I’m standing in line at Spotlight, my hands full of items I believe I have to have, my eft-pos and VIP cards already out of my wallet. The money is as good as spent.
I don’t trust the checkout chick. She’s young, clearly a part-timer, and is somewhat lacking in the customer service department. As she pushes a large pile of curtains and hooks back over to the woman in front of me she says, “We’ve run out of bags. Sorry.” The apology is insincere, and I can see that the woman is unimpressed as she struggles to carry her purchases out of the shop without dropping anything. I wonder how she’s going to get it all into her car without disrupting her unsteady pile. It’s raining outside; I bet she really wanted a bag.
It’s my turn. I dump four parcels on the counter, and hand over my loyalty card. I’m glad I don’t have the children with me, it means I can watch the checkout chick closely. She scans my selection quickly, almost impatiently, and when she chooses the original barcode instead of the sale sticker barcode I feel my mistrust in her is vindicated. I peer at her from behind my dirty glasses, wondering if I should say anything, but she’s already realized her mistake, and scans the sale code instead.
She looks at me and tells me how much money I’m about to waste. I wave my eft-pos card at her, swipe it down the side of the machine cleanly, punch in my account and PIN number. I’m good to go.
“Excuse me,” the woman behind me says, “could I please use your VIP card?”
I look over at her. “Yeah, sure,” I respond, taking care to exude as much warmth and enthusiasm as I possibly can in such a short answer.
“Is that OK?” she asks the checkout chick. “I do have one, but I’ve left it in the car and I don’t want to have to go back out there to get it.”
The checkout chick doesn’t care, it’s fine by her, but the cardless woman wants to check with me just one more time. I feel like she’s going to ask if I mind, but instead she says, “Is that alright with you?”
“Not at all,” I say. The tone is right, my response is light and friendly, but the words are all wrong. I just told her it’s not alright for her to use my card. There is an awkward pause.
The checkout chick scans my VIP card, I put it safely back in my wallet, and walk out of the store. As I leave the words “not at all” reverberate through my brain, and I remember…
It’s Saturday night and we’re in town. I’ve just moved back down to Palmerston North, and we’re celebrating by going clubbing. Now that we’re 18 we can do that. It’s totally awesome.
I’m with Jessica and a few of her friends. I had a huge bunch of my own friends before I moved away, but I’ve lost contact with them now. I don’t care though, I’ve definitely outgrown them all. I used to be a total goody-good, but I’ve changed. I’m not lame like I used to be.
We’re standing on the street outside The Fats. It’s actually called The Fat Lady’s Arms, but no one says that. We’re trying to decide where to go next, when I see a familiar face walking towards me. It’s Ursula Bruce.
“Oh my Gooood!” she says. “Is that Anitaaaaa?”
I can’t be fucked talking to her.
“Hi,” I say. I don’t bother asking how she is. I don’t care. She’s all excited like a little kid and I’m so embarrassed. I don’t want anyone to think that she’s my friend.
“Hey, do you still love Grease?” she asks.
I look Ursula Bruce right in the eyes, and without thinking I say, “I’m not fourteen anymore.” I say the words slowly and carefully, without expression.
<em a="" and="" em="" expression.="" i="" like="" say="" slowly="" sound="" 1.3;"="" the="" total="" without="" words="">“Oh,” says Ursula. She turns and walks away. I’ve made myself clear.
Tone of voice
I really hate this memory. Ursula's question was completely justified. At the time she knew me I was obsessed with the movie "Grease" and talked about it at school ALL THE TIME.
I often wonder why I spoke to her the way I did, with such coldness in my voice, and I guess it just comes down to the fact that I was an awkward teenager, who desperately wanted to fit in.