Sunday, April 09, 2006

And The Crowd Goes Wild

Isn’t it always the way? During the week, when I impose a timetable upon myself, I always struggle to get out of bed in the morning. I regularly wake up and turn off my alarm, which I optimistically set for 7.30am, and then take at least an hour to convince myself to wake up. Sometimes I fail miserably to talk myself around, especially when I have my periods. As I grow older I find they’re taking more of a toll on me. On Monday, I held them entirely responsible for my failure to start my day before 11.30am. I don’t even remember turning off my alarm, but I do remember that when I did wake up, I had a stern word with myself. On Saturday, the day I’d given myself permission to loll around with nothing more stressful to do than rearrange my pillows, I was up at the crack of dawn, wide-eyed and restless. I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep, to no avail.

My alertness had to do with a dream I was having. It was a dream that starred various members of my family and it ended when I punched one of them in the face. The force of the blow woke me up and the residual anger I was feeling left me agitated and unwilling to try and recapture the thread of the dream the way I do with more pleasant reveries.

The night before I had contemplated that I would walk up to the other university the next day, to do some of RA work I’d been asked to do. I’d thought if I felt like working on Saturday it would be useful, although not completely necessary, to get it done before a meeting in the coming week.

I made myself some coffee and ate some muffins, while watching some television I had taped the previous night. I was a bit confused that SBS had shown an earlier episode of Unit One; why were they showing Episode 10 when the series was up 28 or 32 or something like that? I know I haven’t watched every episode but what time warp had I been through? Gaby and Johnny Olsen were still smitten with one another; Fischer still had long, slicked back hair; Ingrid was still shattered by the loss of her husband; Kirsten had left Ulf and decided to move back in with IP. I found out at the end of the episode that an adults only episode had been screened later on Friday night, and now it was Saturday morning. That’s what you get for watching a mediocre episode of Dalziel and Pascoe and recording Unit One to savour later.

Since the day stretched out before me and I had no money to distract myself with a movie, I packed myself some lunch and walked up to the other university. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky yesterday; it was finally hinting at the brilliance of a Brisbane winter. As I approached the campus I saw someone putting up signs to direct people to a youth festival that was being held in the central court. I guess it was Youth Week this week. I had a brief flashback to the times when I was going along to those kind of festivals, more than likely doing some kind of performance as part of the youth theatre I was involved in. Once I got covered in mud and, along with the rest of the group, danced in front of a set that was spinning with fireworks and later deliberately burnt down in a spectacular blaze, all accompanied by live music and choral singing.

Inside now, I noticed the stationery from the bank, that I’d first ordered over a month ago, had finally arrived. Unfortunately, not before I’d had to turn into a demanding harpy on the phone. The bank employee shouldn’t have lectured me about my responsibility to order more stationery, or told me that it had only been five working days since I’d last phoned them and that the usual period between the request and delivery was five to seven working days. I asked if she had not been listening to me? Had she not heard me tell her I’d first ordered the stationery via a form provided in the last pages of the stationery? When I received no stationery from that application, I’d called up and ordered some on the phone. 10 working days later, I had called up again and explained the situation and my concern that I wasn’t able to process what I had to. I asked to speak to a supervisor. She put me on hold for 5 minutes and came back to tell me that her supervisor had advised her to tell me—. I asked to speak to a supervisor, again.

I finally got rid of the backlog that was making me nervous—all those cheques and credit card details lying around (I hasten to add they were kept under lock and key). The pile was also becoming confusing, as I had tried to do as much of the work as possible. I’m convinced that some people have received multiple receipts.

I looked out the window and saw that the coffee shop had unexpectedly opened. It was closed when I’d checked earlier, so I had resigned myself to drinking water. I’m not sure if it normally opens on Saturday morning. It was too early for the theatre crowd, although perhaps not the cast and crew. Were they hoping that the ‘yoof’ would spend $6 on a chicken sandwich? There were three young men buying coffee and chocolate chip muffins, but they were discussing the event in cynical terms, noting that it was a drug and alcohol-free day, and that if you wanted to you could join the Army then and there. The man at the coffee shop registered surprise when he saw me and asked what I was doing there on a Saturday? I said I didn’t know. He agreed he didn’t know what he was doing there either, he just wished he wasn’t.

I sipped my coffee back at my desk, taking pleasure in a well-made brew. Despite my current ‘poverty’ (let’s not lend it too much weight), I did budget for one bought coffee per day. I suppose even I think this is somewhat frivolous—$3.50 x 8 = $28—shouldn’t I be buying real food? A can of tuna? Go back and pay for those eggs? Well, usually the partaking of coffee is a social occasion and the perk I derive from it is exponential to the caffeine boost, but it’s more than that. There’s something that happens when you’re down to your last few dollars, suddenly you only want the things that you shouldn’t, the little luxuries that aren’t necessities, those things that attract the GST. I have a friend who will work out how to afford cigarettes before he’ll spend money on potatoes. We’re educated, so that’s not the issue. What about another friend who’ll spend the last of her money on NW Magazine? It seems that the strength of the craving for chocolate is inverse to the level of one’s bank account. We’ve discussed this at great length and come to the conclusion that when you’re obsessing over how to spend the last of your money, the calculation that occurs is not about what is wise or of what the moral majority will approve, it’s about the amount of pleasure you will receive from that last act of consumption, something that will act as a moment of reassurance, of well-being, a buffer between you and the harsh reality of having little or no money in a capitalist society.

I checked my Bloglines feeds and read Ms Tartan’s account of reading a reflection on jeans by Umberto Eco. I was reminded of a paper I saw at a postgraduate conference. The presenter was confined to a wheelchair and she spoke of the difficulties she had encountered with jeans. She wanted to wear them because of the various cultural meanings attached to them, but for her they weren’t the easiest garment to get in and out of if she needed to go to the bathroom. Her solution, to enable her to wear something other than skirts and dresses, was to adapt various pairs of jeans to meet her specifications for accessibility. I can’t quite remember the details of the adjustments she made. I think the plan was to make her model more widely available, but I’m not sure how that went.

Ms Tartan’s post wasn’t about jeans so much as it was about surveys of fiction where readers were asked to identify which works had affected them in a way they deemed significant. I tried to think of some instances from my own reading. My examples weren’t transforming in any regenerative sense, quite the opposite. I remember reading a book in school—my memory isn’t reliable as to whether I was in primary or high school—Z for Zachariah. It was set in a post-nuclear holocaust era and the central character was a teenage girl who thought she was the only survivor. She was thrilled when she encountered another living person, a grown man. Soon the man sought a sexual relationship with her and, since she wasn’t willing, she made the decision to leave and search for other possible survivors. The man began to shoot at her, to stop her departure, but he wasn’t trying to kill her, simply maim her so she was at his mercy. Surely, I must have been in high school? I remember being horrified; I found the depravity of the man’s actions inconceivable. I think Z for Zachariah shocked me, probably because it brought home the concept of rape; I couldn’t fathom that anyone could be so cruel to anyone else. If I remember properly, the girl had to go out into the unknown, away from any human contact, out of the protective valley that had enabled her survival, towards the almost certain death from the effects of radiation if the suit and oxygen she had didn’t last her to another haven.

After I’d finished dealing with the bank stationery debacle, I took to completing the other small things I’d been charged to do. I’m helping with various tasks related to compiling a grant proposal. Pursuant to an earlier discussion about academic role models, I’m finding it quite illuminating to see how people, who’ve written successful grant proposals, go about the work of thinking and writing to convince the government to fund them for three years. Beginning with the mind map on the whiteboard, I’ve read through various drafts of the proposal and seen the critical feedback the members of the research team have given one another. It’s amazing in a ‘boy, how else would I learn this?’ kind of way to be privy to the process.

While I was arranging meetings and filling in forms, one of the research team came in with his one year old baby. Yet another perspective: an Associate Professor re-enacting the morning’s swimming lesson in which the child is in a pretend motorboat. Heh.

I arrived back home and decided to have an afternoon nap.

When I started writing this post, I had just been woken up by the roar of the crowd from the stadium across the road.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Z for Zachariah is usually read in 8th grade, just to let you know. I'm teaching it right now to my students.