Uncomfortable moment with an ex

I was in a café yesterday, having a coffee with my wife before we went on about our day. It was all quite pleasant until I went in to pay and there, sitting at a table with some other people, was an ex of mine. I saw her. She saw me. I started to smile a pleasant Hello when she quickly looked away. There was no question that our eyes had met and that we recognised each other, yet she just looked away. Blatantly ignoring me, choosing rudeness over politeness.

It wasn’t even a particularly acrimonious break-up. She got sick and was laid up with the flu and a throat infection for a couple of weeks. That’s what she told me, at least. She said she’d call me when she was feeling better. That call never came. I tried to call her a couple of times, but she must have been screening my calls as she never answered. I left a message a couple of times. I even considered calling from someone else’s phone so that she wouldn’t recognise the number. It would have given me a very satisfying, “Aha! Trying to avoid me, are you?” But that would have been petty and rather pointless. So I gave up.

It was guilt on her part, of course. She knew that she’d done the low and sneaky thing, not having the guts to face up to me and say, “I don’t want to do this any more.” The reason she didn’t want to do that, I think, is twofold. One, she was too chickenshit to be honest with me and, two, she was trying not to be honest with herself. She knew that she was weak and she wasn’t prepared to give me the opportunity of talking her out of it. Or even the opportunity to berate her for quitting on me.

It’s happened a few times and it always surprises me. In fact, it seems to happen that way more than any other way and I think it’s because these girls are always a little disgusted with themselves for giving up on something they were always trying to be so positive about. They know it’s wrong, so they sneak away rather than stand up and say, “I’ve changed my mind!” After all, in the long run, what do I care if they leave me?

There’s always plenty more Personal Training clients waiting for a spot to become free for them.

Ban the toys

I was a little bit encouraged while reading the news today, which is quite unusual. Fast food companies are going to start addressing the problem of childhood obesity by no longer giving away little plastic toys in ‘happy meal’ type promotions. This is actually good in several ways. Firstly, it reduces the desire to have more happy meals in order to collect more toys. This is the desired outcome of the marketing in the first place and the fast food industry has recognised it as contributory to childhood obesity. Of course, we all know that the industry is only making these concessions as quickly as possible in an effort to stop the entire banning of junk food advertising. However, let’s be glad of every step forward.

Interestingly, spokespeople for the fast food companies have been saying how the banning of advertising won’t help anyway. Their theory is that the advertising does nothing to promote the consumption of their product; it simply raises awareness of their particular brand. Well, that’s quite plainly a steaming pile of horse turds. If the advertising didn’t result in sales, the companies wouldn’t pay premium rates for it. Of course, the average consumer if considered daft as a brush and corporations prey on this all the time to make us consume more of their crap.

Anyway, they’re going to stop giving away these little plastic trinkets with meals and that’s a good thing. Not only will it hopefully reduce the desire for these meals in the first place, but it should also stop thousands of tons of useless, poorly made plastic novelties from ending up in landfill three weeks after they’re “bought”. Kids have a notoriously short attention span in the first place. Giving them more throw away toys is pointless and unnecessary and everyone knows this. However, the companies create a need, the child complains that it needs this latest thing and the dumb parent concedes and perpetuates the cycle.

Which brings us neatly to the root of the problem. Why do parents let their children eat this rubbish anyway? Anyone with the slightest concern for their child’s wellbeing should avoid a burger joint like they would avoid a campsite for proud paedophiles. If there was ever any proof needed that these things lack any nutritional benefit whatsoever, one only needs to look at the burger on display at the Alpha Gallery in Erskineville. The artist Greg Shapley and his friend bought the cheeseburger at Blacktown McDonalds in January last year. It was exhibited last year and is appearing again from today at Alpha. According to Shapley, “Miraculously, it has not deteriorated at all; the meat is not maggotted, and the cheese is as fresh as the day is was, umm, …processed.”

Not miraculous at all really. It would need fresh, nutritional ingredients to go off. So let’s be thankful that the companies are starting to address the inherent problems of feeding this offal to our kids (grown-ups should know better, after all, and deserve everything they get). Although, it does occur to me that perhaps we’ve got this the wrong way around. If only we could convince these companies to keep the happy meals, but instead of not supplying toys, perhaps they could supply only the toys and ban the “food”. I would venture a guess that the toy would have more nutritional value than the burger.

I know what I should have said

We’ve all been in that situation where somebody, for whatever reason, has pissed us off or insulted us and we had no comeback. Invariably, minutes or hours later, an absolute gem of a rejoinder comes to us. Of course, by the time we think of one it’s about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike. In some ways, it’s even more frustrating to come up with a rapier-like riposte too late than to never come up with one at all.

I was reading in the paper today about a few people blessed with the ability to not only come up with a good response on the spot, but to make an art form of it. Probably the most famous is Winston Churchill’s response to Bessie Braddock when she said, “Sir, you are drunk!” Churchill replied, “Madam, you are ugly. In the morning, I shall be sober.” Gold.

Another good one, closer to home, the late New Zealand prime minister Robert Muldoon, commenting on the migration of Kiwis to Australia said, “It’s raising the IQ’s of both countries.”

Let’s pop back to Churchill for a moment, as he was arguably the greatest sharp retort expert ever. Nancy Astor once opined, “Sir, if you were my husband, I would give you poison.” Churchill’s pause-free response was, “If I were your husband I would take it.”

And a very special one from Anon, Australia (it’s real origins lost in the mists of urban legend). A parliamentarian says, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am a country member!” The resounding response was, “We remember!”

The thing to remember is that when someone is annoying you, the best thing is to have ammo ready. Practice makes perfect and someone like Churchill didn’t have a skill like his from birth. He spent years making snide comments to all and sundry until he became an expert. We can be very petty creatures, us humans, and for that reason alone there are few things that will give you the kind of pleasure that a shredding comeback will. Consider it a sport and get practicing.

Our rising art stars

Halinka Orszulok, my wife, is a superb artist. Of course, I can see where some people would spot some room for bias in my opinion. But don’t take my word for it, others agree.

The lastest issue of Australian Art Collector magazine has run a feature called ‘Undiscovered Artists’ (Issue 36, April – June 2006). By undiscovered they are referring to “artists whom, while currently unrepresented, undiscovered or unknown, are ready to shine.” They selected just ten artists from all over Australia. Halinka was one of the NSW artists chosen. High praise indeed from one of Australia’s most influential art magazines.

Each artist got a feature page with an image of their work and a blurb all about them. Here’s Halinka’s page:

It would seem that Halinka’s star is indeed rising. She’ll also be featured in an interview about her art with Australian fashion magazine RUSSH in the near future.

You’d better be quick and buy her work while you can still afford it. It’s got to be a sound investment now. There’s a link to her site in the sidebar on the right.

But it’s free

I usually avoid fast food outlets like I avoid street corner evangelists. However, every once in a while I have to make a concession. When I’m working, travelling between clients with little time in between, I sometimes have to eat while I drive. If at all possible I’ll find a nice café and get them to make me up a fresh sandwich and a juice. Sometimes there’s not much choice around. My only concession to fast food in instances like this is Subway. They at least use fresh salad and make the sandwich right in front of you. And the fillings, if you choose carefully, are fundamentally recognisable as food.

Today I had to make one of these stops. I went in and ordered my sandwich and (as I am weak on very rare occasions) I asked for a cup in order to have a soft drink.

The girl behind the counter handed me my sandwich and cup (as it’s the type of place where you fill it yourself) and then started heading for a cookie.

“What sort would you like?” she asked, gesturing to the selection on offer.

Confused, I replied, “Er, I didn’t ask for a cookie.”

She shrugged, “They’re free with a soft drink.”

Realisation dawned. “Oh, I see. Well, thanks, but I don’t want one.”

“But it’s free.”

“I know. But I don’t want one.”

“But it’s free.”

My face must have started betraying some level of consternation tinged, I’m sure, with anger. She actually looked at the next person in the queue and made a face as if I was the mad one. Her eyes were apologising to the next customer on my behalf.

“I don’t care if it’s free, I don’t want a cookie.” I thought this was about as clear as I could make it.

“If you buy a sub, you can have a drink and a cookie for two dollars,” she explained, even though I neither requested or needed any further explanation.

I decided to explain something to her instead. “Those things are nothing but little blobs of sugar and butter and I don’t want or need one, whether it’s free or not.”

“You still have to pay two dollars for the drink.”

I couldn’t bear it any more. I held out some money for her, staring at her, daring her to say another word. She took the money and gave me change, looking at me as if I was Rain Man.

And people wonder why there’s an obesity epidemic in this country.