The worst customer in the world

The worst customer in the world
Rockingham, Australia

Rockingham, Australia

“Here, have some hand cream sir, all ready for Christmas – how many women are there in your life?”



“I’m travelling, a long way from home”

“Ah, we have the man cosmetics too. How do you treat your skin?”


“I rub this on you” [ooh, free skin rub, inner arm to avoid the scrapes from the bike fall.

There follows some spiel about layers of skin, exfoliating and Dead Sea crystals. It seems odd that evolution missed out the importance of exfoliation, but then see also detoxing and colonic irrigation, I suppose.] “put your arms together-see the difference in colour.”

We chat for a while about our countries of origin. He is obviously not Australian. Israeli, it seems. I am eternally grateful to man-on-a-platform (railway station) who told me how beautiful Israel is, as I can now always pull that out and avoid anything contentious. I am offered a deal, but the aftershave for $90, get the skin cream for $45.

“Ha! Remember that thing about me being the worst customer in the world?” (I told him this at the beginning, when we were discussing the women in my life) “I’m on a backpacker budget.”

We move to talk of travel. As I am to be his last customer of the day, he – fumble for piece of paper, gosh I’m lucky to have got the manager – can sell one for $40. That really does seem cheap after the first offer.

“Well, going back to the worst customer bit, I’m not working for a year. That’s still near my daily budget.”

“Happy travels – here, have another hand cream.”

Nice man. My inner sucker really liked his patter, I’m going to have to watch it when I’m earning again. I feel like I’m so far outside consumer society that occasionally it’s nice to join in and just give money to something frivolous. I’m going to get conned somewhere.

Two very different colours at sea, aqua to dark blue
Two-tone beach.

I learnt that rubbing white cream on skin makes that skin whiter than other skin. And that, even knowing that people in Australia (I started to write consumers – kill me now) ask for discounts, you’ll be surprised how far down the price comes if you wait around protesting your poverty. Incidentally, given that Americans (and idiot English now) ‘protest a verdict’, how would they phrase the above? Where we ‘protest against’ and ‘protest’, do they ‘protest’ and ‘protest in favour’?

The temperature has plummeted. From 39 (and hotter in the sun) to 29 (and cooler in the wind). Waiting for the train home after 9, I was a little cool, almost cold, though only in shorts and a t shirt. I had headed down the coast to Rockingham. It’s a fair way, but only 5 stops on the train. That then drops passengers in the middle of nowhere. Okay, in the suburbs. I couldn’t work out which way town was so had to catch a bus, though I walked back later. The city centre is away from the nice bit, and holds a big shopping centre. The nice bit is the seafront, where there are enough shops to get by but not a full on centre. But it does have the beach. The beach is lovely, white sands and two tone sea, much gentler than the rushing beach at Scarborough we’d seen on Sunday.

I had a slightly odd experience, in that I bought lunch in a supermarket, walked along the front and stopped at a quiet spot on the beach, where I stayed for some time, reading, paddling, watching the world go by. Not much of the world actually went by, so I could keep up with it whilst managing the reading and podcast listening, worry you not. The odd bit came as I walked back; it was a good way to town. I had no recollection of really going for a walk after I’d picked up lunch. Wow, I’ve now started to forget the morning, never mind the previous day. There’s also a pretty park (Rotary Park) with a pond-looks like a nature reserve being allowed to develop – and a lake (Richmond). I walked to it but not round – it’d be an okay run, but looked a dull walk.

I strolled back along the front, through suburban Australia to the shopping centre, cinema and ultimately the train. I don’t have much to say about that-low, flat houses, built mostly to the edge of their plots with little space for gardens. In a sense, that is right up my street-I’ve always thought the ‘taming nature. Repeatedly, because it will always prevail over our order’ side of some gardening pointless, but I would want some space to enjoy. But not having much to say about it does not mean it isn’t interesting-waking through the suburbs is one of the most authentic (ugh) ways to soak up what constitutes Australian life, so I walk through taking it all in, enjoying the sunshine. I know what date it is, but if I stop to think about it, parts of my brain are saying ‘you what?’ December in the sun and heat doesn’t feel like December at all to me, I’m just enjoying my longest summer.

Reading: Conan Doyle, The Man with the Twisted lip, Weiner, Long for this World, The Strange Science of Immortality.

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