, two youngish women were reading the small explanatory board near our front entrance and admiring the handsome Victorian Italianate house that is part of our complex of units. ‘So it is a residence,’ one of them said. I seized the opportunity. ‘Yes, it’s a residence,’ I said,. ‘There are 43 units.’ They looked interested. ‘It used to be a hospital, then a home for unmarried mothers.’ And I pointed to my favourite phrase on the board: ‘young women who gave their affections unwisely.’ Someone said (remember, this is the week when Australian parliamentary leaders seem to indicate that sexual assault is beneath their serious attention), ‘Always blame the women.’
8, 9, 10, 11. Saturday a little later. On my way home I passed an auction in the street a block away from the recently reopened Enmore Theatre. The auctioneers rolled up contract came down on 2.3 something million dollars, and the crowd of stickybeaks began to disperse. I checked the poster at the front of the house – a corner terrace with 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom – and, this being Sydney, fell into easy conversation with a young woman who was also checking it. Then another woman and two men joined in. Someone’s phone told us that the median price for a three bedroom house around here is 1.6 million. We variously commented on how happy the vendors must be, likewise their neighbours, and how prohibitive the housing market was. My impression that one couple, possibly both, were hoping to buy something sometime and weren’t being cheered. But maybe like me they were just passers-by seizing a chance to speak to strangers.
Running total = 31.
Hmm. Angry young women… yes, I get why they are angry, but did they really need to slap you down like that when you were just being friendly? Whatever happened to common civility?
Oh no, it was a friendly exchange. The anger was there, but shared by all four of us in the conversation. (There were two small girls there as well, but they weren’t particularly interested.)
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While this week seemed harder for you, it sounds like you had some more meaningful engagements too – even if in the last one you don’t exactly know what was behind some of the comments.
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