500 people: Week Seventeen

See this post for a brief description of my 500 People challenge.

I’ve been travelling this week, visiting family in Brisbane. Surprisingly, I’ve had fewer opportunities for new connections while away from home – so much time spent in the travel bubble with the EA, working out timetables and routes. Conversations with AirBnB hosts, though invariably pleasant, don’t count. But the following hit-and-run encounters do.

  1. Monday 7 June, having arrived in Brisbane, and found what we thought was a safe parking spot (it wasn’t, we copped a $100 fine) we passed Red Hill Cinemas, a building that was once a skating rink, on our way back to our flat, and decided to go to a movie. We asked the young man who sold us our tickets if there was somewhere we could eat. He directed us to the Colle Rosso (get it?) pizza place, but it and another that we found through Apple Maps were both closed. We went back to the cinema and asked the front-of-house man if we could get a refund on our tickets as we needed to eat and wouldn’t make it back in time. He went and asked his manager then, having failed to get through, told us that the cinema provided food. Gratefully we ordered toasties, and twenty minutes later, just as the movie was about to start, he brought our meals to Row F.
  2. Monday, on our search for Colle Rosso, we asked for directions at a bottle shop, which was the only sign of mercantile life nearby. The chap there was kind, pointed us in the right direction, and said he’d be surprised if it was open on a Monday night. Mildly distressed at the prospect of us going hungry, he said, ‘I’d make you a pizza myself, but I haven’t got an oven here.’
  3. Tuesday, at the Queensland Art Gallery’s wonderful William Yang retrospective, Seeing and Being Seen, there’s a series of photographs related to a North Queensland murder case in the early 1920s. The Emerging Artist asked if the magistrate who made an egregious verdict in that case was my grandfather. I had a close look at the photos and text, and said to a woman who happened to be looking at the same work, ‘That magistrate was my grandfather!’ She was suitably impressed, or perhaps horrified. (For the record, I was wrong – the case was heard four years before my grandfather got the job.)
  4. Wednesday, I was visiting an old friend who is living in a kind of home for aged Marist Brothers. He introduced me to a number of men in their 80s and in various states of frailty and apparent aphasia. The one I want to single out here was someone I had known reasonably well 55 years ago. He is the man who introduced me to the writing of John Henry Newman, Raissa Maritain and, you won’t be expecting this name, William Burroughs Jnr. When I introduced myself and offered some memory prompts, the only response I got was a blank watery gaze, and a limp handshake.
  5. Thursday morning, in the QUT campus at Gardens Point we were looking for the swimming pool. We approached a young man in a tracksuit that seemed to be made from African material with bold geometric design in dazzling orange and green. He knew where the pool was, and he was heading that way. A few seconds later he pointed to the pool, but said he had no idea how to get to it. The EA complimented him on his gorgeous outfit at the same moment as I, going for something less obvious, was saying how I liked his lavender hair. ‘Thank you,’ he said to both of us, in a tone that could have meant, ‘Why are these old people commenting on my appearance?’ (I don’t usually mention race in these encounters, but it’s significant that this man is white.)
  6. Friday morning, we called on the William Robinson Museum near the pool. The woman on security told us we could visit a website that gave a guided tour of the exhibition, relating it to Nick Earls’s book William Robinson: A New Perspective. ‘But it takes a lot longer if you do that,’ she said. I said we needed to be quick because we’d just been for a pre-breakfast swim and were hungry. ‘You went for a swim in this weather?’ she asked in Queenslandish horror (we’re having a bit of an Antarctic moment). We reassured her that we’d been to the heated pool. When we left 20 minutes later, she wished us a good breakfast.
  7. Friday, a knock on the door turned out not to be the Emerging Artist returning from the laundromat, but a woman who introduced herself nervously as working with our AirBnB hosts. ‘I’m wondering,’ she began, ‘if you’ve seen—’ I interrupted her and to say that yes, I had seen the bunch of access cards she was looking for. I apologised for not having been in touch as soon as I saw them, as I knew they weren’t meant to be there. Her relief was so enormous, it clearly didn’t occur to her to blame me.
  8. Saturday morning, as we headed out for breakfast and the European Masterpieces from the MET exhibition at QAGOMA, we shared the lift with two brightly clad young people. They barely acknowledged us when they entered the lift, not rudeness so much as mutual absorption. When the woman said something about coffee, I said something about the importance of the first coffee of the day. (I don’t actually drink the stuff, but I’ve learned that it’s richly symbolic of the good life for some people.) That broke the ice, and for the rest of our descent we chatted about the terrible noise from construction work in Roma Street that had kept up all night.
  9. Saturday afternoon, we were barefoot in bathers on our way to the sauna in our hotel/AirB’n’B. Outside the lift on our floor, an elderly gentleman said hello (elderly, but probably younger than me!). I said something about us making ourselves at home and he ignored me completely. A little later, he asked if our TV worked. I said it had last night. He again didn’t respond. At that moment the lift arrived and two much younger people came out. ‘Ah, there you are,’ he said. ‘I need your help. My television doesn’t work.’ I realised later that he must have been very deaf, and had been looking away when I spoke.
  10. Saturday evening, when we’d finished dinner, a group of young people arrived at the door we were coming out of. The woman who seemed to be their leader said they were in the wrong place and should turn around. Knowing that the eatery has three entrances, I said its name and asked if that’s what they were looking for. She said No and set off. The last of the group, a man with a blond beard and a northern European accent, said, ‘We are just confused.’ I said, ‘And I was just helping to increase the confusion.’ ‘Yes,’ he said, smiling. ‘Thank you.’

Running total is now 161.

11 responses to “500 people: Week Seventeen

  1. All these situations could easily appear in a contemporary novel, Jonathan. I am just now reading Brendan James Murrays 2018 book Venom – a history of the identification of the taipan – the deaths it dealt and to whom – and those who hunted it (some lost the tussle) in order to get live specimens to milk for the venom to turn into an anti-venom. Your neck of the woods – or jungle – as it were – though actually a far wider spread. Edward Ramsamy (aka Ram Chandra) makes an appearance, of course. Maybe you have stories of taipans you have seen/know about? Jim


    • I do remember Ram Chandra, Jim. How did you know? He came to our school every year and thrilled us with his snake show. Memorably, he said (every year) that you could recognise a taipan from its coffin shaped head. I don’t think I ever ran into one in the wild.


  2. Yesterday I exchanged names with a casual contact. I’ve been walking the dog past a house where they are demolishing an old fence to build a new one, and they’re doing it themselves. Until yesterday it was just idle conversation about what hard work they were doing, but after the massive storm this week we chatted for longer about the damage we’d feared in our respective homes. (I have a massive lilli-pilli which sounded as if it were going to crash through the roof. I was so anxious I moved all the treasures out of the sitting room to safety). We both have solar which we thought would come adrift, but the gods were kind to us after all.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. 1. What film did you see?
    2. Did you find Colle Rosso?
    4. No, I wasn’t!
    9. I’m not sure I’ll pass a one-sided interaction!!

    Now, let me think. Ah yes, I had a funny interaction with the receptionist where I do my volunteering. When I signed in, which involves being given a security lanyard to wear around the neck, she asked me whether I had a favourite security tag number! No-one has ever asked me that before, so I said no. (For one thing, I didn’t know what numbers they had!) She gave me “18”. When I left at the end, I told her it had been a very good number so I might ask for it next time, and we had a laugh. I couldn’t help wondering what had triggered the question. I mean, do people regularly ask for special numbers when they are given a security tag? Do you? Or, was she just having fun? Whatever, she was sweet (says the old lady)


    • 1. Minamata with Johnny Depp and a brilliant supporting cast of Japanese actors.
      2. We found Colle Rosso but it was shut – it was Monday night.
      4. Good!
      9. There were a lot of one-sided encounters I didn’t list, at the old MArist Brothers place.
      Like Lisa, you’re just encouraging me.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. kathyprokhovnik

    2. I am also concerned about whether you found something to eat on the Tuesday night.


    • Yes, Kathy. There’s no way either of us was going to go hungry. We would have surrendered our tickets if need be, but as it was the front-of-house man brought us toasties during the ads.


  5. Anne Bell Knight

    I ‘ll encourage you too.No matter how marvellous modern communication is (and it certainly is) nothing replaces the face to face, eye to eye, gesture ,tone, expression thing.Next time you enter a coffee shop, check how many groups (Covid permitting) sit down together, then consult their phones.I love
    your miniatures of connection.Consider yourself encouraged.


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