Friday, September 06, 2013

A Small, Good Thing.

Woolworths on Smith Street, Collingwod. It's a magnet for dodgy fuckers. There is a colourful bunch of regular alcoholcs who spend a hell of a lot of time milling about in various states of intoxication. I'm sure deals are done on the rooftop carpark. The drunken abuse of innocent pedestrians is not uncommon, often because said pedestrian had the temerity to not have any spare change to give, sister. They are mostly harmlessly deranged by booze, although not long ago a nerdy lookin Asian guy focused on his phone was hit from behind, knocked to the ground and his phone was stolen. Pays to be aware.

Last night just as I walked through the front door a woman pushing a fully loaded shopping trolley ran into difficulty. One of the wheels locked up. She smiled to herself as she struggled, changed strategy, changed direction, thinking that if she tried hard enough the wheel would loosen up. But that trolley was going nowhere. The smile weakened, like come on, I don't need this.

"Excuse me," I said. "I think it has something to do with that yellow line you just crossed. It's a security device to lock up the trolley. You can't take them out of the store."

"Oh really?"

"Yes. Look. There's a sign there explaining it."

She read the sign, told me in what sounded like an Eastern European accent that she did not know. She thanked me. I said you're welcome and turned away.

Then thought: that was a pretty full trolley. What is she going to do?

I turned back just as she looked down at all those bags, and her shoulders drooped. However they say shit in Eastern Europe, I think that's what she was thinking. She hesitated and was obviously also thinking do I try to carry this all by myself? Do I leave half of it here and come back for the rest? It's been a long day, I really don't need this.

I asked her if she needed a hand

"I can help you carry your bags if you like. There's too much for you and you can't leave any of it here. It'll get stolen."

"Well... if you are able to..."

She really looked at me as she said this. Looked at my face. Looked into my eyes. Quick glance at the clothes. I knew what she was thinking.

"It's no problem at all."

"Okay. My car is just up the road a little."

She seemed tired. I think she was wondering is she had just done a stupid thing. Laden down, we walked up the hill, a kind of dark, uphill alley. I was torn between making small talk and remaining silent. I didn't want to make small talk because she might think I was going to hit on her. Remaining silent seemed kind of menacing. Still, I remained silent.

"This is our exercise for the night,"  she said in that cute accent.

"Cheaper than going to the gym," I replied.

We arrived at her car and she put her bags on the ground and didn't reach for her keys. Smart girl. Be wary because there are dodgy fuckers everywhere, and sometimes they don't look so dodgy. I didn't wait for her to unlock the car. I put her bags on the ground, told her to have a nice night, and I walked away.

"Thank you so much." Said with such gratitude.

"Absolutely not a problem." Said with a smile and no hint of menace.

I walked past her abandoned trolly stuck there like a bogged car, and I was glad that I walked by when I did. The timing was perfect. I was glad that I had turned back too in time to catch that drop of the shoulders.

And I was saddened by the fact that I felt I had to be quiet. Saddened by the fact that she was suspicious of my motives. Saddened by the fact that such suspicion is a necessary survival instinct. Saddened by the fact that such a small thing warranted such expression of gratitude.

Post title a nod to Raymond Carver.


2 comments:

Bright Precious said...

Sadly for survival one does have to be suspicious. I wish it wasn't so either. It's the one thing I don't miss about living inner city (because yes I used to be a young groovy thing once!) - though I'm sure its becoming like this everywhere... and 'out here' the bogans are taking over. Can't win.

Erin said...

Be the change you want to see in the world. You did good my friend :)