Checking Out

(Inspired by the Untouchable Shopper in Don’t Fear The Beeper.)

Tuesday 28 April.

* Lemongrass

* Coconut Cream

I don’t use this diary much, but it’s handy for reminders and it fits my pocket. Had to comment on something I heard in the supermarket though. The voice on the intercom calls some guy named Jarred to the freezer, and then cuts back to the music, just in time for “…Something inside has died, and I just can’t hide, and I just can’t face it, oh no…” – major LOL!

Cooking Beef Rendang tonight. I hope Lisa and Michael appreciate it. I mean, a kitchenhand’s almost a chef, or something…

Tuesday May 12.

Argh. It’s all gloom and doom in the supermarket music again. “Gimme money, that’s what I want…” – heh! Tell me about it.

Asked Ray why my pay was late, only to get payslip and the news that I’ve got just one shift next week, and that’s a short one.

NOTE – Tell Lisa rent will be late.

Wednesday May 20.

NOTE – Copy more resumes.

NOTE – Ask around shopping centre to see if anybody’s got an opening.

NOTE – Ask Ray for my knives when I take back uniform, or is that prick still busy backstabbing me?

And now for the shopping list:

* Extra Virgin Olive Oil

* Tuna in Brine

* Rocket

* Red Kale

* 1kg Porterhouse Steak

* Tomatoes (Roma)

And a bitchy remark on the whiteboard from Lisa about “not getting cheap generic shit”. I wish I had rich parents too!

Invisible Supermarket Deejay has it in for me too… here I am, walking up and down the aisles spending the last few dollars I have on credit, and the speakers in the roof are telling me “You’re no good, you’re no good, you’re no good, baby, you’re no good”.

Can’t you play “Walking On Sunshine”, or some song about me getting a winning scratchie worth a few thousand?

Just for fun, ask at the front desk about a job in the supermarket, playing the background music. Serious Supervisor Bitch tells me it’s a feed from head office, so I cash-out the last twenty bucks and head over to the newsagent to see if I can luck out.

Friday, May 22.

In early to grab some of that liquid breakfast mush. I’m not eating at home today: Michael’s dirty look, when he found the muesli empty, was enough to curdle milk. Haha, not that there was any milk, sucka!

Phoned Mum yesterday, to see if there was any chance of a loan. She hasn’t got back to me yet.

Stupid supermarket music plays “Lady Madonna, baby at your breast, wonders how you manage to feed the rest…” – yeah, food for thought in that, even if it’s as bad as the breakfast mush!

I guess she and Rob don’t have a lot to start with, and the Spawn is so much younger than me I hardly even think of him as a young brother. I think I might be well and truly weaned.

Card declined, thanks ever so fucking much, and my phone credit runs out as I try to ring and raise my limit.

Wednesday May 27.

NOTE – Put guitar up for sale on Gumtree.

NOTE – See Rob and Mum about selling car with their phone number. Should get $900 without rego or roadworthy.

Lisa’s really pissed off at me for pulling out of the grocery kitty. On top of the late rent, I hardly dare show my face in the flat. Michael’s not keen on me either. No more borrowing smokes, he says.

Bonus: Couch and Lounge Chair Mining Company reports $22.47 profit – I get to eat!

Shit, I hope the supermarket music doesn’t keep coming true. Some song about “You’re Moving Out Today”. Old depressing music while I shop for whatever’s cheap, and all this crap’s just ready to pounce on me.

Thursday May 28.

Shit. Just shit. I can forget selling the guitar. My lovely ex-flatmates have made it clear I’m getting the clothes they left on the back stairs and that’s all. Michael did leave me a half-packet of smokes on the windowsill, because finders keepers. Screw them.

Glad my name’s not on the lease.

Rob says I can stay a few days with him and Mum. He really grinds out the “few days” bit. That guy scares me.

Monday June 15.

Rob changed the locks. Clothes in nice black garbage bag on porch. Thanks to Mum for the food, smokes and money. I hope that bastard doesn’t find out. I’m sure I heard him hurting her the other night.

I can’t come over to use their phone any more, and I’ll need to find some kind of home address to use for Centrelink mail. My phone seems to have gotten lost, not that I’ve got any credit.

Over to the shops to borrow a trolley for my clothes. For once the background music has something useful to offer me: “Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)”. That’s an inspiration.

Behind the trolley bay is a plant room and a little storage for the cleaners. At the back there’s a few loose cement blocks. I’ve got a place to keep my stuff now, and it’s just about big enough to stretch out the sleeping bag. Long as I’m in and out when the stores are closed, it’s good.

Thursday, June 18.

My new multimillion-dollar home has it all, once you get past the odd spider in my crawlspace hideout. I was just nipping upstairs to buy some mush for breakfast, and maybe something that needs no cooking for later, when the Deejay In The Roof came through for me again.

Some high-pitched West Indian dude was singing “You can get it if you really want”. He was right! If you’re looking at a different shelf and you hold your arm in close as you bend, things are possible. I’ve got a selection of sliced ham, a couple of kranskys and some cheese slices to see me through the day and night.

Just gotta be careful now. I don’t want to be in the shop if Deejay Guy gets all Triple J on me and plays “Been Caught Stealing”.

Friday, June 19.

Bugger! The radio in the cleaner’s room was left on, and I was listening in. My guard was down, because it was Hunters & Collectors’ “Do You See What I See”, and that’s a favourite of Mum’s.

Bugger late night trading. Bugger security guards chatting up cleaners instead of being on their rounds, and bugger me for being spotted as I came out of my hideyhole. Do you see what I see, indeed. At least he let me get my clothes before he booted me out, and didn’t call the cops. Probably too lazy to write the incident up.

Tonight, I’m sharing my bed with bits of chewy, cigarette ends and the occasional Mackers wrapper. The address on my card, if I had a card, would be “Between the pencil cypresses and the rough cement wall, just outside the carpark, Concentric Multiplex Shopping & Cinemas”.

Unfortunately, I have found out that the fast-foodies lock their bins. The security guys have golf-carts, though: noisy little two-stroke jobbies with flashing lights! I may be un-fed, but I’ll probably go undetected.

As a bonus, I managed to get most of a wash in the men’s room near the flicks. It’s a good thing, because I was starting to make my own eyes water. Shit, that hand-soap is not hair-soap though. If I still had the phone, I could make such a selfie. I’ve got kind of a permanent shampoo-horn. Maybe I can pretend I’m Tintin out of the comics.

Monday June 22.

I’m starving. Somebody found my clothes, and PISSED ON THEM. Thanks a lot, arsehole! I’m sitting outside the supermarket on the brown vinyl chairs, and even the weird, old people are leaving me alone. I’ve probably got five minutes before the fat mall cops can get their well-fed bums out of the golf-cart seats, and waddle down the escalator with that urgent, hostile wobble that gets sweat stains breaking out all over the brown polyester wherever limbs meet body.

That’s about all the time I need. Can’t rush this, or things could get violent.

The Supermarket Deejay’s on the case, and he’s lined up some inspiration from above: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”…

I’ll be somewhere in the middle of the store, unwrapping stuff and eating my fill for the first time in ages.

What are they going to do, lock me up with a roof over my head and feed me?

Don’t Fear The Beeper

I go to the shops because I must.

We don’t get much to live on, and I shop expired codes, buy discontinued lines, and compare prices, making sure my family gets the best I can obtain cheaply.

The same memory and pattern recognition skills that once helped me earn money, now help stretch the pension. There’s a fine difference between strategic poverty and desperate poverty.

People, especially in large numbers, have never been my element. I can deal with individuals, one at a time, for a while, but crowded places leave me feeling tired quite quickly. Regardless of the strain, there’s something to be learned, and one or two friendly faces to meet, on every trip.

Some strangers look like they need a smile, or a bit of help. I make sure, especially since the latest, Government-assisted, wave of paranoia began, to smile or say hello to people who fit the profile of xenophobe targets.

There are people who are outsiders by circumstance. Easily identified as different due to disability or other factors, they move among the shoppers and staff, who mostly ignore them, but go “Tchhh!” and dodge when they can’t.

When you take profit offshoring, industry lobbying and labour relations into account, even shopping is a political act.

While I can’t afford to boycott the major chains, I try to at least help preserve a few jobs. I was reluctantly putting some groceries through the DIY checkout, because there were considerable queues at the staffed registers, and I had perishables from another store in the car.

The woman at the next DIY scanner was quite disheveled, even by the low standard of our shopping centre, where a footy jumper without holes or stains is relatively dapper. Her hair had the frayed, weathered appearance of a length of sisal twine that has spent most of a year tied to a stake in the garden.

She stepped closer, to bag a few articles. Her personal aura, with dominant notes of wet bed, cat litter and football sock, hit me like a soggy, mildewed towel, and I involuntarily stepped back.

The woman was apparently having a few problems with the scanner. I was haplessly observing, waiting for a price check that would save my family four badly-needed dollars. The self-service checkout attendant had to step in three times, and each intervention further delayed me from paying and leaving.

So it was that I saw my fellow shopper depart first. She left the checkout area, passing between a pair of those bollards that beep and flash when contraband with RFID tags passes within range.

The lights blinked. The beepers sounded. She continued unfazed, pushing her trolley, and not a voice or a finger was raised. I can only conclude nobody wanted to stop and search her.

There’s some sort of lesson in this, I’m sure. Just as the Ruperts, Ginas and Twiggies of the world can do as they please due to status, this woman could rise above the rules unchallenged.

If things go the way they seem to be heading, there will inevitably be more of her. At least the drive for survival doesn’t seem to be buckling under.