Backpacking and Bipolar II. Taking Manic Depression on tour.
“Yeah, just nip down the shop and get some if you want mate”, Steve called as the keys sailed through the air towards me. “You’ve driven an automatic before right?”
“Of course!”. I replied gamely. This was only half true. The half that was true was that I had driven before.
Puh for park, Duh for drive. Ruh for revers. “I GOT DIZZ, ELVIS!”.
There was no one-armed man but I still bumped it off down the road. I kangaroo’d down the gravel drive grinning like an idiot. I reckon it will have only taken Steve the time it took me to pogo down the road before he realised that he had never been so glad that his cars are repaired write offs. I checked my rear-view as he watched me do the learner two-step over the horizon, shaking his head (but still smiling, I like to think).
Playing it cool I slid back the seat, set it to an angle that you could drip-dry your washing up on and got the air con blasting. Here I was, out on the highway in Australia. “Put me through to the engine room… FULL FORWARD.”
Malanda was about a 10 minute drive and I tried to get used to driving with four wheels again, occasionally having to self consciously remove my hand from the ‘gearstick’ lest my left hand decided to park the car at 100km/h. The roads here are amazing. Perfectly smooth and built to drawings done by someone with Parkinson’s. I’ll be honest – its been a long time since I permitted myself to make aeroplane noises and drive with both hands on the wheel. As with “sit down wee”s, these moments are special treats and I milked that drive for all it was worth.
I parked up opposite the Spar, having stabbed the brake every time I blinked, took a breath or returned a wave to a pedestrian. I was still repeating the pin number to my Oz bank account whilst wandering around the supermarket. Whilst heading towards the checkout I began fumbling in my pocket for my shiny N.A.B debit card. The lass arming the great beeping auctioneer was quite pretty but in that way that makes you feel a wrong-en for noticing. She looked about 20 so that means in all likelihood she was 15 and I’m now on a list somewhere.
I made a grave logistical miscalculation when approaching the checkout. So focussed was I on my conflicted assessment of the young woman that I’d not noticed that she was stood away from the till. If she had stayed still we would have been at ‘normal stranger conversation’ range. When she moved to operate the beepbox, we were at ‘this fucking elevator is too full. No way it can fit 16 – that sign is bullshit!’ range.
The nature of being a strange person is that you make very superficially strange decisions that are perfectly logical, but only to one person on our planet. I thought that taking a step back might make the young lady think she had bad breath/body odour/etc, so I resolutely stood my ground. This was a mistake, and my accidental invasion of her personal space changed the context of my “Oh, good day!” smile to a “Would you like to see some puppies?” grin. I only registered this as the girl’s reciprocal smile ebbed from her features, leaving a tide-mark of embarrassed concern. “Is this the lunatic that will pull out a gun or follow me home?” Her almost blank face seemed to say.
I stumbled through a faltering greeting as proficiently as I had driven the car out of Steve’s driveway and rushed to put my goods in the bag she had opened in preparation for the transaction. Girl-hand-touch – In my present circumstances this was significantly worse than gay-hand-touch. “No I need to scan them first” she said neutrally. “Sorry, we don’t have supermarkets in England, do we H&J you dickhead!?” – I heard my inner normal person scream from his cell.
Finally the card payment – thank heavens. Let’s get out of here. I shoved my card in, and she began using international sign language for “wrong way” so I took my card back and put it in with the bar facing up, considering but ultimately deciding against a “card reader only recognising upside down cards from English people” joke. Still the wrong way and she leaned over, taking the card out and swiping it like the security doors in Terminator II. I’ll feel cool as hell doing that later, but not then. I had taken the opportunity to move back. Too little too late.
“Check or savings?” She asked. I was momentarily stunned. What on earth was she talking about. Eventually I realised that there were two options on the card reader and I tardily moved to press “Savings”. Another girl-hand-touch, I had taken too long and then appeared to reach out and poke her finger with spastic lust. Things were going from bad to assault-charge.
She cleared her throat and made bulging eye contact with a colleague behind me who I’m sure will include her gratitude for not having to serve the mouth breathing troglodyte in her prayers tonight. SHITFLAPS! The fucking PIN NUMBER. Whilst I’d been doing my James Bond act I’d stopped reciting the pin number. I tried twice unsuccessfully and then sulked silently back to the shelves with the ingredients.
I exited via an alternate route. Fucking hobnobs – I’ll never forgive them for prompting this indignity. When I go in tomorrow I think it will be time to crack out the mentally-challenged twin brother routine.
“That’s how I roll.” they say. Well earlier today I felt like I rolled like a drooling lobotomised ape who’s carer lost their grip on the wheel chair at the top of Mount Embarrassment.