Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Somebody Else's Problem Field

I went shopping today.  You know, for stuff that isn't groceries.  This is not a regular occurrence and happens when there is a confluence of me having a physically good-feeling day, clemency of weather, no conflicting needs on my time, a little money, a small list of things we need/I sort of want and that little inner voice telling you that today would be a good day for it.  I have gone shopping before without that little voice, or mishearing it, and that never really works.  It's a bit of an outing because my small town does not really support much choice in the range of things available, so over time that list of stuff we want but can't get locally or easily online starts to build up, and one or both of us take the 90 minute drive into the city.  I generally stop at the outskirts in a large satellite suburb called Midland.  As I did today.

It was successful indeed as a shopping experience, and I found some great bargains.  It was a relatively good "talking day" so communication with shop assistants wasn't too fraught.  I have usually had a special knack for parking, arsing that great shady spot really close to where I want to be just as someone pulls out.  Now though, as I can't walk terribly far and have a bit of a job getting out of the car (I need the door open fully) i have been graciously blessed with a Disabled Parking Permit.  I tend not to use the disabled spaces when I can get a good spot close by, but when for example the big mall's carpark is really busy I do just fold and head straight for them.

As I did today, twice.  On my second stop, at a sort of modified strip mall (a long row of shops with one massive parking area) it was chock-full, and in fact the only spot was a disabled bay, right in front of the store I wanted to visit.  Score!

It was also time for a feed.  For those who don't know, my tube feeding ritual occurs every 3 hours, 5 times a day.  When I am out like today, I just use canned formula, because it's easy.  Since having my tube installed - well, what is the right verb anyway? - some 6 months or more ago I have tended to seek a secluded parking spot where possible to have a feed (I do it in the driver's seat), primarily out of sensitivity to others I think.  I did once cause a guy such a double take that he very nearly did himself quite a damage with a tree.

Today though it was going to be a public spectacle, potentially.  My new (well, new to me) car does not have the limo-tint that my last car had.  People were thronging by in their mini-herd family units, or couplewise, at the rate of probably 20 a minute or more. Right past both my windscreen and my window, as I was parked right against a major pedestrian thoroughfare to half of the carpark.  Now I'm not blowing any trumpets here, but it should be said also that I do stand out just a little.  My town, and this part of the city also, are fairly conservative (read - culturally homogenous) in dress standards, and much more besides.  And I'm, well, not, exactly.  Thinking about it, today I was a bit more toned-down than usual.  Anyway.   I'm also 6 ft tall and only weigh 53 kilos (115 pounds), and with the increasing effects of the scleredema I walk exactly like C-3PO (I even now have a high voice like his, but crap diction) and a permanent mask-like semi skeletal grimace.  Which is actually nice in a lot of ways because most strangers think I'm always smiling.  Unlike worry-wart protocol droid C-3PO.

So here's this skinny guy with one of those short shaped-beardy things with flecks of white all through, in a black t-shirt with a gold dragon on it, big reflective chunky sunglasses and a black kangol cap with an offset racing stripe.  Pouring some weird shit into a big-arse (look, thats ass for the Statesiders, OK?) syringe he's holding up in front of his face attached to a tube that snakes down and into his upper abdomen, and all this druggy-looking paraphernalia spread out over his lap and the passenger seat. Apparently grinning, or at least unusually happy (because it was a bit glary so by squinting my mouth was more grinny than normal).

It's not as if I haven't had some interesting reactions in my time.  But today, another thing entirely took place.  Virtually nothing happened in the 7 or 8 minutes it takes me to go through the motions.

In Douglas Adams' Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy books, there is an event in which the Starship Bistromath is parked watching the cricket at Lords.  But no-one can see it.  Their brains just editi it out.  It is too unusual, will require too much thought  or facing of what was until now an impossibility to deal with, so it is rendered entirely effectively invisible.  It was described as being hidden in a Somebody Else's Problem field (an SEP).

This is what I think happened today.  I saw many gazes at quite close range sort of slide off me.  There was a moment's flicker of registration but you could almost see the filing program come crashing in and divert the owner's attention back to mentally tallying the VISA card balance or trying to remember where the car was parked.  Through over a hundred people at close range, most of whom by virtue of local topography had to face me directly, exactly three got past that moment.  One, a child of maybe 6, who just stared all the way past while being dragged along by her mum, trailing her little hand across the front of my car as she went, and flashing a cheeky smile at the last moment.  And a couple who also existed in the local environment in a variant of the same sort of SEP field, identically dressed, hand-holding outdoorsy political lesbian dyke tpes.  They waved and said "Hi!".

There is though one other possibility, and that is the car itself.  Of my many cars, quite a large proportion of them have been white station wagons.  Like my Mitsubishi Magna, which looks basically like this:


They really are, along with Camry wagons, the most innocuous and boring things on the road today.  Ubiquitous, conformist, so desperately practical and mainstream as to be virtually invisible.  Which is why I'm sure ASIO uses them.  Just perhaps, it was this invisibility factor that so effectively removed me from the planet of others' experience today.  Or maybe, the combination of me and my activities in such a vehicle just compounded the SEP effect.  I do not really know, but I will be sure to get back to you on the next stage of this experiment.  Having a feed on a bench in a very public place.  I'm up for that now.

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