Great New Zealand Archetypes: The Alfa Driver

 

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One time recently, I glanced over at our DVD collection of James Bond titles.

I wondered, at what time in my life did I decide this was ok, to actually make a point of collecting James Bond movies, and to actually sit around having conversations about who did it best, and argue a case for Daniel Craig?

The simple explanation is that at the time, I was an Alfa Romeo driver.

Certainly not the worst type of actual driver. That’s been reserved for the Audi.

Alfa drivers are usually harmless morons. They are usually stuck somewhere outside of Europe like Australia or New Zealand, and in order to vicariously live their sad little suburban lives in the Old Country, from which they have no claims to heritage, they decide to buy an Alfa.

They don’t do it sensibly, either. Sensible would be to not buy one, ever. And if you did lose your mind and get one, you’d go to a dealership and buy a mechanical warranty, right?

Wrong. Alfa people buy them, sometimes sight unseen from places like Invercargill or Seatoun, off the Alfa Bulletin Board, or Trade Me.

Let’s stop in at the Alfa Bulletin Board, briefly. This is a place where frustrated (mostly men) sit and compare Alfa nightmare stories, but continue to hunt for them, buy them, try to drive them and try to sell them. It’s a bit like a mutual masturbation society. But, in keeping with the super-sterile world of the Alfa driver, there’s no touching.

The Alfa drivers on these boards are usually architects, designers or teachers.  Their Alfas are characterised by horrible cambelt issues or just a casual head gasket job at $4k.  They always have dash lights flicking on and off indiscriminately.  The windows go down once and stay down, forever.

These poor souls have avatars containing obscure Abarth scorpion details and have nicknames like Alfi and Italfa, even though they live in suburbs called Wadestown and Ellerslie and their names are actually Michael or Jonathan. It’s truly a place where they can share their dash light conundrums and while nursing their cup of Chanui.

Off they go to work each day, in their daily driver, usually a 156 or 159, but at home, under a cover, we might find an Alfasud or other utterly pathetic, rusty, broken example, the hopes, dreams and fears of the owner all loaded against the hot mess like an awful high-interest loan loaded up against an asset you have since lost.

On long weekends they spend five hours being towed back from Whitianga on a tow truck, and itch to get back on the bulletin boards to tell their tale of woe, and perhaps get some amateur diagnosis going so they can fiddle around on the weekend, trying to cheaply fix the oil pissing out of the engine, or just pretending everything is okay in their life, when in reality, this Alfa disease is waaaay out of control and everyone knows it, especially SWIMBO, who begs Michael or Phillip or whoever to sell everything and buy a nice Hyundai.

“But Hyundai doesn’t feature in Quantum of Solace”, Michael explains, while nursing his stemless glass of Syrah, bought from a wine club earlier in the week.

And as he thumbs merrily though his full collection of Marshall Cavendish “The Cars of James Bond” and spreads sawdust on the huge pool of Texas T in the driveway, the wine warms his soul and the poster-map of Italy bought from K Mart fades slowly in the dappled afternoon suburban light, while wafts of Jamie Oliver Pasta Machine–made pasta creep throughout the house, and all is well in Alfi Scorpion-boy’s world.

Rites of Passage: The New Zealand Stag-Do

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You can’t tell me the stag-do is an ancient tradition.

There’s no way in hell ancient Druids went into Bethnal Green on a Saturday night in two cars, in pressed jeans, to score cocaine.

It seems the modern New Zealand stag do as a rite of passage is fresh as a daisy and as I speak, out at Westgate, a band of New Zealand’s finest men are piling themselves into a Fun Bus wearing chaps without real trousers on.

Where will they go?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a drain layer, an investment banker or customer services rep for Z Energy, for some reason, you’ll end up at The White House on Queen Street, it’s always Queen Street, as if there is simply nowhere else to go in this god-forsaken world.

But first: a meal. What about a steakhouse? Yes let’s! Let us fill our boots with meat sacrifice smothered in Diane sauce, and please bring trays of beers to the table, chain restaurant wenchling servant! Oh and how about a few selfies with us? Go on, you want to.

And they’re off, to Britomart, up and down Fort Street, aimlessly wandering in a pack of check shirts, bold yellowy chinos and Vans, desperately tying not to look 33.

Some carry beers, but they’re stopped at the bars and at least one will slip in with a behind-the- back, half-warm Heineken and it’s so worth the huge warm, flat slug of free beer with a cigarette butt in the bottom and the drinker feels smug and as if he’s won a great victory against the major brewing companies.

Over on the dance floor, a pocket of revelers dance to Sandstorm ironically, while one lucky punter has scored a girlfriend for the night.

It’s time to move on, but not before a burger from The White Lady, wolfed down, white paper bag and all, and then it’s off to…The White House, an easy transition and not hard to remember.

Frighteningly, the most reserved and married of the party seems to know all about this place and manages to get everyone in despite their varied states of bedragglement, and then drops the clanger:

The girls are really nice at this place

and luckily everyone is so super-polaxed that they barely notice this interesting development and just stumble to the bar then to the stage and poles and literally just start yelling things into the air as if letting off an AK-47 of shitty sex-thoughts at the horrifically young and lovely dancer.

But soon, an exodus of sorts must take place since Russell (Rusty) is getting married in the morning and the matron of honour said she’d kill the best man if Rusty isn’t returned to his motel in Greenlane on time.

There’s still time for one more feed, this time it’s Queen Street McDonald’s, the floor slightly bruised with muddy water and the mezzanine floor filled with eager students, fulfilling their Bachelor of Commerce dreams.

Mac Attacks are ordered; there must be 10 trays set up on the counter top, and the boys then carry their trays like sex tourists into the dark recesses of the establishment. A cab is later hailed and duly drops each disheveled man-boy to either his house or his parents’.

Finally, Russell lands safely at his motel. He slips out of his town clobber and decides that frying eggs and loud rap music are a great idea. He’s asleep before he can even pass the first mouthful of food to his lips.

He has completed the ultimate rite of passage, apart from buying an Auckland house.

 

 

Wheelie Bins: Compliance Hell

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I was listening to the sound of a wheelie bin being rolled home at about 6.30 this morning.

It’s akin to hell.

Not clear what hell is actually like, but I am pretty sure that people sit there naked, with no alcohol or MySky, being prodded by Satan’s javelin, having to endure eternity-scale time-frames of the sound of an empty wheelie bin rolling down an uneven surface.

For me it’s the sound of compliance.  Like a school bell, tax time, and the bird call on the National Programme, it’s the sound of

 

comply.  Comply, you tax-paying worker.  And pay rates on that.

 

Wheelie bins remind me that I am not truly free yet, from the capitalist paradigm of eat, create waste, then spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to hide or delete the waste.

Wheelie bins remind me that I am not green enough yet.

Wheelie bins remind me that I am hooked into the time frames of other people.

Wheelie bins remind me I am boring.

Great New Zealand Archetypes: The Audi Driver

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A little over an hour ago I was cruising at the legal speed limit of 50kms per hour, down a quiet through-road in suburban east Auckland.

A person drove up very close behind me, which is normal for Auckland. People here just want to be either right behind you, or even better, in front of you. Same goes for houses.

The next thing I knew, I was being overtaken, and as sure as the sun sets each day, the person was driving an Audi.

It didn’t matter that it was an A3, the smallest hatchback of the family. It didn’t matter that it was a fairly innocuous-looking silver-grey low-specced shopping basket from hell. Audi drivers are all the same. They are angry people.

There’s no real research on why this is, except my empirical skepticism that these people are vaguely human. Are they actually the lizard people? Would Kellyanne Conway drive one?

Yes, yes she would. She would mow you down on the sidewalk as she pulls up on the school run, madly typing something on her phone while Tarquin and Elias alight from the heights of her Q7. It’s black, of course, and the only reason for the tints is so she can remain anonymous as she carries out her campaign of roadkill.

She’d drive off, still typing with her voice, foot fully on the accelerator, off to her important meeting, while the last vestiges of people and habitat lay prone in the wake of her diesel emissions (she cares about the planet! She shops at Farro!).

Off she goes, overtaking the Toyota Camrys of life, wild-eyed and just really angry. But why?

The Audi has four circles. Ancient folklore denotes these circles as the Four Circles Of The Arcane Lizard Human.

Audi translates from the founder’s name in German to “listen” in Latin. The only thing these people are listening to is Lazy Sunday, up to 11.

Think once, think twice, think: Fuck off Audi Driver.

 

The Sin Eater

A Sin Eater used to

lay out bread on a corpse

and eat the sin-soaked food

and save a soul.

 

I’m a modern-day Sin Eater.

But still, give me platesful of corpse cake

and take me to your graveside

to dine alone.

 

The grave is freshly-dug and empty;

so I wait.

Wine (and bread) take away the sting

of your dark crimes

 

Overhead the seagulls wail and circle

eyeing the cavernous hole and

the unspoiled bread

as we wait to eat secrets.

 

The sin is coal-dark;

sometimes, lately, murderous,

but always self-righteous

and always fed out in spoonsful

 

A modern sin-eater swells with

the sins of others, the sins; the “don’t tells,”

and they learn to hide

their own shrinking frame.

Great New Zealand Locales: A & E

Like Valentines, Takapuna Beach, and State Highway 1 on a long weekend there is one other place you are likely to end up when you least expect it, and that’s the A & E Clinic.

Doesn’t matter that it’s a White Cross. Don’t get fooled by the idea that you’re engaging with Private Healthcare. You still get to wait for four hours, you still won’t be able to find a toilet and you’ll still have to ask permission to have a cup of water like a six year old.

On arrival in your wheelchair, pushed by your mother in law (or worse—your employer), the wide self-opening doors splay to make way for your ACC dollar spend. Which way will we go? To the security guards at reception? Or over there, to the darkened corridor of sickness and injury?

The darkened corridor it is! As you wheel down, broken bodies and office workers holding sick bags take up the 30 or so seats allocated.

As it’s only Tuesday morning, you wonder how people could have become so utterly injured—it’s like a suburb has been carpet-bombed and then in the aftermath, botulism served to the wounded by mistake.

Accident. There is nothing harder than filling out a two-page form with a fence stake through your neck, or a suspected cracked spine.

And the story you write on that form will follow you round for years to come so make sure you’ve got it right, because your first stop is in the assessment room with The Nurse. I mean there you are, not even dressed properly yet, because you had to leave the house in a hurry. Perhaps some undergarments are missing, even, and it doesn’t matter you tell yourself, until the horror news arrives that you’re about to have an x-ray and will need to to change into the supplied gown to be x-rayed, underpantless and shamed.

But before that can happen, you’ll need to be wheeled into the special triage area with the drapes, and pass the time for another hour or so with your pain level now at 9/10.

A cursory scan of the room reveals a wall of typed statements. You feel overwhelmed by the instructional tone:

Do not film the staff. If you are found to be filming the staff you will be thrown out of the facility like in the movies

Duly, you slide your device into your back pocket and continue with the Woman’s Day crossword, half-finished.

5. Popular New Zealand broadcaster Mike _ _ _ _ _ _ _

With that over with, the wizened locum arrives, a bit windswept from all the casualties. He finally gives you the two tablets you crave and you almost choke to death trying to get them down with the complimentary three drops of water.

It’s nearly over. Your support person has endured this with you and they are still actually talking to you, and there’s been some bonding, some tears and some hilarity, with the added bonus of Emmerdale on the flat screen in the waiting room, and the sight of a near-immobile school-age child hobbling to get at the books while her mum sits, arms folded, fiercely clutching her wallet as if the whole thing is a major inconvenience.

And in a way she’s right. The suburban A&E is no hospital. It’s a boutique disaster area, and you still emerge poorer and in more despair than when you started.

The Crossing

sorry-coffee-art

 

I’ve just been to a new shopping complex in Tauranga called “Tauranga Crossing“. It sits in a new development in the Western Bay called The Lakes.

The Warehouse

Brand-new but age-old. Luxury aisles in which to swing your trolley toward the Rachel H fashion line or pallets of bulk-lolly mix. Here, you can also shop for Amy Winehouse on vinyl, and get two or three Bruce Springsteen ESSENTIALS CDs for under $30. Not sure you can afford anything? Scan your item, then leave it in the complimentary baskets area, and leave. Do you want a bag? That’ll be .10c. Would you like to buy a charity stickpin? Please don’t take the small convenience trolleys out into the carpark. Would you or your child like a Tauranga Crossing balloon? Don’t lose it! [cutaway to sequence of legginged mother crashing across the concourse to retrieve lost balloon while convenience trolley slowly wheels away toward the bumper of a Nissan Tiida].

Look Sharp Store

Great franchise. Candles, white musk incense cones, a dak pipe. A champagne bottle filled with Minties. It’s all here. A funny Christmas sexual Elf costume, a French maid. Stationery sets for when you’ve run out of ideas, motivation and lifeforce.

The Coffee Club

Here, your flat white is delivered to you with a loveheart-fern mashup. You can order a panini and now they even have smashed avocado with everything IF YOU WANT IT. You can join the VIP club.

Pak ‘n’Save

Yellow, bright, a beacon of hope at the end of the shopping experience. Santa’s elves have gone all out and dressed up in tinsel.

The Shearing Shed

It might be Sharing Shed, and if it was, that would be very funny.

Parking

Plenty. Also plenty of carpark traffic islands. I love me a traffic island.

The BP

Fuel up on your way to Pyes Pa, an ex-Kiwifruit farm-turned-subdivision. Pick up some Aerial sunnies and a Thai Butter Chicken pie (mild).

The perfect shopping experience. 10/10.

A Thousand Yards

A Thousand Yards

Between the blossom trees

and along the straight, gravelled avenue

the tall chimney rises.

The polished steel is hot and deranges

the stark slate of the blue sky beyond.

 

You took one thousand strokes

on a hired exercise machine in

the cold unlined garage,

while outside your small shrubs grew up around you;

your stare down the drive and into the postcode was infinite.

 

In Countdown you colour-coded

the vegetables part-time; the produce manager

disputed your work and asked you to focus on specials.

You walked home shamed

age 73 in your Asics.

 

Over the road at the RSA, the howitzer pointed skyward;

some days you could buy a $12.50 lunch,

silently eat in the blazing afternoon sun

—the work dried up,

“I didn’t need it anyway,” you’d mutter.

 

You did need it.

Your last time spent creating lattice frames for your

climbers; an archway for the rose

and crazed paving in the driveway

for you to tread in socked feet at dusk.

 

You twisted and sweated at night—

something wanted to burn you.

You became afraid of the Inland Revenue

and replayed Slavonic Dances over and over,

the music describing a swelling, sea-bound river.

 

Today, you are just smoke, tarring the sky.

“You’d be surprised how heavy the ashes can be”

says the slicked-haired undertaker,

the plastic composite box too small

for your terror.

Back to School

coles

Many of us, on turning 45, decide that we desperately need to do a Masterate, and just like that we are back at university, such is the ease of enrolment, extramural study, access to money and the luxury of real thinking.

Back in our first degrees, some of us hung on by the skin of our teeth. We’d reached the end of seventh form, barely scraping through those five external examinations…

So, in summary, and conclusion, Raphael was influenced by Perugino to the extent that alot of the works look the same.

…we’d had the end-of-year party during the day, we’d tapped the keg of destiny, we’d worked the god-forsaken holiday job at the elderly rest home, and now it was time to step into the world of unpacking meaning, trying to make friends with your tutor and managing to attend the labs on Friday morning after a heavy Thursday night.

Wonderful though it was, it was harrowing. A Bachelor of Arts degree was a wasteland of epic proportions, and there was always an older lady in a pashmina at the front, relentless in her questioning…

Is it essential we have the prescribed edition of the novel, it’s just that I…

This discourse could go on for the whole lecture, and you didn’t even care as you just wanted to hit Shadows Bar for a swift jug or seven to forget the embarrassing fact that you didn’t even have the novel yet, you were just going to use the Coles Notes and watch the BBC dramatised version starring Brenda Blethyn; no-one would know, least of all your Oxford-educated professor of English lecturer.

Later on as you ambled through life you yearned to repair the hot mess of your first degree. If only you could have your time again, it would be done much better, you thought. This time you’d get invited to the University Club instead of just Shads, you’d forget the idea that Queen Street backpackers’ had all-night bars and that it would be fun to continue drinking and dancing with Argentinians until 4am on a Monday;  that all those Head Like A Hole gigs in the Union that cleaned you out of both borrowed money and hearing weren’t a great idea…

You found yourself far more focussed than ever, in fact you had turned into a virtual version of the pashmina-woman; all your assignments were turned in unspeakably early and you’d become an all-round Jean Rhys specialist, of no more use now than it was then.

Sadly, you were boring, and the university clearly forgot to make you do the compulsory course called “Shutting The Fuck Up About Your Study After 45”. In fact they couldn’t get rid of you, and you kept going, finishing your completely self-centred fantasy degree at age 97, and appearing as a regular on University Challenge.

The Dating Game: The Bachelor New Zealand Finale

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Enjoy spending time in the crow’s nest, spooning

I’ve sat through the second season of The Bachelor—like everyone else who has bothered to watch—with a sense of despondency, shame, bemusement and stupefaction.

It’s nothing like the first series, with the strapping, amusing Art Green who—despite being some sort of MediaWorks plant (probably)—at least had an inner spark greater than a Bic lighter.

Jordan is okay. At the end of the day, I am sensing that this is all there is: An acting hack who is a gigger. A punter. A player.

He looks bored and cattle-prodded.

Everything about this show has screamed ‘bad sequel’; everything ‘bad first date.’

In fact, bad dates were a feature of this series. They were horribly complex pre-mating meetings that were nothing to do with having real fun or getting to know each other. Instead, each party spent continuous hours strapped into crotch-splaying harnesses, or on an international flight to somewhere fanciful—to get into more harnesses.

Those dates were so inaccurate for New Zealand culture. In this land, we meet at parties, at work, sometimes at Mobil Corner of a Friday night…Unless I am missing some crucial slice of data about romance, do couples actually climb into the crow’s nest of someone’s private tea clipper for a standing spoon on the first date?

The word ‘private’ was repeatedly used, which for a reality show revealed just how stupid the producers think the viewers are (really stupid). Private boats, cars, secluded dinner locations, all away from pairs of eyes, apart from the glare of the camera broadcasting the date to the nation.

The real reason for the private dates was to amplify paranoia in the other contestants who wondered how far the other girls were getting with Jordan, and what expense was being spent overall. This, too, served to reinforce the idea that the more money he spent of the production funds on you, the more desperate Jordan was to shag value you.

The dates became increasingly intimate but in reality, any New Zealand female might have pressed the ‘sex please’ submission wayyyyyy before this stage. And moved on pretty quickly.

Now Jordan must pick his bride slash promotions model. Is it bride? It’s down to Naz and Fleur, who represent the yin and yang of so many, many television production depictions of women Who Are Eligible For Marriage.

Naz is apparently the One You Wouldn’t Marry. But you’d fancy the Christ out of her. She’s ‘good for a laugh’.

Then there’s Fleur. She is the One You Would Marry. She is the one who will gaily wipe down the sideboards and pick up the kids. She’d meet the KPI of wife.

My prediction is that Jordan will choose Naz, because none of it is real anyway, Naz deserves to win, and this franchise should be discontinued as it is.

I’d like to think that the chauffeur in the first episode gets his own gig, though. The guy needs cheering up.

While we wait for the next TV3 series, The Block NZ, here’s DJ Jordan:

http://www.tv3.co.nz/Jordans-Cocktail-Party-Playlist/tabid/5124/articleID/125348/Default.aspx

Coronation Street’s Deep Thinker: Tim Metcalfe

Tim_metcalfe_2015

Hapless

Tim Metcalfe is a hapless Englishman, stuck in the middle of others’ drama, in a suburb called Weatherfield.

If you thought Steve MacDonald or Peter Barlow had fairly hard existences, think again.

Windass

Tim entered the show in 2013 as the birth father of Faye Windass, who is the adoptive daughter of Anna and Eddie Windass.

Yes. Windass.

Initially he bonded with Faye, and became Preferred Parent, mainly because he had no ostensible rules or skills, and Faye could break free from Anna’s earnest, caring and loving parenting style for a bit.

To facilitate this, Faye cooked up a cracker storyline about how Anna was an unfit parent, with a view to going to live with hapless party Tim.

Initially it worked, with Faye happily moving in with Tim, and within two days he’d left her home alone, and by the Friday she’d only eaten toast for three days straight.

Poor Tim, we thought, it was a big step, and good on him for having that frosty pint at the Rovers all day.

It was as if he had loser stamped all over his shaven pate, and then along came …

Web of Doom

Sally Webster.

And if he thought life was a bit confusing and unfair up until that point, he hadn’t seen anything yet.

For Sally breaketh the balls, slowly and surely, and Tim was no Kevin Webster.

He was jobless, and (once the bogus allegations about Anna were proven to be fake, and party time at Cool Dad’s had come to a grinding halt – childless) Tim, without even a ladder like Graeme Proctor with which to start a climbing empire, nor a brass razoo to rub against another, craved a powerful career.

Ladder

But with a bit of gentle fishwifery from Sal, he built a window washing empire from the ground up, and could reach the dizzying heights of success across the many windows of the Street; even Norris might put his hellish judgemental baby-boomer seal of semi-approval on it.

And Tim just sits through it all, eyebrows cocked in bemusement and sometimes bewilderment at the machinations of the partial humans falling apart around him.

Booze

He is Everyman, the bystander in his own life, the observer.

Most of the characters need affairs, whiskey, a light murder here and there to distract from the gutter boredom of Weatherfield.

Tim needs only a pint of Double Diamond and a space in which to stare ahead, one thousand yards.

He is the greatest character on the show, of this era.

Boganism

junesteph

Remember June and Steph, the ‘Bogan Besties’ of My Kitchen Rules?

They were functional bogans.  They showed that bogans were no longer just bong-toting types with a penchant tyre fires and Corrosion of Conformity.  The friends were acceptable, taxpaying, school-run bogans, who probably shopped at Caroline Eve.

I had bogan mates at school.  Maybe I was one too?

In ’87, Bogans liked to drink a lot, particularly during the day. I was always of the ilk that you should have the fortitude to wait until at least 2pm, because you could pretend that this was just afternoon drinks—going through to about half past four the next morning.

Bogan chicks wore black lace and white boots.  These boots were usually punched out, zippered and tasseled, and unlike popular thought, really didn’t go with anything, least of all a muslin-and-lace Stevie Nicks dress.

Bogan chicks were kind.  They always shared their Winfield Green fags with me, anyway.

Bogan dudes were harder to pigeonhole. They were highly opinionated and many of them incredibly conservative.

index

Misunderstood? He could have a vast Michael Nyman collection. You just never know

I remember one night getting into a lengthy conversation with some bogans about religions of the world, and their associated stereotypes.

Cringe from start to finish.

For a start, of all the things you could be rambling on about in a drinking establishment, wasted out of your mind on double Southern Comforts, why would you specifically be directing the conversation to religion?

Bogans are the centre of the bogan world, not some monotheistic deity. Do not shove a more powerful being into the world of the bogan, unless it holdeth a guitar.

We could have talked generally about any of the interesting world conflicts, and even done a quick analysis about which political flashpoint we felt was the most destructive all round:  the Cuban missile crisis?  The Irish troubles?  The metal/rap war of 1987?

Alas, that was not the conversation this pocket of bogans wanted to have.

One of the things that unifies bogans though, isn’t just lengthy religious discourse or anti-rap hate talk; it’s food.

June and Steph were real foodies.

If The Creator leveled the earth tomorrow, do you know who would survive?

Cockroaches. And Bogans.  They would make a barbecue out of the molten remains of their remastered Deep Purple CD collection and cook up the best feed, ever.

The Suburban Shopping Mall

 

mallThere is a place where we all ultimately go, like McDonald’s or BB’s Cafe, and that place is called the local shopping mall.

The local malls have been undercut by the Westfields but they stand, steadfast, like a beacon of cheapness, scattered across suburban New Zealand.

They’re places to go when the big malls are too scary, and you’re happy to come home with a bag of singlets from Fancy Chic Fashions, or a flat white pumped out of a hands-free machine.

They’re still in that blissful state of ignorance, these malls.

Some of them are a doughnut shape.  From Google Earth, malls like this are basically Drone targets—the bulls eye being the leafy planted area in the middle—or is this the secret unseen operations-centre of the mall, in which a security despot mans several security screens, feeding customer information through to the stall holders in the leased shop spaces?

Probably not.

Where I grew up (Howick), there was such a mall. It was called Howickville.

It was a fantastic hexagon shape.  In the Drone Target part, there was a fountain, with real water.

The bookshop nearby was called Fountain Bookshop.  Every Christmas Eve, with the fountain lit up like an effect from Krull, there would be Midnight Madness which entailed hammered teenagers splashing water from the fountain onto each other, and punters trying to get a long tassled Stevie Nicks skirt from Dare to Wear.

These old malls had no theme — ergo — no chain-store misery.  They were held together by a supermarket hub, which drew you in to the many delights.  Once you were in these malls, with their single set of stairs, and one-way escalator, you could never escape. Around and around you went.

Perhaps you had 10 minutes up your sleeve.  Suddenly these one-off, under-performing  havens offered you things you couldn’t live without:

  • white singlets with a shelf bra, two for $5
  • a diamond ring for only $49
  • Laura Ashley-look wrapped soaps
  • piss
  • small fold-down umbrellas, with a ladybird motif
  • the chance to win the new Toyota Corolla (hatch up to show spacious interior), if you placed your proof of purchase of at least $40 in a small, badly-constructed shoe box
  • a camera and film developing shop (closed)
  • a size XXXL Chicago Bulls singlet
  • plastic basins and holders for around the home, office and garage

Strip shopping does not have the same hold over a customer.  You are relatively free to cross the road and, in fact, just park outside the shop of your choice.  The mall has youYou can’t escape.  And in many ways, you don’t even want to.

Don’t let these hexagonal bazaars get to the point where a giant Bayley’s FOR LEASE sign covers Dakshin’s Curry Palace, BB’s Coffee House or Brown’s CZ Ring Emporium.

Go down to your local mall today, get a cappuccino, sit on a courtesy chair, and shop to freedom with one of those wheeling basket-holder arrangements.

You are worth it!

Blind date

gd1

Hi. I never use these things normally. Bit of a misfit. I’m looking for good friends, good wine, good laughs. I like to go disco danzig. I’m easy going and GSOH. Swipe me!

I recently heard a few tales of online dating. It seems there’s a swag of blokes out there who are great company, are CEOs, have extensive land portfolios and are generally all-round GCs.

That’s what it says in their bio. Yet, they are single. What gives?

And what happens when you swipe right?

Let’s take a walk through a few scenarios.

You swipe right. He seems nice! He’s in Torbay. He wants to meet.

You suggest to meet a nearby café. He rejigs the date so you meet at his. Is this cricket? You don’t want to come off up for it.

Oh well, you’re magnanimous and you are a newbie to this, and your goodwill and excitement at this cool game is overflowing. You pull into the driveway, flick your hair a bit and ring his doorbell.

The next morning at tea break, you tell your workmates of the strange amorphous mass that greeted you at the door. With a white singlet used to strain tea, and no ostensible sense of humour at all, your ‘date’ sized you up like the mussel platter at Valentines. Later, he messages you with his ‘honesty’.

Hey honey, great to meet, but tbh you’re not my body type. But good luck!

You’ve taken your first body blow, but you get back up and back on the horse. The horse takes you to another catch, a musician this time. “That sounds amazing”, you think, only briefly wondering why someone who is a musician is single.

Again you do the danse macabre of arranging the first face-to-face meeting. This time it’s at the Palmers Garden World café and not exactly what you had in mind, but hey, again, you are willing to make this work.

He’s a no-show. That’s strange, you think, because for the week leading up to the date, he was all over you like a cheap suit, sending you pictures of engagement rings and Snap movies of him on his knees with one hand over his chest, and the other extended, Marcus Aurelius styles, with audio of Children by Robert Miles in the background, his favourite artiste. Another thing you are prepared to overlook.

You hear nothing for days and consider deleting the dating app, since the only people coming up in your area are guys with a rat’s tail or screencaps of celebrities like Draco Rosa.

Then, the inexplicable.

The musician (we’ll call him Ricky), texts a sad tale of remorse.

Yeah, I’ve just got a crazy-busy* schedule and a few work things popped up.

You delete the app, have a nice cold shower and continue to walk the walk of sanity, watching a few Micky Flanagan live gigs and you admire how the offline world while at times lonely, seems robustly honest, and then suddenly …

… an old work mate is in town, and without thinking anything into it you meet for coffee, then dinner, then he starts to offer to do a few things for you like shag you and that’s that.

The Torbay guy disintegrates like candy floss in water and Ricky Martin continues to voyeuristically read your every Snap story for the next ten years,

 

*masturbating

Those who can, do. Those who can’t, bully

Joffrey is a workplace bully and also a total ballsack.

Joffrey is a workplace bully and also a total ballsack.

A lot has been written around the workplace bully.

One of the most prolific researchers was the late Tim Field who shared his findings here.

He carried out fairly extensive research into how the bully operates in the workplace and it is quite an eye-opener.

His premise is:  Those who can, do. Those who can’t, bully.

In short, he asserted that bullies actually aren’t all that capable in terms of what they claim about their talents, and are envious of those who achieve from a position of natural talent and honesty.

This quite different from what is taught at school. That bullies choose obvious targets, the weak, perhaps a person with a disadvantage, either social or physical.

At school, bullies often act in groups rather than alone, and have a single imperative. The cliché is that a target (the victim) is positioned to provide the bully with a kind of ‘supply’ whether that supply is something tangible such as bus money, or an intangible such as to make the victim feel shame for entertainment.

This is not always so for the workplace bully, since the social and economic ladder is much more difficult to climb. The workplace bully shuns collectivising, and prefers the divide and conquer ethos.

Here, I am not talking about ‘being bullied’ in the workplace as such. This post is about the bully themselves. Who are they?  Why do they bully?  Why do they choose to bully when they could just as easily get good results from playing with a straight bat?  Why do they lie, when it would be just as easy to tell the truth?  Easier, in fact, since there is no trail of deceit to audit.

I think the answer rests in what motivates a bully to begin with. I’m purposefully avoiding the use of the terms sociopath, psychopath and narcissist here because in some ways it forgives the behaviour. Let’s keep it simple.

These people are bullies.

Who knows what their childhoods were like. As adults, their modus operandi is different from the usual work ‘drone’, (as the bully sees them) who seek to pay bills and race home to family life, since that is the core of their world. Warmth, companionship and shared humour are some of the aspects of non- work life normal folk cherish above all.

The bully does not race home in the same way. Those elements hold no value for them —they are ostensibly boring and disposable and cannot be measured by a ‘win’ or a ‘lose’.

Imagine waking up in the morning and seeing everything around you as having a function. People, cell phones, the fridge. All have a function to serve and none are differentiated.

The bully aligns human qualities with those of devices, electronics, cars—basically inanimate objects. In that respect, if they stop working, the bully becomes agitated rather than sympathetically curious. It’s more, “Why doesn’t the fridge light come on anymore?  Now I can’t see my veges. Why won’t my device pick up WiFi?  Time to chuck it and get a new one. Why won’t my girlfriend just accept my criticisms about her weight?  Might be time to get a new one.”

In the modern world of supply, where it seems nothing ever runs out, it’s easy to see how attractive these conditions are for the bully. So what if someone at work couldn’t take your racist jokes and then left. There’ll be someone else to replace them.

At work, these humanless traits transfer easily. The only difference is that the mask must change from nasty to nice since the bully learns that being visible and accountable to different people for different purposes is a tough game to maintain.

Hence, many bullies are chameleons, and even after they are found out, many observers will still claim what a kind and considerate person they seemed. Bullies are great mimics and learn the right things to say and the correct facial expressions to pull depending on the event. They are a mirror.

What a bully wants to know is What Side You Are On. Lots of sane humans tend to live out their lives not worrying so much about sides, teams, competitions, allegiances, loyalties. Point scoring. Most just want an easy work life and to be left alone to do a great job.

Bullies do not value that independence or intrinsic vigour. They are highly dependent, plugged-in and extrinsically motivated. They love to show off to make others feel less important. They enjoy having just so that others are without. In this respect, the world to them is singular and linear, a hierarchy, and there is no room for others’ opinions or successes.

Workplace bullies have allies or enemies. Their allies are people who don’t call them on anything, even when they know they should. The enemies are the people who see through the act or try to avoid contact altogether.

Workplace bullies come to work to stir and cause trouble. Here is an example.

At one workplace in which I worked, one person used most of the classic tactics. It was amazing that no-one really got harmed by any of it but people visibly squirmed whenever they were approached by this person. No-one could put their finger on it, as it was insidious, snakey, sidling-up behaviour. You can’t fire a person for that.

The chatter was always overly friendly and designed for information gathering purposes. It was widely believed that the manager had this bully working as a kind of mole, finding out what the ‘feeling on the ground’ was and whether any staff were thinking of leaving. Always, always about the money.

It made workplace life very uncomfortable and people became hypervigilant. The irony was, it made them want to leave.

The problem with the workplace bully is that often they are very good at their job, or know the ‘speak’ to appear competent. Management overlooks the shitty behaviour because they need that person, or worse, they enjoy having their ego stroked by that person and haven’t see through the veneer of lies.

Why does the bully act like this?

Their entire being must be taken up with the fear of being found out that they are not what they say they are. The answer is of course to be honest about your talents in the first instance, but what if you lack talent but desperately want power?

 

Bullying is a huge problem in the New Zealand workplace.

It is just exhausting to be around this kind of person and being made to feel like you are being watched and accountable. It’s very hard to stamp out because bullies are clever and know how not to get caught. They also have a ferocious gift for lies and if they do forget the stories they’ve told, they merely back-pedal and reinvent the tale another way. It’s truly a system of lying and smoke-and-mirror corruption.

The real problem, though, is recognition of the problem, and as it stands, bullies tend to get into the top leadership positions, and are often very financially successful. We’ll not move forward on this while the model of the ‘top dog’ is celebrated despite their huge shortcomings in the area of interpersonal workplace relations.

For more information about workplace bullying, have a look at Worksafe’s site here.