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A day in the life

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Such is the capriciousness of life that if I vary the time that I leave the house on a morning, by so much as a minute, then I arrive a good twenty minutes later at French School.

I have fine-tuned my alarm clock's wake-up time to exactly 16 minutes past 7am now, whereas before it was at 18 minutes past. Now I manage to get up, eat breakfast, drink a strong espresso and get out of the house in time. Just, mind you. The thing that confuses me is that there appears to be no difference between the two journeys – both involve mildly long waits and exactly the same route.

Anyway, I'm standing at the bus stop, knowing that I'm late today (due to being distracted for a minute on my way out), and reading my book. The sky is blue, the sun is out, and the bus arrives shortly.

I make my way to one of the many empty seats. Behind me there is a queue about fifty metres long. I'm always amazed at the length of a line of people that can be crammed into a bus.

So I sit down for, oh, perhaps three seconds, and then leap out of the seat. Something wet has penetrated my jeans. I look suspiciously at the seat, designed, incidentally, in a hollow fashion so as to preserve any liquids left in it for the next user. There is indeed a pool of clearish liquid where I just sat. I move into the aisle seat and stare at the liquid.

Is it urine? I wonder.

I rub my backside and my hand comes away wet. I cautiously sniff my fingers. I can't smell any urine, thank god. But sometimes urine doesn't smell so bad, does it?

I start to worry.

The bus is filling up. I realise that I'm now sitting in the aisle seat, leaving the window seat empty. I really hate it when people do that – what do they think they will achieve? Do they think that they will be spared the horror of sitting next to someone? No, it just delays the inevitable until the point is reached where all the easy seats are taken, then you have to approach these bastards and say, 'excuse me, could I get into that seat?' And they moodily swing their legs to one side as you limbo past. On principle, I choose these seats before the available aisle seats, just to annoy them.

(Before I get mail complaining that people do this due to having five foot long legs or something, yes, yes, there are perfectly good reasons for doing this, I'm sure).

So, I realise that I'm in the position that I hate in other people. It's too late to change seats now, however, as the bus is full (obviously, my window seat is the last to go). I wonder what I should do.

Then I see the man coming down the aisle, looking at the empty seat. I realise that he's going to take it and sit in the pool of liquid. My mind races, frantically, trying to work out how to say in French, 'Oh, there's a pool of suspicious liquid in that seat.'

But it's too late, he's squeezing past me as my lips move, but no sounds come out. As he sits down I bury my face into my book and pretend I can't see him.

Three seconds later he leaps up and looks underneath him. He spies the pool of liquid and casts a terrible glance at me. I pretend not to notice.

He gets some tissues out of his back, and mops up the liquid. He's obviously not as worried about the urine possibility as me.

*

In the supermarket there is a line that has a sign above it that reads '8 items or less'. In these lines the true nature of humanity can be seen clearly.

I have counted my items already – 12 bottles of beer (1 item), some tomatoes in a bag (another item), butter, 3 yogurts, and some chocolate milk. Yes, I never said it was wholesome. Anyway, seven. See, seven items. I'm allowed to use this queue.

As usual I begin to count the items of the people in front of me. The woman in front has nine. Not too bad, I suppose. But the lady at the front of the queue has about 16. She must know that she's got too many items to use this queue. I stare at her shopping as it is scanned through, into multiple bags. She catches my eye and gives me a look that says, 'I know I have more than 8 items, so what are you going to do about it?'

She's in the queue because the other lines are all really long, full of people with hundreds of items. But that's why there's an 8 items or less queue – so people like me don't have to wait half an hour to get out of the shop.

I know that if I was a cashier in a supermarket, I'd be nazi-like in my enforcement of this rule: 'Sorry madam, but two melons cannot be considered a single item, you must leave the queue immediately!' And so forth. Perhaps I'm just too anal about this. I'm not sure.

So, back in the queue - I have the feeling that I'm buying the worst beer in Canada – an American beer called Milwaukee's Best Dry. It's called a 'Strong' beer on the box in big letters, but it's only 5.9%. I suppose that in the USA, that IS strong beer. Anyway, I've heard jokes about this beer, and the people behind me in the queue talk about it too, laughing. They're a young couple with 12 bottles of Corona. Now, I'm sorry, but Corona is trendy piss. Milwaukee's Best Dry cannot be worse, I reason.

And, Milwaukee's Best Dry is only $9.99. Corona is somewhat more.

The cashier eyes my beer with distain as I fail to give the correct amount of cash and cause a confused delay. He rolls his eyes, which then rest upon the Corona.

'Ooooh! Corona!' He says, camply.

'Yeah.' Says the trendy piss-drinker, as if it isn't.