Saturday, May 11, 2013

Stranger in Her Own Land

Day-o, Day-ay-ay-o
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day
Me say day, me say day-ay-ay-o
Daylight come and me wan' go home - "The Banana Boat Song", Jamaican - Traditional

The Last Remnants
There they are. On my dining room table.

Scattered, as I left them. The contents of my handbag - deposited there when I returned just three weeks ago from an April trip to my home town, Melbourne, Australia.

 It has become somewhat of a ritual.

I arrive back in New York and leave my luggage unpacked, cases strewn around the apartment any old how. That is Day One.

On Day Two I reluctantly start to unpack. But only what is needed. Clothes that need laundering, shoes, miscellaneous cables.

For the next few days the cases shed their contents on a need-to basis.

Day 5: I empty the contents of my handbag onto  the dining room table. I put away my OZ wallet which has remained in my handbag along with my "American" one. Different wallets for different currencies, different ID cards, different lives. I leave the rest of the contents where they landed.

Eventually the cases are empty, and I put them away.

The final step, yet to be taken as I write this blog post is like a primitive ritual. It is as if when I tidy the handbag contents - file them, trash them, whatever, -  the last link to my spell in Melbourne, Australia, has gone. Erased. Like John Cleese's parrot, it has "ceased to be".

When I remove the last remains of my OZ trip, I will be, in my own mind, be admitting that, "I am back".

I spend my idle times remembering. Apart from the obvious family-based memories, I remember the Australian strangers who crossed my path. People who could only be Aussies.

The man with gap-teeth on the North Melbourne bound bus, who helped me when the bus driver failed to stop.  I'd approached the driver New York style, about to say, "but you told me you would tell me when it was my stop".

The toothless man shushed me with, "He's no Digger!" smile, smile, wink, wink, followed by "I will tell you how to find your way back". Which he did, going out of his way to get off the bus and to escort me to the correct bus for my destination.

I was torn. My left-wing liberal side was repelled by his labeling the Vietnamese driver as "no Digger". Meaning "un Australian. Not white". But then my pragmatic side won through.

"Yer not from here, luv?" he asked as we crossed the road. "No," I mumbled. "Thought so," he continued,  "Yer got too much class!"

Heaven forbid!

Then there was the Western suburbs bus driver who delighted in telling me (after seven bus stops) that I was on the wrong bus and I should just cross the road, go back, and start all over again.

A definite "Digger" by the looks of him, and a Bogan to boot, complete with mullet hair. I jumped off the bus and stood forlornly on the nature-strip - grass half a meter high, complete with the obligatory Western suburb thistles.

Should I get the next bus and hope for a kinder driver, or walk across the road and go back as advised. I couldn't decide.

Then I remembered my old Melbourne friend A, telling me just a few days earlier, about how Jetstar airlines had given him the run-around. Sending him to the international terminal (he had a domestic ticket) and back again ("But Sir, you have a domestic ticket!") several Kafkaesque times until he plaintively resorted to using his age, saying to the uncaring unhelp desk person, "But I am distressed".

I tried it. I even dialed a cab. Too late - aparently I was already on the merri-go-round of being lost in my own home town. But more of that later.

Meanwhile I have a table to clear ...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ah girl, you ARE a fish still out of water. But that's the dilemma, Yank convenience and generally helpful people, or Aussies looking at you like you don't belong any more.
How's that beautiful grandchild?
S'too late for me to go back unless I am alone and ready to expire. But then, what would be the fun of it? The smell of the bush, the sound of the ocean, the abbreviated language?
As I've said many times on AA, after 10 years, you might as well stay in Yankeeland.

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