Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Eating Pies on Trams Syndrome

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand - Bob Dylan "Every Grain of Sand", 1981
His veteribus sub tectis
Carmen vocibus sucentis
Celebrate virginum
Mistos lusibus labores
Operosa fructuosa vita debet exige
Palladis, potens sui. - Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School Song

Walking home - 94th Street, Manhattan 2015
A hundred years ago I went to an exclusive all girls' high school in Melbourne.

Mac.Robertson Girls' High. We sang our school song in Latin. We had to wear hats and gloves when in uniform outside the school's grounds. We weren't allowed to eat on trams. Our French teacher was called simply, "Madame".

One day an ex "MacRob girl" who must have been very ex to our young eyes - she looked to be at least forty - complained to the headmistress about the behavior of one particular girl on a tram .

Looking back, the headmistress Miss Barrett was a very ordinary women. But at that time us girls fantasized that she had once had a lover; a dashing young man who had died in the trenches at the Somme. That's the kind of gals we were. Very "Picnic at Hanging Rock" kind of girls.

But back to the ex MacRob girl who complained. Apparently she had seen a girl in a MacRob uniform not only not wearing gloves, but eating a meat pie on the number 69 tram the day before. The PA system directed all girls who had been on a number 69 tram to go to the general assembly hall for a line-up.

The Conch, 1963
And yes, I had been on the number 69 tram. Of course I hadn't been eating a pie. And I always wore my gloves. I was what they called a "conch", which was I believe, short for conscientious.

Nevertheless I was sure that the ex-MacRob snitch would choose me from the line-up. I even felt guilty. I  internalized the guilt of the unknown naughty girl. A bit like Jesus was meant to do when he died for our sins I suppose. But then I have never had enough cognitive dissonance to understand that concept.

I remember thinking that all us number 69 tram girls looked the same, and that how could she tell who had eaten the pie. The rest of that day is now a blur. Receding long ago intro that dark and distant past - the  olden days.

And then it all happened again. Déjà vu like no other déjà vu. The déjà vu of déjà vus!

Commuters on the M102
June 2015. I was on the M102 bus on Third . On my way home from work. An announcement over the bus PA - "Calling all bus drivers. An elderly woman has strayed from her nursing home. She has graying hair and is wearing black. She has dementia. If you see this woman please call 511."

I looked around nervously. Furtively. Dreading the pointing finger. It was the pie lady all over again.

And yet - how did I know it really wasn't me? Perhaps I was only thinking I had been to work that day. Perhaps I was really that lost woman with dementia and had imagined I had a job and belonged in the real world.

"I'm getting OFF this bus lickety spit!" I told myself.

No pies for me! And certainly not on a bus.

But really, it isn't funny. I am old.

I am so old it takes forever when I am filling in an online form. When I am prompted for the year of my birth I have to scroll downward through the years, down down down; it takes years to get there.

I am so old, that words from my childhood that have not seen currency for decades have been recycled by millenials.  Such as "dig it" - an expression I understand was popular in the beatnik era when I was still in school. Not that Latin-singing MacRob girls used such words.

"I don't dig it," I heard one millennial say to another millennial just last week. I remember it distinctly because it sounded so strange. Millenials rarely speak in public. Unless it is into their cell phones. This was face-to-face. Real-time. Possibly there was even eye contact.

Yes I am definitely old.

I am so old that I only just found our that there is a popular band called Mumford and Sons.

But that's a good thing.

Isn't it?