You Cannot Predict The Past From Future Events

I went somewhere one day and did something and met someone. This may seem a little specific, but I assure you it was not – I have rarely had a vaguer experience.

In our city I have often advised people to have a ready response for sudden meetings – because we are bound to encounter people in the street that we neither expect nor want to meet. Faced with them at a corner, knife fight, or funeral, we must say something for the sake of society, and we need to be able to do it straight off.

The first problem is recognition – now the really vile ones – the ones who have been seared into our psyche will be instantly familiar – we need not fear forgetting their names. It is the second-tier types that are the problem – the friends and acquaintances of a decade or more ago that are just becoming a little fuzzy around the edges. Combine that passage of time with a senior’s moment and you can be in real social trouble. You expose yourself for either a fool or a knave, and this can be inconvenient if you have been trying to hide the fact.

I have been known to resort to the Canadian Gambit. Saying things like ” Well, I’ll be darned! Wherever did you get to? ” in hopes that it will distract them. Or if they ask the question first I just tell them I was having treatment in the asylum. And I do it with a straight face and add nothing else to the information. You’d be surprised how people can sweat in cold weather.

Of course there is a corollary to the unexpected appearance and it is the unexpected absence. The person above all persons who you would have expected to be at the graduation, funeral, or arraignment…and isn’t. You have to be careful with this one and make a complete search of the crowd to make sure that you have not missed them inadvertently. But if they’re really not there, you can start a fox and get an enquiry going  amongst the ones who are. Where is X? Why have they not come? Is there something they do not want us to know.? Is it time to search the court and clinical records? Or under the railway viaducts?

In the end, whoever shows up, shows up, and generally the affair does not dissolve into a fist fight. If you are wise you will be closer to the door than most of the troublemakers and can light out at the first sign of knives.

Who Do You Trust?

A better question…who trusts you?

I live within a mile radius of two petrol stations – a BP and a Shell – and have lived here since 1985. The service stations both have multiple pumps that you operate yourself…because no-one pumps petrol for you any more. You fill your tank, or run a preset on the pump, go into the station, pay, and go away. They want you to buy chocolates, drinks, fan belts and little deodorant pine trees so they make you pass by all the goodies before you get to the pay counter, but the idea is pretty much the same for both stations.

But today a new set of signs on the outermost pumps of the BP. You must pay before you pump or leave your car keys with the attendant. This suggests that they are worried about drive-off thefts of petrol. As I had pulled up to the inner face of the outer pumps before seeing the sins I philosophically pulled my wallet out, checked that I had money, and trudged to the door.

The door didn’t open. It took a half-minute of stepping back, letting the attendant see me clearly, then stepping in…and stepping back…before the lock was released.

I wondered if there was something about my car – a green Suzuki Swift – or my appearance – 69-year-old man in plaid shirt, trousers, braces, and flat cap – that alarmed her. I asked, but she said  ” No “. I paid a $ 20 bill and went back out to pump the $ 20 of petrol into the Suzuki.  So far, just a minor annoyance.

Then I observed another person rock up with an old Valiant – a lovely old Valiant with custom lettering on the back of the boot lid. Glorious car. HE got to pump his petrol before going in to pay…Curious…

Then a Chinese chap and his wife arrived in a big black SUV…and the pump was not turned on for him. He footled about for a bit then drove off unsatisfied…Curiouser and curiouser…That was probably $ 100 of petrol that wasn’t sold.

I pulled away and parked in the adjacent shopping centre car park and observed the next few transactions. Some people were compelled to go inside before being able to pump petrol, and some were let through to the keeper, as it were, and could pump before paying. But there was no distinct pattern to type of car, colour of car, colour of driver, or any other criterion that would have been observable at the attendant’s window.

I was a little incensed over this discrimination at first, but now I am more intrigued as to the process of selection that is involved. What is it that triggers the attendant to demand payment beforehand rather than afterwards? Is it related to the car? Is it related to the ethnicity of the driver? Is it related to the ethnicity of the attendant? Is it related to the sex of either driver or attendant? Is it related to the time of day? BTW this was all broad daylight in an affluent suburb.

No answers yet, but I shall continue to investigate. I have a full petrol tank right now – I went over to the Shell station after this experience and did the rest of the filling. THEY don’t require you to pre-pay, leave keys, or swear allegiance to anyone  – they just sell petrol. When I have used up this lot of fuel I shall try the BP again to see what they do. I am hoping for a definite pattern that can make for a workable hypothesis.

 

It Is No Good Crying Now – The Fuse Has Already Been Lit

I often wonder why we do the things we do. Oh, I’m pretty clear about why we use the toilet and the wash basin for their separate functions – a few experiments in reversing the process cleared that up. But why we quietly accede to the things that the world throws at us is still a mystery. Take my bank.

I changed to the bank I use now because of their open-door policy on Saturday. I was involved in 9:00 – 5:00 trade all week and Saturday was the only time I had to go and do the necessary banking of paycheques or withdrawal of weekly money. The bank had a branch in the local shopping centre and it all seemed set fair for the future.

The future arrived with me in retirement ( yay!) but still with weekly or monthly transactions to do. The bank suggested that I do everything on-line…then made sure that by ignoring such common financial instruments as cheques, that I was forced to their will. Then they boarded up two of five teller’s windows at the branch. Then they installed an imperious concierge at the branch to tell us that we needed to do all our transactions through the ATM*.

We – and by we I mean the older patrons of the bank – still preferred to wait in line to see a teller to make sense out of the business. The last visit to the place left us standing there – 10 of us – for upward of three-quarters of an hour while the only two tellers in the place worked frantically. I was fortunate – I could peel off out of line after 20 minutes and make use of an ATM to do my job – after it had been refilled. But that left all the other poor ( rich ) old people shuffling forward one at a time…

Time to look at the other firms and forms of cash cacheing. Time to bid the computerbank farewell. The fuse is lit.

* Sometimes it is worthwhile sticking around just to see it get funnier. The imperious concierge was behind the teller’s cage with an ” Employee in training ” badge on while we all waited in line. He was not doing well at all…

The Conspiracy

Did you read about Big Oil? And Big Coal? And Big Gas? And Big Cheesecake?

How about Vested Interests? They were the favoured bogeymen of my old uncle Jude, the Montana cattle farmer. They apparently explained anything that he did not like. When it was pointed out that he had a vested interest in his farm, he went all morose.

” They ” of course, are prime suspects in the downfall of everything. The ” They ” varies according to who is doing the complaining. Men, Russians, the CIA, mysterious swarthy immigrants…all guilty of being ” They “. ” They ” are a pretty active and resourceful set of villains, and can be called upon to take the blame in many circumstances. Hard to actually pin thunderstorms or badly fitting sink gaskets on them, but useful for nearly everything else…

Whether it is spraying innocent populations with mind-altering substances like oil from leaking jet engines or poo from the airliner tanks, or smuggling hordes of tiny assassins in Post Paks, the forces of evil can always be counted on for a good topic at a party or public bar. They get more active after the third pint. A nod is as good as a wink to a blind man and tinfoil helmets are proof against most known germs…or is that Tea-Tree oil?  Wear both just to be safe.

PS: Don’t forget the Rumenati – the secret organisation of cows that controls the world…

The Little World – The Perils Of Perth

Perth, Western Australia is a good city to live in. We eat and drink well, sleep safe, and have about as much fun as we deserve. But it can be a frustrating place when it comes to buying certain things.

You can apparently get narcotics here and there and hamburgers everywhere. I have avoided both for years. People who regularly dose up on either of these are a nuisance.

But the real nuisance is the fact that we are at the end of the world as far as retail goods go. This is no new thing – we’ve missed out on stuff for the last 200 years. But now we have the instant reportage of the internet and we find out about it all daily. Unfortunately the local retailers and wholesalers are limited in the amount of stock they can afford to carry and there are vast classes of desirable things that we never get.

How frustrating to have this paraded and reviews, forums, and overseas travellers crowing about our loss.

For those who point out the internet trade as the answer, we can only say that you have to look carefully and sadly at the cost of shipping for whatever you want. You might be able to order some new thing from New York but if the cost of transport makes is double the purchase price, the joy is gone before it arrives. Fools run out of money faster than wise people.

For modellers there is always one golden Western Australian rule: If something is offered for sale and you both want it and can afford it…buy it. There is a very real possibility that it has come as an extra in another shipment and will never be seen again. If you wait a week, you lose it forever.

You will also need to be careful in your online dealings as there are shops who will not sell to you…preferring to deal with people who do not live at such a remove. It is sad, but you cannot force someone to take the time and trouble to post something to you if they are not used to doing it for their own countrymen. Take it as an encouragement to scratch building and the development of skill. It is no different in other remote regions.

Also take advantage of the extensive do-it-yourself shops and suppliers here. If you have  a Little World hobby that is a larger scale, there are no-end of things in a regular hardware shop that can be turned to good account. Do not be afraid to buy from furniture stores or IKEA either – I have been building structures for years from the off-cuts of IKEA wooden slat blinds.

The retro markets and collector’s warehouses that dot the outer suburbs are tempting – their advertising suggests everything you have ever desired. I cruise their stands, but find that their definition of retro and/or treasure is drawn from a different dictionary than mine. I read Webster – they read Captain Kidd.

And the toy stores? Large amounts of several items…

This Is An Automatic Recording From…

I’ll bet all my readers have had an automated scam telephone call by now…or are about to get one. My home phone seems to be immune, but my studio gets them all the time.

Here in Australia the scammers generally use a script that says they are from the taxation office and threaten arrest and seizure of assets to get you to start on the telephone call trail that they hope will lead them to your bank account or credit card numbers. I gather than in the USA they use the name of the FBI, IRS, or other authorities to make their criminal threats.

The classic clues are there – the silent pause before the recording starts, the faint hiss, the ever-so-slightly off accent coupled with a plausible name. The automated ones are no fun to receive, however – past the theatre of it all – because you cannot play with a machine. I now hang up on them as soon as the clues start, and dismiss them from my mind in 5 seconds. I have never lost a necessary call.

The human-contact scammers are more entertaining, as you can sometimes get one of them who has had a bad day, or a sour curry, and gently goad them into rage. I do it by being attentive, kind, and pleasant. A little vague, perhaps, wittering away now and then, wandering from the point but never too far. I play the role of stupid old white guy perfectly, as I have studied the part for years…I must sound like the fattest and slowest duck on the pond.

I’m sitting comfortably in an air-conditioned house with a drink in hand, and I’ll bet they’re not. The longer they are forced to talk to me to persuade my obviously senile mind to click on the Windows link…and I never quite seem to be able to grasp how to do it…the closer they are to lifting their safety valve. I have been able to stretch it to 10 minutes before a monumental burst of Hindi oaths terminated the conversation.

If I’m pressed for time – cooking or some other task in hand – I just say to them that they are violating the moral precepts of their religion and that they should be ashamed. It is not rude to say that – it is the truth. Maybe one day one of them will reform. Or maybe I will.

I know who to bet on…

 

 

I’m Going To Start A Movement

And about time – I haven’t had one for a couple of days. I feel bound to express myself.

I am brought to this resolution by yet another ” shared ” post on my Facebook – this time one that upbraids me if I do not agree with the writer and pay attention to their political beliefs. Having someone rant at you from the hustings, the speaker’s corner, or the university campus ( not in exam time, mind… ) is no new thing. We’ve passed through American, Australian,and French elections recently and will be subjected to the British ones soon.

It would be nice to think that we watched the news feed from Paris with all the attention that we gave to the previous ones but frankly, My Dears, all the damns had already been given. We may have managed a small ” Tiens! ” or a deflated ” Zut Alors  ! ” but that was about all. The political organ can only remain distended for a certain length of time.

The Facebook meminist who wrote the post that others shared was indignant that people were tired of politics and wanted to avoid it. She blamed them for being privileged and white and male and American and rich. In reality they were simply tired of politics – her politics – and tired of hectoring. Tired, if you will, of her.

And I don’t think she will succeed in scolding them into paying her attention. No-one owes it to her and the dump button is one click away.