Tuesday, 3 May 2005

Local shops for Local people.

I'm dreaming of the day when engineering students and the guys from the IT department finally stop trotting out Monty Python quotes at every opportunity - and start trotting out lines from The League of Gentlemen instead.

Until then, I'll just have to be content with my own suburban Royston Vasey, and more particularly, with the disturbing local shops around the corner, each one containing The Precious Things Of The Shop, which I don't particularly covet, but I think they might think that I do.

Each local shop is terrifying in its own, very special way.

The fruit shop is OK, more or less, except for the albino hermaphrodite delivery person, and the awful trick all the other people who work there have of smiling so intensely their eyes get squashed shut.

The butchers specialise in 1950s style meat and heartiness, and in calling female customers "love", or "darl", and in evil "jolly" laughs, and in putting a great deal more meat on the scales that what you ask for. Someday, Butcher Barry will call me "girlie" one time too many and his jolly ruddy butcher face will wind up planted in the diet mince :)

The couple in the milk bar are called George and Mildred.

The vulgar illiterate scumbags operating an illegal secondhand-furniture-on-commission business have undergone a change of heart recently and opened up a hairdressers staffed by the ugliest ex-convict haircutters ever seen in the northern suburbs.

The fish and chip shop people are excellent in many ways. But it's all wasted if they can't learn the first and most important rule of running a fish and chip shop: do NOT under any circumstances give any sign of remembering the customer's names, phone number, usual order, preferences regarding salt or no salt etc, this only makes the customer feel like the fact they patronise the fish and chip shop two or more times a week has been fully observed, noted and judged accordingly. Not good.

I liked the lady in the wool shop, however I think she may have recently sold up and fled the country :(

It all pales, though, in comparison with the real live Tubbs and Edward running the newsagents with a post office in the back. How can I even begin to enumerate their crimes? Let's see, now. I spend around $40 a week on postage, and you'd think they would want my business, since I fill in forms and stuff at home to make actual post office time as quick as possible. But no. They do not want me to trade with them. Why? Because I am so fussy and picky and generally fucked-up and annoying that I actually want a receipt with an ABN number on it, and of course, that is the hardest thing in the world to give out. It's not that they actually refuse, they just do this incredible eyeball-rolling and huge-sigh-heaving routine. So whenever possible I go to the post office forty minutes walk further from home.

It is not a good idea to go to the local immediately after lunch, because instead of using a little sponge in a dish to wet the stamps like all other backward-but-reasonably-civilised post offices, they PUT THE ENTIRE STAMP IN THE MOUTH THEN SLOP IT ONTO THE PARCEL leaving a lovely slobbery wet stain spreading out from the stamp edges. An international parcel can have $17 worth of stamps on it. I would not mention this to my ebay customers. It's not just the stamps, either - one day one of them was filling out a registered mail form and she drooled on it. Just like that! A big, wet, sticky drool. On my copy.

Explain this to me, please. During an extremely rare cleaning-out-cupboards session, I threw into the wheelie bin a cardboard box containing about fifty very crappy pens Dorian brought home from a work function - the kind with a company name written on the side - the kind that snap if you press on the paper. I repeat: they went into the wheelie bin, along with lots of other clutter. A few weeks later, I'm filling in a form at the Local P.Off using a pen from the mug on the counter, and I see it's CRAMMED FULL of the pens I THREW OUT??!! How to understand this? How?? There's only one explanation, and that is that one or the other of them went through our garbage and stole from it. (These people SELL STATIONERY.)

Apart from Tubbs and Edward there is also a large, foul-smelling, deaf old man who is like a male version of the hearing-aid-wearingguest in Fawlty Towers, except much more stupider. This guy really hates me. You know when people try to make a joke, but only succeed in pouring out aggression? He sees me coming down past the magazines, and yells out "GO AWAY", sniggering like it's the funniest thing, ever. Or he will say to another person in the queue, "Watch out for THIS one! SHE'S got something dangerous in that parcel! SHE'S a terrorist!" No, I'm not making this up. Last week a magazine caught my eye - who wouldn't be curious about something called Australian Football Quarterly? - so I paused & picked one up for a flip through. Dickhead there saw me looking. "Ar, YOU don't want to read THAT!" he shouted down the room. He was right: I dropped it & walked out.

Now tell me about your local shops...


katy said...

what could I possible contribute to that??

except that you didn't mention the sub-standard "bakery" with mouldy shades that they pull down when closed (which seems to be any time you'd actually want anything badly enough to visit them - like saturday afternoon, or sunday morning). and the bread which is like some magical fusion of sandpaper and air.

i went in the other day and the blonde woman who works there observed that I must live very close because she sees me walk past quite often (this is on my way to the bus to uni). Note "walk past". We only visit for breakfast rolls for our 'egg and not-bacon' indulgences...

and the LYS! i don't think much of this new woman. but it seems that caroline who used to run/own the shop is now doing knitting and crochet lessons through there??

brownie said...

re wheelie bins: legally, if it is in the bin on the street, anyone can take it.

re butchers intimacy: they have been like that always, calling you love and dear and making sex cracks about hubbie's dinner. I think it must be from working with all that flesh and blood. I started a novel on it once.

brownie said...

a shop story: in 1963 I lived in a tiny town with a general store and for the school dance, stockings were required (pantyhose weren't invented yet), so Julie Sherwin and I went in to get Kolotex Rum and Coke colour size 10's and the guy said " you can have them for nothing if you let me put them on". we fled.

Susoz said...

I love my local post office shop. (It took me about a decade to realise it wasn't a full post office - our postman is based elsewhere, miles away.) It is the pinnacle of friendly diversity. There is the camp middle aged gay man called Dennis. (Wears a name tag, that's how I know.) The Vietnamese man who told me he had no birth certificate as he came here as a boat toddler. (That was when I was getting my son a passport.) The middle aged Indian woman in a sari. The young pregnant Chinese woman. A young, large Polynesian girl. A couple more nondescript but friendly 'ordinary people'. They've all been there for years and I get the impression it's a very happy workplace.

Lucy Tartan said...

I eat their bread, and you are right about the air/sandpaper. Did she say it "reproachfully", Katy? I think she's a bit reproachful, in general. Who wouldn't be.

I have observed wool shop goings-on through the window but not actually made a recce inside. Would like to know if it has changed hands....

Do you think Butchers get a butcher-behaviour instruction booklet from Meat HQ or something? cos these guys do actually say things to customers about meat for the man. It's really very terrible.

I forgot to mention their great contribution to community festivities last Christmas: they stuck a piece of paper in the window that said 'we thank all out customers and wish you a happy christmas 1999' but they'd crossed out 1999 and wrote 2004 instead. Magic.

Mel said...

Here are some of my local shops:

* the same kind of newsagent/post office, staffed by an Asian lady who kindly lets me use her calculator to work out my bills and patiently endures my requests to pay with a mixture of cash and eftpos.

* A takeaway shop that calls itself a "fish and eatery".

* An Asian grocery that sells wonderful exotic lollies and cheap, dodgy fruit & veg.

* A chemist. I have never been in.

* An IGA "Friendly Grocer", which is where I usually go for all my grocery and alcohol needs.

* Some kind of office, which I think is vacant.

* A Vietnamese-style bakery, which makes very nice steak and bacon pies.

katy said...

mel's mention of the potentially vacant office reminds me of that creepy, blankly anonymous yet shaded shopfront at our local, laura.

you know the one with the sky blue venetians? What the hell *is* that thing? We've been living here for a year now and Luke only noticed it a fortnight ago. He got all sci-fi on me and insisted that it had never existed till then...

And there's also the hovel-like doctor's office next to the shiny doctor's office. Have you ever been in? I have never felt less confident in a medical professional - his office was seriously like a rat's nest and he'd never even heard of Echinacea. Yes, i know!

Lucy Tartan said...

you're braver than me. I've never ventured in there. Something about the blank brick wall - the tiny, prisonlike windows - it has terrible feng shui even from the footpath.

The creepy blank blue shopfront: When we moved in that space was occupied by a hairdresser more terrifying even than the one next to the craft paper shop on the way to the train station. After that it was empty for ages, then it was sort of cleaned up & the blinds installed, so I think somebody rented it for office space. Last weekend Dorian saw a Vietnamese family moving in there, he said they had office stuff and a big map of Vietnam.

momo said...

Oh my, classic tales, ditto Brownie's stocking experience! Your local Aus Post agents scare the absolute shit out of me, Laura. You mention Deliverance in another post. I read all you wrote and thought of banjo music. Please stop going there.

I've always liked butchers and their chipperness for some incredibly odd reason. I've never had an *overly* leary butcher, so maybe that's why.

In terms of my 'locals', there's a cafe we frequent and the very sweet waiter who works there can speak English, but is too shy to use it, so instead he calls upon the chef to come out of the kitchen (even though we do try to converse in Japanese). One day we left a shopping bag there by accident and merrily trotted home. As we sauntered toward our apartment, the waiter raced up to us, thrust the bag we'd forgotten to Tim, and, puffing away, managed to get out: "I. Like. Your. Fashion!" before bowing and running back to his coffee-making duties, waving as he slipped around the corner.

I don't know if it was the fashion in the bag or just a general statement.