What to talk about when things get uneasy

I know that people who come into the shop are a little more concerned than usual, and that if they weren’t before, they will be now. There have been conflicts and difficulties in the past, and I have had to intervene. But things have changed. The biggest change is that it is so easy to get things wrong, especially in a small shop where everyone can hear everyone else.This means I have to intervene more often.

Now I have something that can help a little. When there was angst about the government, I used it. Once, during an argument about Bob Hawke, I used it. Once, after an enraged threat, ‘Well, I’ll fucking tell you something’, I soothed the participant with it. Once some travellers from Victoria in my shop were told sharply that they had no right (to something). I fired the accuser with a new issue, and luckily it worked. A man leaned over me angrily about vaccinations, (‘it’s all about profit’), and I moved him on gently to a greater issue.

This is because there are common issues. We can bend our anger and hatred upon these, and they deserve it.

The greatest of these is phone updates.

I ask, ‘Do you like your phone?’

We mostly don’t. People bend over their phone screens for me, trying to find the words for something that, while vital, provokes endless rage. If necessary, I probe the wound:

‘Do you do the updates?’ No argument can survive this question. Everyone takes out their phone and looks at it, looking for the update still sitting there like an arsehole.

‘God, updates. With this phone, I can’t update anything. Look at this.’ And they show me the source of all evil, previous argument gone.

‘Fucking hate this phone. Don’t get an Android.’

‘Samsung. Useless. Apple is better. But…’

I ask, ‘Should I do this update?’ This provokes intense anxiety (except in young people, who will fearlessly update anything) in case I am mis-advised.

‘Don’t do it mate.”

‘Na, fuck that.’

‘Never.’

‘Do all of ‘em. Else you’ll be hacked the shit out of.’

There are other things. Printers. All people hate their printers. This includes me. They always work for the first eighteen pages… ‘

So, what printer do you recommend?’

‘God, I hate Canon. So shit. And Epsom. They’re wankers.’

“God. Don’t ask me. I got this one at home that….’

Australia Post. People look stern and severe.

‘You tell me why it takes ten days for a pack to get from here to Woodside. I mean, what are they doing with the stuff!’

‘You know what they charge? You ever been in there? You have to queue from here to the river. That’s because they’re all dickheads with fancy watches. Actually they’re ok here. But they’re shit in Mt Barker.

‘Well, they lost my stuff. Everyone knows they smash the parcels to bits and reckon they didn’t. No compensation for me.’

Developers.

I only use this for emergencies. Because after this one, everybody is family, and nobody will go home.

Wheel of Fortune

Dimitar Lazarov

Two people came into the shop and left again after about half a minute. This is because the Kevin Rudd biography was NOT the one they wanted.

They’d stood outside and argued about it for half an hour. Bending to examine the book through the window where it sat in the sun, doing nothing. Rapping the window, right in Kevin’s face. They moved away and came back. Once she partly opened the door, but the argument pulled her back out again. Finally, they made it inside. But it was the wrong book. He said, ‘Not to worry, not missing much with that fool.’

‘As if you’re going to win Wheel of Fortune, Trevor!’

The man, Trevor, said he thought he WOULD win Wheel of Fortune. He said that if he won a fortune, he would give it to the birds.

Artwork by Gerhard Gluck

God you’re an upper case!

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Two people are here in the shop arguing over the Douglas Adams books because they disagree over his first book. They are friends but they are experts. The first man lists off everything written by Douglas Adams and then comes back to the first book.

He says; not radio work, not Dr Who stuff, not short stories, only the books – so it is The Hitchhiker’s Guide. And he was drunk when he thought of it in the first place.
His friend says: God you’re an upper case!
And the first man says: victory.

No, you’re wrong

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You’re wrong, that’s a bookshop. It’s a bookshop.
There is a couple at the bookshop window and they seem exhausted. The man, after they had parked had let their little dog out of the back seat when he wasn’t supposed to, and his wife was greatly offended. She said; You let Addi out, Peter, you let Addi out! He said: sorry, sorry, sorry, and then she told him to stop rushing her and to forget about the Sydney to Hobart as it was mostly a lot of nonsense anyway.
The man had parked next to my shop thinking that it was a map shop and he smiled in a radiant kind of way through the window. She continued to tell him that he was wrong. He said that he knows a map shop when he sees one and this was one, a shop that had stuff that gives you an idea of how to get on. Then he said that he might look wrong on the outside, but he was not. But his wife had moved away and did not hear him. He kept looking through the window and thinking his correct and dazzling thoughts anyway. Then she came back, and they looked through the window together and he said: see that wood cat? And she nodded and they moved on, toward the bakery, serene.