I’ve started talking to myself. Of course, I’ve done this ever since I was a kid – usually to mirrors in the privacy of my own home, usually in an Australian accent, usually mimicking scenes from stellar movies like Grease 2 – but lately I’ve started doing it out in public. Thankfully, you can get away with it when you’ve got a baby as people think you’re chatting to your child.
I’m a mild-mannered person on the outside – full of smiles a plenty and gracious over-user of the words ‘thank you’. Unfortunately when people do something to irritate me, I have no other mode to switch to – I function on some kind of polite default setting. Another name for it might be British reserve – if someone bumps into me and it’s clearly not my fault I’m usually the first person to say sorry. In fact, I’ll probably throw a thank you in there too.
Which is why I talk to myself. It’s hard work being polite all the time – I need an outlet, a punch bag if you will. I’ve settled many a score by doing so. I’ve torn apart ex-boyfriends, stripped down pesky work colleagues, even taken bosses down a peg or two – and it’s all been between, me, myself and the bathroom mirror. It’s entirely subconscious, it doesn’t take long, I always feel better afterwards and I exit the bathroom cleansed without stepping foot in the shower.
The reason I’ve started wittering away to myself in public is fuelled by intense irritation, most probably brought on by second time pregnancy. I should be a great ball of shiny haired, glowing cheeked, second trimester love but instead I find myself impatient and intolerant. This week my beef is with fellow supermarket shoppers of a certain vintage.
I mean, old ladies can be relied on for giving little children sweet compliments and dazzling, if wonky-toothed smiles right? Their eyesight might not be what it once was but they can spot a lady with a baby bump, a restless toddler and a basket with a few groceries and be gracious enough to usher you through before her in the check-out line, especially as she’s cradling a wallet stash of coupons while wheeling a cart full of kitty litter and frozen TV dinners.
Wrong! My local supermarket has become the drop off joint for grizzly old people on a bus trip to Grumpy-dom. They wheel their carts demonically threatening to chop off toddler Eliza’s fingers should they be in the wrong place, they swoop in and snatch things I’ve been studying on shelves, they frown at me, my bump and Eliza in turn as their forehead creases grow ever furrowed.
And when it comes to check-out time, it’s like some bumper car show down – all flashing metal and a heady whiff of lavender talc.
Meanwhile I keep well back, rocking back and forth on my heels, smiling inanely and cursing under my breath. It may look like I’m talking to Eliza but truth is, I’m taking apart senior citizens.
The funny bit is that Eliza has a thing for old people. She’s not a publicly smiley baby. You can be the sweetest faced, most cherub-voiced, candy bearing person ever but Eliza will most probably greet you with something resembling disdain.
But put her in front of old people and she becomes Lucille Ball – all grins, waves and thigh-slapping jokes. See the above photo for evidence of a standard senior citizen greeting. Unfortunately these all seem lost on the grizzlers frequenting our local supermarket but bless her, she charges on undefeated with her pleasantries.
She did get a whiff of success at the weekend though. I’d singled out one particular old lady from the others that day – she was on a whole different scale of grumpy. I witnessed her growling at shop assistants, barking at fellow shoppers, driving her cart like a tank.
Later, we happened to be out in the parking lot at the same time - I packing groceries into our car, she wheeling her armoured tank groaning with kitty litter to hers. Eliza must’ve spied her first as she was squirming in the cart seat while working her way up to a mega-watt smile. Just as she passed us Eliza not only waved but squealed ‘hello’....it was enough to melt the frostiest of hearts.
Sagging with defeat the old lady raised a hand and waved at her before marching on. Of course a smile wasn’t cracked, a word wasn’t uttered but it was enough. The victory was ours and this time I needed not mention a word of it to myself – or to the bathroom mirror....Toddler 1 – Grumpy Old People 0.