If you’ve ever listened to this song by The Doors you might well want to nod quietly. It’s about feeling isolated. Or is it about being off your head on some mind altering substance in a crowded place? You never know with The Doors. It’s like The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine; an idea inspired by something or other. (See also Octopus’ Garden.) But I like the sentiment. People are strange.
Some years ago, I had a propensity for sitting on a bench in supermarket car parks.
I would watch the way people behaved. When you’re in a place like that, your main concern is to get the shopping in the car and get back home. Well that’s what you may think. I find them cold unforgiving places which begs the question; what the hell was I doing there?
I loved the Captain Mannering types. No sooner has family car been parked immaculately in the space the little man has burst out of his chariot and is directing one of his retinue to requisition a trolley. His stubby fat fingers gesture towards the trolley station. He will tut at the lackadaisical way the trolleys have been left sprawled across the walkway. He would push the trolley of course.
One very hot day at Waitrose on the Isle of Wight, I saw such a family. No sooner had they alighted their air-conditioned four by four, the little dictator was instructing his wife and three children to put their fleeces on. “You know it’s cold in the chiller sections,” espoused our good captain. I watched incredulously as they filtered through the automatic doors. His stumpy fingers were still wiggling as he turned round to demonstrate his wisdom to the short sleeved people behind him, probably desperate for a cold draught of relief from the heat of the day. I’m sure his head wiggled as well. The pause at the great door was measured and dramatic, before he jumped into action and bounded off to some far flung corner of the bakery.
As I wandered around the place with my mate Pete and his lovely daughter Ffion, I would catch sight of this division of the home guard. Is it so important to be in control? I’m sure he had a map of the supermarket and a schedule of his route and what they were going to buy.
Can you imagine the Saturday morning in their house? Armed with clipboard and pen, he would check off the children as they came down the stairs.
There would be a firm word for Sebastian who was still upstairs groaning a teenage lament about the outrageous hour for a Saturday parade. There would be a lecture as he clumped down the stairs offering little more than a grunt to his senior officer.
The cupboards would be inspected. There would be questions about sell-by dates. These little numbers were sacrosanct; never to be questioned. Mum would quietly sigh. Her own family were never well off. They worked on the sniff it and see basis.
She mentioned it once; when they were first seeing each other. But she did not want another controlled rant about E-coli and salmonella. The original outburst lasted three days, with occasional reprises in the ensuing seventeen years. So the sigh was silent.
By some freak of timing, they were getting back into the car at the same time as us. Firstly load the shopping then load the family. There was a special place for their fleeces. Mannering however, became a little red faced when Sebastian climbed onto the back sat still adorned with his green Nike top.
He wanted to take it off in the car. “No, come outside and do it, I’m not having fleece sprawled over the back seat.” Once more, the arm was outstretched with forefinger bobbing up and down to the desired fleece repository. I looked at Peter. There was no need for words.
I like to be in control. But’s that’s because I have extra considerations. If I’m going anywhere, I look at a map to see which places the train or car may pass through. I love having knowledge of my surroundings and beyond.
I spent twenty two years in charge of a junior class. I was a guide, sometimes an assertive guide but never a dictator.
Now let me talk about BOTTOMS. When I was much younger my mate Martin and I came up with a classification for the female posterior. I won’t bore you with it now for fear of recrimination from the equal opportunities thought police. (But we were young lads.)
But this is a different type of bottom This is an acronym for people who “Bang On That Their Opinion Matters. That is, the type of person who maintains a level of self perceived importance. So many comedians never miss a chance to lampoon themselves or their lifestyle. As well as being hilarious, it breaks down all sorts ore conceived ideas about people types. Imagine our Isle of Wight captain laughing at himself?
In my teaching days, we changed our school day in order to finish at 15.10 in line with the rest of the town. There was an open meeting about it. The head was determined to show a unified front in favour of said proposal. So all the staff went along.
The gates of Hell had opened to unleash the rage of a thousand BOTTOMS or from my point of view, bottoms. All those long festering grievances were exploding in one continuous tirade of self important vitriol.
There was one father. I always got on well with him. He was determined that his family would have time together to learn life skills and values. I agreed with him but when he implied that the school (and he used its full title accompanied by the statutory pointed finger) had done little for his children, I piped up with one of those polite but firm reminders of what his family had actually achieved with the help of the school and his extension of after school child care by twenty minutes was of little consequence.
“But I’m paying for an extra hour,” squeaked the BOTTOM. I restrained from my cut your cloth and count your blessings mantra.
Let us return to the supermarket. It is a place of shock and awe. For those children I used to teach who expressed their hatred of being dragged round a crowded Sainsbury’s (other outlets are available) on a Saturday morning, I would encourage silly games. “You and your sister must decide which customer is the spy. And you need to justify it.”
This got some great writing on the Monday.
But what abut the names? I know I’m on thin ice here so I’ll just mention something I overheard in the Waitrose car park in Lewes:
“Daffodil, can you open the door for Abraham?”
Thank-you for reading.