Monday, 15 August 2011

Do I look like a parking warden?

“Can I park here?”
A perfectly reasonable question you might say? Of course. So reasonable in fact that I didn’t think this question was destined for me! Yet as I walked across the village car park whilst back home in the ‘shire I hear this question repeated once again.
“Excuse me? Can I park here?”
I glance around. Nope, no one else within ear shot so this disembodied voice must be talking to me. It was way too early in the day to be having auditory hallucinations so I start looking around for where this question is coming from and notice the man in the blue car. He is staring at me intently even though I am wearing my usual neutral slash uninterested slash I haven’t had my morning coffee yet so you can fuck right off expression, yet his questioning persists.
“Well can I?” he says again with added gravitas.
“Er... yes?” I say uncertainly, as it does seem to be a pretty silly conversation to be having... in a car park. Come on, it’s not exactly cryptic.
“Yes I know that,” he says, “but do I have to pay?”
As I have already established, yes this is a car park and, to elucidate further, yes, it is pay and display. Still with me? I know it’s complicated but I’m sure you can keep up.
“Well it is pay and display. Has been since the start of May,” I say before yet again discussing the 10p for four hours parking charge debacle that has been, well, quite possibly the most controversial thing that has happened in Ellesmere in pretty much forever. Or at least since the last murder, sex scandal or the like. I’m kidding. No, that all happens in the next village along. It’s all go in Shropshire, that’s for sure!
“Can you make an exception?” he then asks, looking at me earnestly.
This is getting ridiculous I’m thinking, looking down to check that I haven’t by some miraculous coincidence somehow acquired a parking attendant uniform or even the appearance of someone who gives a shit.
My bemused silence is obviously not what he was hoping for.
“I only need a piss,” he says as if that will somehow validate this whole conversation, “Do you want me to just do it down my leg?”
If we are talking about stuff that I want him to do, urinating in front of me is not exactly high on my list, in fact it doesn’t even feature within the top ten.  I could quite easily provide him with a range of ideas of things that I would like him to do, starting with this; leave me alone, you weirdo!
“I’m disabled,” he continues.
Mentally? I want to ask yet think better of it. By this time my patience is wearing thin and I now have only 3 hours and 55 minutes of my own parking time left in which to buy the newspaper so I’m sure you can appreciate the urgency of my predicament.
“It would appear that you have already made the decision that you are not going to pay the 10 pence, so I think that regardless of what I say it will make very little difference to your final action,” I retaliate, flashing a winning smile at the same time to diffuse the mounting venom.
At this, I decide this is a logical point to stop this conversation before it turns into a whole to-do. Judging by the fact that following my last comment he then drove off to park his car, in the car park, so did he.
On my return to the car park a few minutes later, I see the man once again, this time at the ticket machine. He must have heeded my advice, I think and feel a momentary swell of triumph. As I carry on walking I smile at the lady passing by only to hear this from behind me as she reaches the machine a few seconds later:
“Do I have to pay for parking? I’m disabled!”
And so the cycle continues.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Going it alone.

Being an only child I’m used to doing things on my own; it kinda goes with the territory. And it’s not as if I’m averse to it either! I’ve flown half way around the world by myself, I’ve moved to a new city by myself; I’ve done plenty of things by myself, so why is it that going to the cinema by myself last night really got to me? It’s not as if it’s a place you go to have a conversation? That’s why you go to the dubious and overpriced all-you-can-eat buffet next door, thus rendering yourself incapable of conversation for the next two hours for fear that the extraordinary quantities of food might surreptitiously reappear should you open your mouth. In fact it’s positively frowned upon if you utter so much as a whisper or ask the person next to you to pass the pop corn, and God forbid you should lose track of the plot and have to be filled in on what’s happening. Let’s face it, some films need some explanation as you go along otherwise how would anyone have ever understood Inception?  But no, as a rule, cinemas should be exclusive caverns of solitude where one can go to appreciate the latest rom-com, action blockbuster, or in my case the final and most epic instalment of Harry Potter, in silence.
Now let me set the scene. As I walk through the cinema doors I’m feeling pretty good about this whole thing. I’ve even invented a little story to tell anyone who might ask why I’m there by myself; in town on business, night to myself, figured I’d have some down time with HP. That should make me sound busy and important enough! No one need know that I actually live round the corner and had ventured out after eating my ready meal for one... alone. Add to this that fact that I not only went to the cinema by myself, I did this on the night all singles fear the most; date night.
That’s when I first saw them.
The couples.
Hoards of them queuing with their share sized popcorn and giant sized Sprite with two straws. By this time I’m having flashbacks to the awkward teenage years where the cinema seems like the best place to go for a date, ‘cus let’s be honest, it’s not the sort of place where you get those long awkward silences that usually result in me blurting out something completely inappropriate to dispel the deafening silence. More specifically I’m reminded of the time when I was dragged by a quite attractive girl (yes, that really did happen, thank you very much!) to go and see Lord of the Rings much against my better judgement, only to have her consume the whole of the supersize drink and need to go to the loo four times. FOUR TIMES! Unless you have some seriously weird fetishes, that sure ain’t a basis for romance. If anything I should be thankful at having the opportunity to be able to go by myself!
Whilst looking ‘round to see if there was any other single cinema goer and realising very quickly that there wasn’t, I glanced at the couple in front of me and whilst I’m not in the least judgemental (I am really!) it would seem that even the morbidly obese had found love this Friday night. And with these two, you couldn’t even use the excuse of she had a pretty face as that would just be a lie.
To remain in keeping with the important businessman persona that I was cultivating, I reached for the obligatory Blackberry (the one I scorned at the time but now am almost surgically attached to) and penned what could be an important email, but was actually a sympathy quest text to my friend:
I’m starting to realise how mortifying it is going to the cinema by myself.
To which I received the response:
Are you already there? You don’t HAVE to go! If it’s any consolation, Kate Winslet is apparently a big fan of going to cinema on her own and she is a legend!
Well who can argue with that? Apart from the fact that I have one less Oscar, about 20 less million in my bank and am not a smoking hot sex bomb. As a 20 something unattached male, who invents a scenario to defy any question of singledom, I’m not even close.
Ever the wise words, but of course I knew I didn’t have to go, and faced with the option of leaving because you are so conspicuously alone is probably a worse hit for the ego that if I actually go through with it. As it happens my inner turmoil was interrupted by a terse Yes? from the girl at the ticket booth.
“Adult for Harry Potter at eight,” I say with fake confidence.
“Just the one?” she replies, using the inflection that denotes pity at the end of her sentence.
“What’s wrong with going to the cinema by yourself? Kate Winslet does and she’s a legend!” I want to blurt out, but instead manage a more conventional “Yes” through gritted teeth. Seriously, if this was a scene in a film, it would be black-and-white, in slow motion with the opening bars of All by myself being played over the top. Pathetic.
After making is past two more similarly simpering attendants, I headed for a seat at the end of a row near the back so that I could make a swift exit should the need dictate (or more to the point if the canoodling of the couple next to me passes the boundaries of social normality and I need to run for the hills!)
Trying to escape this I text my friend again:
This will all be worth it for HP.
To receive:
It will be- the film is brilliant! Don’t cry- I didn’t but my friend and her husband did!
Yeah likely! Crying over the boy wizard... I’m made of stronger stuff than that! It’s not as if I haven’t grown up with the stories being an integral part of my childhood or anything, or queuing for an hour just to reserve the next copy when it comes out in 2 months time, or making my parents drive me around various book shops (or actually any shop at all in a crazed panic) until they find it.... right?
So just over two hours later, after what was quite possibly one of the most seminal experiences of cinema that I’m ever likely to experience I receive the following message?
Any tears? Blubbering on your own in the cinema is never a good look J
No. No it isn’t.