something stupid

I did something stupid last night.

That’s what I told them at work today. I did something stupid.

This is what I did.

I got in a taxi cab. It was nearly midnight. I had just gotten off the plane and I hurried out of the terminal with my cabin-bag and no checked baggage because I’d travelled light. As you do on flights of a certain nature. The taxi rank was clear and the man in the fluro vest radioed for a taxi and joked about the cold weather and held the door open for me so I could get in.

None of this was stupid. This was okay.

I told the taxi driver my address and asked him to take a certain route because I’d been tricked into going the long way once or twice before and was determined it would not happen again. I was tired. I had limited funds. I wanted to get home to my bed.

This is reasonable.

The taxi driver said okay okay yes yes sure but you’ll have to direct me. I was tired. I said I can try but don’t you have a … and he said yes yes okay okay sure I do, I can do that. And plugged my address into the maps app whilst we drove out of the airport, his mobile phone glowing from his lap.

This was the beginning of the stupid thing.

He wanted to know who I lived with and did I have a boyfriend? I said yes, I have a partner and a cat because I thought the cat consolidated it. The cat created an image of familiar, long-term relationship and he should just back off and stop talking. But he didn’t. He said, am I too late then? Too late for you? Have a missed my chance? You are a pretty girl. And I said, yes, you are too late and I should have said more but I was sitting in the back of his cab and it was midnight and I was tired.

That was stupid.

This was even more stupid.

He asked if I used taxis much. I don’t. But the last time I told a taxi driver I used Uber I feared for my life so I said, I suppose, sometimes. He said, okay okay, great great – I’ll give you my number so you can just call me direct. You can just text me, he said, and I’ll get you. Any time. Anywhere. Even if I’m not working, I have my own car, I have a Ford Falcon and I can drive you anywhere. You and your friends. If you’re at a party you call me.

And I took the number because it was easier. I thought. Until he wanted me to text him so he had my number. He said he wanted to make sure I had the right number. He said he wanted my number so he knew who needed the taxi. I was sitting in the back of his taxi at midnight and I should have said no way, you’re not getting my number. But I didn’t. I sent the text.

He said we were friends.

I should have said no, we’re not.

But I didn’t say anything.

That was stupid.

Then he wanted to know if girls like men who sing and dance and I said I suppose when, really, I should have said I am tired, please just drive me home. He then sang which I thought was funny and something I could write into a short story or book and I clapped a little to make him stop for it was really quite terrible but he kept going even when he couldn’t remember the words. He didn’t know when to stop. It went on and he kept checking my reaction in his rear-view mirror.

Every night in my dreams, I see you, I feel you, that is how I know you … go on … 

There was a story about a couple kissing in the back of his cab and his high school crush and what is the definition of crush and perhaps he should go to university to meet girls.

I listened and smiled and laughed in the right places. But I didn’t want to.

When we finally arrived I paid him and got out as quickly as I could. He got out too. He demanded we get a selfie. We have to get a selfie he kept saying and ran around from his side of the cab to mine, blocking my path. I said no, I am tired. I said no, I’ve just got off a plane. I said no, I don’t want to. But he put his arm around me and pulled me in and held his phone up high and took a photo but he didn’t like that one and he shoved the phone in my hand and said you do it and he tried to position himself behind me, as if we were a couple standing in front of the Eiffel Tower or something. I said no, I don’t know how and he did it himself. I saw the photo. I am smiling. That is stupid. Then he hugged me and kissed me on the cheek and I scrambled up to my front door without looking back and felt so very stupid.

 

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Dear Abby

Dear Abby,

You turned 12 earlier this month and you still haven’t received a card or a gift from me. I have sent it. I sent it late. But I did send it, and a gift, so it should be in your letterbox any day now. Honestly. I am so terrible at this Long-Distance-Aunty stuff. It’s not like I forget birthdays and important events – I usually buy the card and gift weeks in advance and pop it on my desk and then the big day comes and goes and the gift and the card are still on my desk. It can’t post itself. I know that. So why don’t I just post it on time? Why don’t I? What is that about?

I have a One Direction collector card and lollipop pack thing sitting in the top kitchen drawer. I don’t know why it is in the kitchen drawer but it is. Every time I need a tea-spoon I see it; Zayn, Louis, Harry, Liam and Niall mocking me and my inability to post things on time. I bought you the collector card and lollipop pack thing on a whim from the local 7-11 months and months ago. I thought, I should send Abby a little something, let her know I’m thinking of her … But it just ended up in the drawer. You probably don’t even like One Direction any more, do you? Have they suffered the same fate as Justin Bieber who you didn’t like, then you did like and now you don’t like again? Bieber spat on one of his fans so I think you made a good decision to move on from him (1D haven’t spat on anyone have they? Oh, and did you notice I wrote 1D – that’s cool right?). What is with that behaviour? I suppose there is a lesson in it for all of us. If you ever get so famous that you think it okay to spit on someone who adores you without even knowing you, the same person who has, in some way, however small, elevated you to this level of fame where, for some reason, you can get away with the aforementioned behaviour then maybe it is time to just take a step back and rethink your life choices.

Now, I have never spat on anyone and I don’t think I ever would. Someone spat on me once. I was on the tram and this woman thought I was spy and said some disgustingly racist things to me (even though I’m not the race she seemed to think I was) and then she spat on me. Yep. That’s when I moved. In hindsight I probably should have moved when she thought I was spy but I didn’t want to be rude or judgemental or anything. So, instead, I got spat on. It was really gross. At least you could bottle up Justin Bieber spit and sell it on eBay to some Bielber for a lot of money.

Even though we can roll our eyes at Justin’s spitting there will come a time when we all, metaphorically, spit on a fan. We will do something that we know isn’t right or makes us feel horrible inside because we want to fit in or feel better about ourselves. Especially when you are 12.

I did it.

I said some really mean things about people when I was hanging out with this so-called popular group (our relationship didn’t last long but it has had a lasting effect). I remember them all laughing at one girl and her bra; a whole group of us laughing over something to do with her bra-strap. It was something so minor and idiotic, absolutely nothing worth laughing or picking on someone about, but I was going along with them because they were the ‘popular girls’.

I felt horrible inside. But I didn’t stop them. I was part of the group.

This group would relentlessly pick on someone because they were fat or thin or short or wore coke-bottle glasses or stumbled over an answer in class or wore the wrong sneakers or couldn’t run fast enough or didn’t play netball well enough or fell over or cried or were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time …

It was at this time I also decided to stop eating. The ‘popular girls’ liked me, I was in their group, and I knew the only reason for this sudden acceptance was because I had lost all that baby-fat people love to talk about. Why do people do that? Talk about baby-fat like it is something they can have a comment on like the weather. Is it anyone’s business? Really? Well, I noticed as I turned 12 that is became everyone’s business. People loved to talk about how I was losing it, the baby-fat, with a mixture of sadness and relief in their voices. They all noticed, even my well-meaning year 7 teacher.

What they didn’t notice was that I was losing more than the baby-fat. I hadn’t realised that losing baby-fat is just something that is meant to happen, that is just a part of growing up; nope, I thought it had all started because one day at school I skipped lunch. Now, I’m not dumb Abby (I was reading George Orwell right alongside Sweet Valley High) but that is how anorexia made its way into my brain and took up residence for awhile. So, I kept skipping lunch and eating as little as I could when I was being watched. It was stupid and it made me feel horrible inside. I wasn’t spitting on a metaphoric fan; I was spitting on myself. That is just as bad and even weirder, right?

But, I was 12 and I thought that being really, really skinny would mean the popular girls would accept me and I would be happy. But it felt funny inside. It wasn’t right. I wasn’t happy or healthy. But I didn’t stop it. I was part of the group.

So much of what I was doing when I was 12 was about impressing other people and not about impressing myself. If I could go back and be 12 again I hope that I would be able to be more myself and stand up for the people getting metaphorically spat upon on by the metaphoric Justin Biebers of the school.

When the leader of the popular girls decided we should write a very awful letter to our delightful music teacher I said ‘no’ and I finally left the little in-crowd. They were pretty spiteful but I managed. I discovered that the term ‘popular’ is very misleading in this context Abby. The ‘popular’ crowd tend to be the least popular, they are cliquey and cruel and not many people really like them all that much. Why should they like them? They were bullies. And I was a bully if I stayed with them.

I would like to say that that was that – from that moment I was on my own path and didn’t care what people thought … Of course I cared. I cared when they all started laughing at me and my shoe-laces (which were once considered very cool) and my skinny arms and my inability to play netball. But it gets better. It really, honestly, truly gets better.

I feel like it all begins when you are 12; that idea of going along with the majority, not wanting to cause a fuss, not listening to that little voice inside you that knows that you shouldn’t be laughing at / picking on / gossiping about someone, wanting desperately to ‘fit in’ (whatever the hell that means) …

Abby, please don’t fit in.

Don’t be one of the crowd. The crowd, particularly the ‘popular crowd’ are boring. They really are. Be yourself. Don’t change who you are, what you stand for or what you look like for anyone. You are not boring. Listen to that wonderful Abigail who is inside you and trust her no matter what. If something isn’t right call it, speak up, make it right. Don’t be scared to be different; be proud to be different.

Start your own popular group and actually be popular – inclusive and interesting and different.

And don’t, ever, spit on your fans.

You are a wonderful human being Abby. You are. Enjoy being 12 and enjoy being you.

Happy (belated) birthday. Now, let me know when that card finally arrives.

Missing you and sending lots of love,

Katy

xxx

***

An open letter to my 12-year old niece, and all 12-year old nieces, for the Daily Prompt Weekly Writing Challenge – Dear Abby

An unexpected cab ride; or, things I learnt from the taxi driver

NYC Cabs, New York 2008, Katy Warner

I think that anybody’s craft is fascinating. A taxi driver talking about taxi driving is going to be very, very interesting.

James Lipton

Today I had to catch a taxi. I don’t do that very often. Whenever I do I like to imagine I am Carrie Bradshaw and I am in New York with amazing shoes and the salary to afford it (the taxi and the shoes). This particularly taxi was taking me to Brunswick (which is not quite New York) because our borrowed 1988 Ford Laser refused to start (which is not quite Carrie Bradshaw’s style) to get me to a casting (which means I am not even close to being able to afford those shoes).

I love talking and I particularly love talking to taxi drivers. Sometimes it works out (I’ve had some enlightening political conversations). Sometimes it doesn’t (I’ve been asked out, rather emphatically, on a “date”). But it is always interesting.

Today I had a brilliant taxi driver who got me to Brunswick

a) on time

b) alive

and, as bonus, we had a nice chat during ridiculously expensive ride (which I didn’t feel so bad about paying due to a and b, above, but not necessarily in that order).

He told me he was trained nurse. Nursing was his passion. It was all he wanted to be. It was the job he loved most in the world. But here he was, driving a taxi because Australia would not recognise his four-year degree from a University in India nor his extensive experience. “Driving a taxi is better than nothing,” he told me. His positivity was incredible.

Along with some wonderful positive thinking, here’s what I learnt from the taxi driver today:

  1. Being called “Boss” has nothing to do with Bruce Springsteen
  2. Always speed up when approaching an amber light because “you never know which ones you will make”.
  3. Education is important (but Australia only recognises those educated in the western world) (i) Australia has a tendency to treat people from non-English speaking backgrounds in the most shameful way
  4. Taxi drivers have to deal with some of the most awful people in the world (“I think when people are drunk,” he said, “they just don’t realise what they are saying”) (i) Some people are gross when drunk (ii) Some people are gross all the time
  5. Positivity can be contagious
  6. Taxis trump public transport (i) Guaranteed seat (ii) Less likely to be coughed all over / sneezed all over / stepped on
  7. Ray-Bans are cool
  8. I am pink – like my EFTPOS Card (I’m taking that as a compliment)

I wish more people would speak to their taxi drivers. Yes, sometimes you may have to give the driver directions, yes, sometimes the driver may just be a jerk, yes, sometimes the driver may have bad-taste in music / jokes / appropriate conversation starters or a turn out to be some sort of homicidal maniac or racist / homophobic / sexist / angry, angry person … But we all know people like – besides, it always makes for great writing / blogging / dinner-partying material. Speak to your taxi driver – you never know what you might learn …

The Woman who asked Why or: How I l Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Critic

To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.

Aristotle

In my current day-job I work with really lovely people who always thank me for my work or say how great my Excel spreadsheets are or how happy they are with my contribution to the team or present me with two cinema tickets as a reward for all my efforts (yes, this actually happened. I saw Gatsby. That’s another story). Our department is not always this disneyfied-wonderland of positivity and appreciation, however I have never been nor felt criticized for my work.

It’s weird.

Because the work that I do that doesn’t-pay-the-bills-as-frequently-as-this-current-admin-job, as an actor and writer, is full of criticism. In fact, criticism and the Arts really go hand-in-hand; it’s part of the deal. Mum would always tell me I would need to “grow a thicker skin” if I wanted to be an actor … That sounded particularly terrifying and awful, especially to the fifteen year-old me who was sobbing into her pillow because she didn’t get the part in some god-awful amateur theatre production of Les liaisons dangereuses.

Actors, writers, theatre-makers, artists, designers, film-makers, creatives … We are all subject to criticism in our chosen fields. As an actor, simply not getting the gig can be taken as a criticism; that director thought she was better / prettier / thinner / more talented than me

To be honest, I am confident there are plenty of careers out there that must deal with fierce criticism everyday but there is something different about the criticism you receive for your creative work. Maybe because a little bit (or sometimes a lot) of yourself goes into creative work. Maybe because it is so exposing. Maybe because inside most people there is that creative urge, that sense that they too could have been doing something creative if only they’d had the break / money / parental support / reality television programs like The Voice, so that makes them some sort of expert who can dish-out criticism. Maybe because there really aren’t any “experts”. Maybe because the arts are so damn subjective (if you’re a crap doctor, you’re a crap doctor – there’s no question about it. Tobey Maguire, on the other hand, divides audiences).

There is also something different about the very public way in which that criticism is often given – reviews, particularly on the internet, are there for the world to see if they ever wanted to.

The growing of a thicker skin has been a very, very long process for me.

I once took part in a playwriting course – just a little bi-monthly meeting of wannabe playwrights, facilitated by one actual playwright. You would read your work aloud and get feedback. It was always a good day but never all that challenging. I was the youngest there and the only participant not attempting to write some sort of drawing-room drama. Needless to say the play I was working on, Dropped, was a little different from what the others found aesthetically pleasing.

After reading a section of my play (a section in which there is a bit of repetitive swearing but all in the appropriate context … of course) one of my fellow class-mates got quite irate:

“Why?” she asked.
“Why?” I didn’t know what she was really asking me here.
“Why?” she repeated.
“Why what?” I needed more information.
“Why?”
I just looked at her.
After a pause she continued, “I just don’t know why … I don’t understand. Why? Why these words? Why am I hearing this? Why?”

I didn’t have an answer for her.

That was criticism.

That was the first time the class had really challenged me.

And that was the moment I realised; as much as I hated it I also needed it – criticism.

It made me stop and think about what I was doing and why I was doing it. It also made me want to punch her in the face, but once I worked through that (no punches were thrown) I could actually start to look at my work objectively … Well, as objectively as you can.

Of course I won’t always like it, or agree with it, but I think I realised in that moment that it is a necessity for creative practice. Not a spiteful review or a mean-spirited comment but criticism that makes you think, question and challenge your work. Unfortunately there isn’t much of that around …

Learning to listen to criticism in whichever form it takes, to pick out the useful bits and brush off the crap, is difficult but you get to practice it a lot when you work in the arts.

It’s the only way I can keep turning up to castings. And not get the role.

It’s the only way I can keep writing. And not get the grant / commission / award.

In order to simply survive this crazy “industry” it is so very important separate the work from the person – to not look at a bad review or the fact you didn’t get a role as a personal attack … Keep it separate. Take from it what you can and make a choice: act on it or let it go. Otherwise, well, we would all go a little madder than we already are. Otherwise we would all just give up.

That woman with her incessant “whys” really did help me a hell of a lot.

(And Dropped is going to be performed soon complete with the aforementioned section in which there is a bit of repetitive swearing but all in the appropriate context … of course)

Things I learnt today (or; lists made whilst grieving or; reasons why everything is actually okay)

I had not intended to write about grief so much on this blog – but that is thing about grief. It is unexpected. I had not expected to lose my Grandad so soon after my Nan’s passing but we have. I don’t know how it will ever be okay but somehow it will happen: Things Will Be Okay.

In fact, if I really think about it and ignore that awful feeling in my stomach, things are okay now. They really are. I tried to think about this today.

So here’s a list (of course) of why things are truly okay …

1. I do not live in Syria … or a place that is currently in the midst of war or civil unrest

2. I can walk to the park with my own two feet and see it, smell it, hear it …

3. Coffee

4. I have a heater and a bed and a computer and a home

5. I have family and friends

6. The sun is shining (and if it wasn’t that would be okay too)

7. I can write a list

8. I work in a place where ‘compassionate leave’ not only exists but is truly implemented

9. Fountains

10. Ducks

11. Ducks swimming in fountains

12. Memories

13. The knowledge that everything will absolutely be okay …

Remembering my Nan (things I learnt about grief)

My beautiful and amazing Nanna passed away this year (I have already mentioned her in a previous post and will probably keep on writing about her forever). As those we love get older we know that it is only a matter of time before we that call, though nothing prepares you for it. We comfort ourselves with empty sentences; “they were old, they had such a long, wonderful life” but it doesn’t make the loss any easier. We can say “she was unwell and now she is at peace” but I don’t even know if that is true.

Nan had been battling Alzheimer’s for sometime. It is such a devastating disease – watching someone you absolutely love and adore slowly deteriorate in mind and body. To see this vivacious woman who was smart, creative and always go on the go become a shell of emptiness.

It is cruel for the person suffering. It is cruel for the family and friends. It is cruel for my Grandad who loved her for over sixty years.

I felt guilty about the grief I was feeling because, yes, she was old and, yes, she was unwell but I soon learnt grief does not discriminate. Grief doesn’t hold off until it feels ‘worthy’ to punch us in the guts. Grief just is. And you have to go for the ride – as horrible and as puffy-eyed and as runny-nosed and as downright sad as it is.

Part of that ride was the funeral and part of my need to express my grief was to speak at the funeral.

This is the poem I wrote in the memory of my Nan for my family.

For Nan

I told her not to go

You’re staying right here, I said

But she shook her head

Gave that smile

Patted my hand

And went away

Leaving an empty space

It is big

This space

It cannot be filled

It is paddling

It is laughter

It is butterfly cakes and kisses

It is cups of tea

And two biscuits

It is the warmth from the heater

The mantelpiece

The handheld hoover

The word hoover

And daft a’peth

And ice lolly

And frock

And ironing on the kitchen bench

It is swinging in the garden under the peppermint tree

It is burials for goldfish

It is the budgies and the rabbits and the quails

Birdbaths and birdseed

It is the nest she made when we were sick

And always having something to do

We can have a look in the hall cupboard

Play Scrabble or cards or Boggle or bingo

Or that game with Lucille Ball on the box

Colour in a doily

Warm homemade play-dough

Pink or blue?

It is the Easter bonnets

(We would never win first prize)

It is the dress-up days

Craft days

Birthdays

Rainy days

Christmas days

The feast laid out on the pool table

The tablecloths and serviettes

The Christmas cake with Santa’s footprints

Homemade fruit mince pies without orange peel

No backyard cricket please!

It is ballroom dancing with Grandad

And seeing them hold hands

And kiss

And staying up to watch The Bill

And sleeping-over

It is feeling loved

And safe

It is stories of the war

The Blitz

The bomb-shelter

The boys

It is Taft hairspray

It is lavender and Charlie perfume and Oil of Ulay

It is walks in the park

Coffee and cake at the shops

A weak cappuccino

It is Dunsborough holidays and caravan parks

It is advice

Guidance

Support

It is a second home

It is someone always on your side

It is kindness and a smile and a ‘good morning’ to a stranger

It is Nanna and Grandad

Nan and Gug

It is a beautiful woman

A kind, caring soul

A generous spirit

A creative mind

She has left an empty space

But enough memories

Enough moments

Enough love

To fill it and leave it overflowing

Engagement Photograph - 15th August 1949

Nanna and Grandad – Iris “Billie” and Ron
Engagement Photograph
15th August 1949

Things I learnt today (lists made whilst watching the clock or: how to run out that last 90-minutes at work)

I have never worked in admin before. I have discovered it is a bizarre work environment where you can be busy and bored and offered endless slices of cake all at the same time.

Today I finished all my work and had nothing to do. Really. Nothing. I was done. Up-to-date. Finished. It was 4pm.

Here’s a list of ways I have learnt to run out the office clock:

  1. Refresh your emails
  2. Delete emails
  3. Go to the bathroom
  4. Make a cup of tea
  5. Type up stories, articles and ideas for your blog in Outlook (it looks like you are writing an amazingly detailed email)
  6. Create some thoughtfully named folders in Outlook
  7. Create some thoughtfully organised sub-folders in Outlook
  8. Move emails into aforementioned folder and sub-folders
  9. Have a look online for things that could pass for work-related research
  10. Be thankful you have a job
  11. Be thankful you have a job where you can do numbers 1 through to 9
  12. Don’t feel guilty because sometimes you put in way more than the allocated 7.6hours per day and there’s no such thing as overtime here
  13. Chat with your colleague about Game of Thrones
  14. Check your voice-mail
  15. Change your voice-mail using a different name / accent / company
  16. Delete your voice-mail
  17. Repeat steps 15 and 16 for as long as necessary or until you draw unwanted attention to yourself (whichever comes first)
  18. Don’t look at the clock
  19. Make a deal with yourself that you WILL NOT work in admin for the REST OF YOUR LIFE