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Monday, July 30, 2012

Show & Tell.5: The long and winding road

Tracey orders the meal, while I find a place that I divine through long Taoist practice is optimal for us – where the qi is as good as it gets, you understand, which is no mean feat in here. My Geiger-counter qi meter says go to the end of the extension room facing east, closest to a door that no-one goes through.

   So I think.

   Sitting there, I am reminded briefly of a hotel in China somewhere up the Old Silk Route when I led a group of thirty-four intrepid Australians on a Journey to the West odyssey to rival that of Monkey and his companions. On the second floor of this hotel was a sign: USUAL DOOR. Down the end of the passageway leading to the fire stairs was another sign: UNUSUAL DOOR.

   A child with facial features tending towards the primitive runs past me like a howler monkey and pushes the door with commendable gusto, ignoring a much more sensible entrance to the kids' play area he should have used in the first place.

   Congratulations, kid. You found the Unusual Door and stuffed up my qi. Bravo. Go to the head of the class next to the boy picking his nose.

   A pretty little girl dances in through the Usual Door to the play area. She kicks off one shoe and hurls it south, the other as far north as she can. Then she drags one sock off and hurls it west; the other easterly, and skips off to enter the large red tunnel. The dumb-looking kid lives up to my expectations by trying to enter the blue tunnel blocked by a partition of clear Perspex, and is mystified at his failure.

   Back in the dining area, a man in a powered wheelchair bulldozes the static chairs aside and parks at his chosen table. I like that.

   Eventually the girl's mother enters the playroom by the Usual Door, goes to the four corners of playworld and retrieves the shoes and socks. The girl plays on. The boy is still having problems working out how to get into the blue tunnel, mesmerised by the one entrance to which he has no access. My suspicions that he's not very bright seem confirmed.

   Against expectations, the coffee and meal take a long time coming. We eat and drink with less enthusiasm than I anticipated. We leave our dining establishment feeling the way we mostly do as the Golden Arches recede and vanish – downlifted.

   I think it's the effect of the children playing in the Macca tunnels that accounts for what happens next as we drive out of town. Well, I blame that.

   Instead of our usual discussions while driving back up the Big Hill – of ontology, epistemology, or Soxy the cat, I notice we're parallel to the train tracks leading to Armidale, and there's this sign to the left of us.

   'I wanna see the steam train,' I say. 'Can we see the steam train?'

   'It's just the sign indicating there's a railway crossing to our left, my doctor.'

   The 'my doctor' bit seems half-hearted.

   'But I wanna see the train!'

   'We can sit here and wait two hours for the train if you like. But it's the same train that passes within fifty metres of our door at 6.12 pm every day.'

   There's an irrefutable logic to that and I realise I'm on safer ground with existentialism, dialectical materialism or the transcendental idealism of Kant. You know – those -isms for which you have to sneak back to a dictionary to check their meaning when no-one's looking, which means you never really understood them in the first place. Like necessitarianism. Quoi?

   I extend the charade briefly by crossing my arms, looking huffy and sticking my bottom lip out, but we quickly leave the train joke and the plains behind us to begin the ascent to the high country. We sit in silence as the outside temperature gauge reading on the Forester dashboard drops sharply as we climb.

   It's the silence of What's in the Envelope. I feel as if Damocles is sitting quietly in the seat behind us, his eyes boring into the back of my head. The Brian area.



  1. 'Downlifted'. My new favourite expression, and one I know I'll find SO MANY occasions to use.

    And the train story :D

    As for the 'epistemological discussions', I do sniff poetic licence there, laddie, heheh.


    1. Billy McDee Connolly called me a laddie in a comment on Part 4. He's a wee bit older than I, so he can. But you're a young lass, so RESPECK!

      'Downlifted' seemed just right. I don't know how I come down with these things....

      When I think of 'epistemological discussions', I think toilet humour. Watch it.

  2. The philosophic implications of a trip to Golden Arches of modern times (rather than perhaps those of a Buddhist Temple or in ruins of Pompeii) had never occurred to me before reading this. It is clear to me that (even with Brian trying to infiltrate) you are a much deeper thinker than I am. I had never heard of Necessitarianism before either and had to look it up. It may well be that this is a philosophical concept on which the founders of the Golden Arches of modern times have tried to build for their own benefit. If so it appears to have worked.

    On the other hand your blog made me realize why I now frequent these halls of modernity much more often than I did a few years ago. I know that I have grandchildren, but as well as the trips with them from time to time, I do admit to going on my own on other occasions. I told myself it was because I often travel by road, their coffee is now acceptable, their wraps quite good and they supply wifi.

    But no, it is my Qi (I had to look that up too). For almost half a lifetime I have been observing children (sometimes even assessing their IQ) - what a sinecure of a job! I miss it. You have made me realize that I enjoy seeing the children cavorting at those Golden Arches. When it is not my responsibility I will watch with interest a young boy pull off his shoe and ping it with unerring accuracy and quick wrist action at his irritating little sister. Perhaps there goes the Aussie Cricket team spin bowler of 2028? I admire the ingenuity of the child who pulls a chair over to the gate held shut by a "child proof" lock and opens it to let out the assembled mass of children, delighted with their illegal freedom. Perhaps she will lead a gaol break one day or even release the bulls of Pamplona?

    Then there is the boy that you saw, trying, perplexedly, to go through a sheet of Perspex. Is he as intellectually challenged as he looks or is he just a geeky potential IT magnate contemplating the notion of a virtual door? (One of the brightest of my children's friends could never manage to open the car door when he was dropped at his house. Needless to say his subsquent PhD was not in Engineering.)

    Most of all I enjoy eavesdropping on their conversations, watching their often delightful, and nearly always natural and straightforward interactions with one another and their supervisors that prove to me over and over how much I can still learn from children.

    I'm sure you caught some of their vibes when you wanted to watch that train go by. They're very infectious. It's much too tame just to see a train in the usual spot!

    Now can I find a puddle and reluctantly manage to stop myself walking through it?

    Anne Powles

    1. You should have dared to go the extra character and said 'perspexedly'. Heh. Oh, and splash through that puddle now. No kid from 5 to 85 ever just walks through muddy puddles. Well, I didn't.

      I guess I left close observation of children behind when my daughters and Christian suddenly just went and grew up on me. My days as a teacher long before amounted more to observations of whether or not they were passing notes under the desk or cheating off the kid beside them.

      But yes, it's a privileged job you had and no doubt you wouldn't leave it behind when you went to Maccas. Of course we'll keep [grand]mum about your liking for pancakes and corn syrup and the coffee when it's good.

  3. I think Christian is still growing


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