Monday, 23 January 2012

"Michael Schumacher? Didn't He Paint The Mona Lisa?"

You know those moments when you think, "please, God, I'll be moral and wholesome for the rest of my life if you just open up the ground and let me be swallowed right now"? I have them about once a week (sometimes twice), and this week's occurred whilst watching my sister receive her master's degree. There's something incredibly humbling (read:depressing) about being in a room full of people who are ten times cleverer than you, especially when you are sat in the front row and all you can see are geniuses (genii?) every which way you turn. Me and Chris amused ourselves before it started by playing Guess Who?, which basically consisted of selecting people from the other side of the room and giving the other person clues to guess them. Pretty sure people that overheard us thought we were rather odd when we started exclaiming, "is it that old woman in the bomber jacket that is now waving at us?" (it was). I then demonstrated that I am obviously not a genius by leaning my boot on the back of the empty bench in front and accidentally kicking the whole thing over, complete with the coat of the woman sat a few seats down from me. The ceremony was one of those 'only applaud at the end of each group' types, which meant that stifling a laughing fit was incredibly difficult and I literally had to suffocate myself with my scarf in order to keep from making even more of a scene than I already had. Just as I was calming down, a boy called Christopher Christmas went up to get his degree. Christopher Christmas. That was his actual name. After that, I had very little self control left - I'm just glad both my parents were there to experience the feeling of being so proud of one child whilst simultaneously being mortified at the behaviour of another.

As with most weeks, I have spent the majority of this one confined in a small space behind a deli counter, gradually going insane and making masks out of paper bags only to nearly break my nose trying to rip them off in a hurry as my boss comes round the corner. We were informed by our manager this week that at the end of the month all members of staff will be sent to the office for a sit down 'review' of their behaviour and progress. It was around this time that I started to regret changing my manager's phone settings to Dutch and leaving it like that for almost a week whilst watching her struggle to change it back. It probably also doesn't help that I greet her with 'guten tag' every morning and yell 'auf wiedersehen!' every time she leaves the counter...
In Cornish pasty related news, I have discovered after a little argument with a customer that we shouldn't be calling our Cornish pasties 'traditional' because they are made with minced beef instead lamb. The argument wasn't about the name, it was because I thought she was saying 'jam' and had started ranting about how vile jam would be in a Cornish pasty and that she was vile for thinking it. It wasn't until the customer had stormed off that my co-worker explained that she had actually been saying 'lamb', which, in hindsight, makes a lot more sense... Despite most people on the deli being relatively intelligent, I often wonder whether we aren't all a lot more stupid than we think. The other day we had a lengthy discussion about who painted the Mona Lisa, which, as a topic, seems somewhat intellectual until Arnold Schwarzenegger starts getting thrown about and someone gets Michael Schumacher and Michelangelo mixed up. (In fairness, this was the same girl that got the NCP and the BNP mixed up, so we'll cut her some slack). At least as a whole we're more intelligent that most of the customers, though. I can understand how vanilla fudge might look vaguely similar to chunks of cheddar cheese, but when people come up and actually say, "ooh, look, pink cheese!", things are getting ridiculous. It's amazing how someone's perception of strawberry fudge can cause you to judge them so severely.

As I'm sure I have made aware, I have recently taken to measuring my karmic synergy, not in order to better myself as a person, but basically just to try and get good stuff for free. At the moment, I'm not expecting too much good karma as I recently backed my dad's car into a wall whilst going down a lane near my house. (I was reversing to let someone else get past, because I am kind and courteous - karma, take note). It turned out to be a lot bigger than a 'little scratch' and as such trying to wipe it off with spit did not work as well as it has done in the past. It took the heat off me a little bit when my dad got a letter saying my sister had been caught speeding on her way to work, and not only was she speeding, but she was yawning as she did so. Nothing says cool like yawning as you break the law. I have my speed awareness course on Friday as a result of my own law-breaking antics and I'm tempted to ask whether or not we can get a 2 for 1 deal as I obviously hail from a family of miscreants.

In other news, I have recently booked a plane ticket to Australia because I am bored of selling pork pies, and when one is bored of pork pies, one is bored of life. (The realisation came to me after the best part of my day last week was holding a roast chicken above my head and singing The Circle of Life). In order to organise my finances for said trip, I have sorted through all my payslips over the past 6 months and realised that somewhere along the line I have spent £2,000 that is not accounted for through rent, paying back my overdraft, or transport related fines - which basically means I have effectively eaten two grand. Still, I managed to scrape enough together for my plane ticket so it's all good. I was going to go somewhere a bit more exotic, but foreign languages are not my forte, and as I'm going by myself I thought it might be a little easier to get by if everyone around me spoke the same language. (As me, not as each other). I once went into a cafe in France and thought I would whack out my linguistic skills and order a coffee in French. I made sure I put extra emphasis on one, coffee and milk so that there would be no need for her to reply, because once they ask you something it becomes apparent that you are culturally ignorant and don't actually speak their language, you have just lazily memorised a phrase from the guide book and hoped for the best (which is what I did). Anyway, she obviously felt that I had given insufficient information and proceeded to ask me a question (I could tell by her eyebrows that she expected an answer instead of just a smile). I've no idea what she asked, but I'm fairly sure the answer was not: "where is the station", "my summer holidays were great", or a detailed description of my morning routine, including what I had for breakfast, which is pretty much all I learnt at school. I soldiered on and managed to get what I wanted in the end though. (Before anyone takes this away from me, the fact that I resorted to speaking in English in no way makes it any less of a feat...)

Monday, 9 January 2012

"Look, cocktails are only £2 each! Let's get eight."

"Look, cocktails are only £2 each! Let's get eight." - If you're wondering, that was the dreaded phrase that came out of my mouth the other week and made way for the worst hangover I have ever had. There was a moment some time around noon the next day where I actually thought, 'this is it'. Laying in a crumpled pile of sadness underneath my duvet, sweating out vodka and Cheeky Vimtos and surrounded by empty Wotsits packets is not how I wanted to go, but when one is faced with death, one must be valiant. I think the worst part of it was when I was trying to calm myself down by listening to some soothing radio and Carly Simon's You're So Vain came on. Usually, I would not be so distressed to hear this, but this time a horrendous memory came screaming back from the night before which involved myself, Paul, a karaoke machine and too much Carly Simon to enable us to ever show our faces in Bradford city centre ever again. Thankfully, I made it to the afternoon and spent my entire day wrapped in said duvet feeling sorry for myself and watching one of those made-for-TV films that are always shown on Boxing Day and usually encompass a war hero and a little boy calling the film's leading male 'dad' just before the closing credits. Since finishing university, I have made a conscious effort not to waste any of my days sat in bed, stewing in my own shame and wasting my life, and until now I have managed relatively well. The feeling of self-pity and nausea was actually comfortingly familiar and, to say for most of the day I was either scared I was dying or wishing I was, part of me quite enjoyed it. I have now taken to spending my Saturday nights trying to trick MegaVideo into letting me watch more than 72 minutes of online TV shows a day and Googling every English person I see in an American sitcom to find out where I've seen them before. I don't know what it is about Casualty and Where The Heart Is, but they have both churned out their fair share of nurses-turned-Hollywood-superstars.

I should take to staying in the house more often, there are so fewer opportunities to humiliate myself when I am not surrounded by other people. The other day on the bus, I noticed that I'd forgotten to pick up a Metro when I was getting on (the world's most prestigious newspaper, as I think you'll all agree), so I left my seat to go and retrieve one. However, because I was so intrigued by whatever was on the front page (knowing the Metro, it's usually something that is a) about animals, or b) untrue), I didn't realise that I had been sat on one of those seats that flips back upright when you stand up. Usually on buses I tend to avoid these seats because they fall into the undesirable seat category. This category includes seats near the front that you will inevitably have to give up to an old and/or pregnant person, seats near the back that are usually covered in chewing gum and tend to have the name of some poor Bradfordian girl graffiti'd all over them with "sucks cock for bus fare" scrawled underneath, and the worse - the flipping seats. So, as I am about to sit back down on my seat, I suddenly have the horrible realisation that my seat is no longer there. By this time, however, it is too late and I have already leaned back and started my descent. There was nothing left for me to do but take the route that most of us take when faced with a humiliating situation - do not make a fuss, and pretend everything you have just done is both acceptable, and completely on purpose. There's a certain element of shame that comes with sitting on the floor of a bus, huddled under the front page of the Metro and pretending to tie your shoe with your left hand, and it is not one I wish to revisit.

As always, work has been the epitome of excitement this week. At one point, I had to resort to pretending to get my hand caught in the meat slicer in order to scare everyone and give myself a bit of entertainment. (This sort of backfired as that night I woke up in a cold sweat after dreaming that someone had left the safety guard off the slicing blade and it had flown off and chopped my head off when I had reached over and turned it on...) I have done well, though, and only managed to be told off for one thing this week. I, personally, do not think drawing a speech bubble at the side of the shop mascot and writing 'I HATE MY LIFE' in it is unacceptable behaviour, but apparently it is not the level of dedication and enthusiasm for my job that I am supposed to be showing. It is difficult to show enthusiasm when dealing with certain customers, though. Today I was serving a woman when she said, "I'll just go up to the pie counter, I want some pork pies". Fair enough, so up I saunter to the pie counter where a man says, "I'll have two pork pies". Polite as I ever am, I replied, "Sorry, I'm just serving someone at the moment", to which he retorts, "the woman in the red coat? Yes, we're together", as if I am being a complete fool for not realising. I stopped myself from saying, "well, next time if you could mount her in the queue, just so we know who belongs to who, I'd really appreciate it", instead mumbling something under my breath about not being psychic and then flashing him my favourite I-hate-you-more-than-I-hate-my-job smile. We do get some friendly customers, though, don't get me wrong. In fact, the other day an old woman came up and started asking me lots of questions about my life and whether or not I'd had a lovely Christmas. She was about to invite me round to a party when a younger woman came up, whispered, "Mum, that's not Karen..." and slowly dragged her away. Oh well, it was good while it lasted.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

"If You Can Have 'Gnodesock', I Can Have 'Warporn' On My Next Go."

"Calm down love, it's only Christmas!" is apparently not the thing to say to irate customers shopping on the 23rd of December, as someone from work found out after being prodded in the chest by a woman who was clearly insane and obviously not enjoying her pre-Christmas shop. Every year it never ceases to amaze me that people actually want to leave their house and go food shopping two days before Christmas, and yet there they are, without fail, like cockroaches queuing around the freezers. At least we can rest assured that at least one customer won't be coming back next year after she broke down in tears at the till claiming to have been insulted by another customer for pushing in and saying that this had been the "worst experience of [her] life". It's difficult to sound genuinely sympathetic when people are this dramatic, although I do enjoy that they think that saying they are never returning is a threat rather than a treat. It takes nearly all of my self control to make myself look somewhat upset instead of saying, "off you trot then, love," and pointing to the door.

I have decided, in all my wisdom, that Christmas is just not worth the hassle anymore. I don't know if this is because I am simply getting old, or because, for the second year in succession, I had to unwrap all the presents I had spent half an hour carefully wrapping because I had accidentally included the scissors in one and I didn't know which. In hindsight, I should have just left them in and claimed it was a modern day version of the 5p-in-the-Christmas-pudding-game. I never really understood that game - given that, apparently, most money contains traces of feces and cocaine, you're hardly a winner if you happen to put some in your mouth during Christmas dinner... (I'm aware that people probably don't snort cocaine with a 5 pence piece, but that's not the point I'm making). It's the same with that superstition that it's lucky if a bird shits on your head. If that's lucky, I'm not sure what unlucky is, unless it's being shat on by a cow. A bird shitting on your head is probably only a good thing because, if a bird's just shat on you, chances are your day can only get better.

Christmas morning itself was rather anti-climatic as I got drunk on Christmas Eve and opened all my presents with my mum and my sister (as a family, we're pretty low on the self-control). I was, however, treated to going to Mass in Leeds Cathedral with my mother (that's twice in a week if you're reading, Jesus), which was, as always, simply delightful... My favourite part was the man stood outside when we were leaving handing out leaflets about Jesus' miracles in the Qu'ran. That itself wasn't particularly funny, it was the 80-year-old woman who threw it back at him and spat, "I don't think so," that made my morning. She was definitely not letting anyone ruin Jesus' birthday party. Poor Jesus, I bet when he was young he hated being one of those kids whose birthday was the same day as Christmas.

Boxing day fared slightly better as we went to Chesterfield for Christmas dinner with the family. I regret that we played on the Wii fit straight after Christmas dinner though - it told me that I was obese and had the physical age of a 29 year old (although I still maintain that had I been allowed to take my jeans off, the outcome would have differed). On the plus side, it did tell me that I had an impeccable centre of gravity, which is obviously what every girl wants... If there's anything that gives one an excuse to comfort eat, surely being called fat by a computer game is it, so I drowned my sorrows by getting drunk, eating After Eights and watching my mother attempt to master the Wii ski-jump - it took us a few tries before she managed to get it into her head that you didn't actually have to jump off the board. (We had to keep our cheering to a minimum in case we woke up my cousin's 2-and-a-half year old who had been sent to bed after being told we were "putting the games away" - nothing says Christmas like hiding fun from a child). We had to move on to actual board games after a while when we all became worried that someone would get too involved (/drunk) and go head-first through the TV. Had we been a normal family, this would have probably have gone relatively smoothly. As it is, by the end of our first round of The Logo Game, there had already been a full-blown argument about whether a JaffaCake was a cake or a biscuit. It got very technical, the phrase V.A.T. was thrown around, and by the time the next round came my cousin's girlfriend had been demoted to question reader so as to avoid any further bust ups. We tried playing Articulate with slightly less aggression but it's difficult to remain calm when your teammates cannot guess the word 'lizard'. Admittedly, screaming "WHY ARE YOU SO STUPID?!" at them was bound to delay progress, but there's only so much I can take. Board games have always inspired fervor in our house, as was proved the other day during Scrabble when Chris started Scrabble smack talking, telling everyone to "get their calculator out". I realised how weird we are as a family when I was insistent that 'gnodesock' was a word and Kezia spent a good five minutes trying to convince everyone that 'warporn' was a real thing...