I have no doubt that many would consider me a weirdo. After all, I am the white haired freckled faced freak who has been seen standing on his head in very public places. Others have witnessed me propelling myself on a scooter via the footpaths of Sydney, dressed like a twenty-something backpacker with an exclusively black and grey wardrobe. So I not only accept my status as a weirdo, I embrace it. However, as eccentric as I may seem to some, I do tend to keep my weirdness to myself, choosing not to approach others to share my loopiness directly. This is especially the case when I am in the steam room after having a swim. So when this big bellied bloke waddles in and announces, “Ah – what a beautiful day!”, my relaxing muscles tense up. I’m not interested in steam room chit chat. So I say nothing, as does the Chinese woman who had also been having a silent steam up until now. The bloke plops his butt down way too close for my liking. “I’m on night shift now so it’s great being able to be here at this time of day. I only work from five to nine. Except on weekends.” And so he continues, as I nod politely but say nothing. He stops after awhile and the three of us sit there, silently sweating. I start to feel a little guilty, like I burst this guy’s bubble. I decide to leave the steam room, have a quick rinse and then enter the sauna. A middle aged man and another Chinese woman are finishing a conversation. Great. More chit chat. But they remain quiet until the woman leaves. “Nice to meet you” says the man. I brace myself, knowing it’s a matter of time before this guy tries to engage me. Sure enough, thirty eight seconds later: “I lost seven kilos this week.” “Wow.” I wonder if this means he’s been in the sauna that long, seven kilos of sweat sliding down the drain. “Yeah – I had to. I ‘d let myself go.” He then shares details of just how he let himself go. This involved time off work, mates, beer, barbeques and, intriguingly, Japanese prostitutes. Deciding I already have more information than I require, I leave the sauna. Co-incidentally, I find a cute little Japanese place for lunch. I am eating my Chicken Katsu and reading the paper when the guy who’s just ordered sits at the table next to mine. He points at the paper. “So, you think Trump is going to win?” Oh God. Here we go again. “I hope not.” “Yes, well, let me tell you about politicians.” He then proceeds to tell me about politicians. Somehow, several ‘C’ words seem to be involved. “And I’ll tell you another ‘C’ word, and it’s not the one you think: collaboration.” I know immediately that this is not the first time he has uttered these words. This is his routine – probably one of many. I start shovelling rice into my face as fast as I can. I wash it down with hot green tea, scalding the roof of my mouth. “If they just collaborated, people might respect them. And they’d get a hell of a lot more done.” And I am done. But I can’t leave until he tells me about a website he’s about to launch called “Look It Up, Stupid.” I tell him I’ll look it up. After shopping and returning home, I’m in our apartment block’s garden that runs alongside the street. A couple of days earlier I had pulled up numerous stubborn clumps of feral grass, leaving a bed of sandy soil. I am raking rocks out of it when I hear a voice behind me: “Nice garden.” I turn to see this slightly ragged looking man. “You like it? This is my dirt garden.” He then starts telling me how he’s had heaps of experience with plants. He’s a bit hard to follow but it becomes obvious that he’s talking about dope plants – lots of them. “I was on Yorke Peninsula on my own growing thousands of plants.” He then mentions something about getting stranded without electricity but it’s a challenge to keep up with him. I suspect that he’s now operating on several million less brain cells than he had before he began his horticultural activities at Yorke Peninsula. A couple of hours later I am finishing pulling some less feral grass out of a different bed when I hear another voice: “What are you planting?” I turn and have a pleasant chat with a man who says he lives around the corner and, like me, is the volunteer gardener for his block. He is very lucid and offers some worthwhile advice. Compared to those I chatted to earlier, this guy seems boringly normal. Except for one thing. And that thing is a sleek black cat attached to a leash. That’s right, this guy is out walking his cat with a special cat leash (who knew?). It gets even weirder when the cat, Spooky, decides to climb a tree. The guy is used to this and continues chatting. I’m less used to it and my eyes keep following the leash upwards, above the guy’s head and around the neck of Spooky, who’s trying to get down off a branch. After some coaxing, she is once again walking along the footpath, attached to her master. So, my fellow freaks, fruit loops, weirdos and mad men – I salute you. And although I may not be as forthright as some of you, I am still proud to be part of a bunch who dance to the beat of a different drum. But I do have just one request: should you ever see me in the steam room or sauna, please zip your lips and leave me alone.
Have a nice day! Where can I get a cat leash?
Charles, I liked this one a lot! You really were quite the magnet that day.
On a steam room side issue, I was just yesterday talking about single sex steam rooms where bathers or nothing are both acceptable. Many years ago, at the Melbourne Baths, I found myself in the rather uncomfortable situation of getting into a pleasant chat about Garrison Keillor books with another woman in the steam room; she was bathers on, I was bathers off. Awkward.