Dont buy the Sun.

Dont buy the Sun.
Hillsborough Justice campaign - Remember the 96.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Symbolic Interactionism and Waggagaling

Its a vagrant misty morning and two old companions have resumed a familiar routine. If I were to mention that  the aforementioned routine involves the Crosstowner, early, early morn and Hull's Paragon Railway station, regular readers would probably be able to deduce that the second member of the partnership is yrs trly. And having deduced that fact (which I can confirn), the same regular reader might be aghast. "Has he taken leave of his senses?" they might say "Surely, our friend, and PhD candidate MJ etc cannot have resumed commuting? Why it seems like only two years ago that I was reading, with horror, tales of the (delayed) 7.37 to Leeds". Shaking their head, the regular reader may decide to read on, but I imagine that some would make themselves a very strong cup of coffee before deciding whether to forge ahead - although (and as will be discussed in another post) there may be some debate on whether you can 'forge ahead' with reading.

To allay some immediate fears, it is not the (delayed) 7.37 that we are intending to rendevous. And, having rendevoused, the Crosstowner wont join me on the train, but will stable in a quiet berth, near the employees rest rooms, at Hull Paragon station. And it is not 7.37am that is our temporal target, but the slightly earlier time of 7.07. And as a final piece of essential information, the destination is not the hideous metropolis of Leeds, but the much more attractive city of York, where I have enrolled on a course leading to accreditation known as CELTA  necessitating a month of travel, of which, half way through I am. 'Why' may be addressed later, but lets return to the immediate (recent) past present and the scenario we opened with, the Crosstowner thundering across Pearson Park, breaking through the early morning mist like a warhorse on the fields of Agincourt.

We roll into Hull Paragon Interchange Bus/Railway Station/Taxi Stand at 6.45 and I ruminate, as I glance at the sign,  on the fact that  if,  half way through my commute,  the  undecided nature of Hull Paragon is a source of growing irritation,  I have much to be grateful for that this commute is not permanent. I breeze past coffee stand No 1 - not open - and head for WH Smith, vendor of newspapers and magazines. Those with long memories may recall a running battle between proprietor of said store and self, based around my refusal to insert the word 'Thank you' into every utterance. I walk into his store, grab a pack of gum and stick it on the counter with the exact money, wave cheerily without a word, especially 'thank you'  - as his face rapidly ascends to puce - and walk out. Or rather, I try to, because he calls out '!Excuse me sir'. Actually,  if I had to use phonological symbols, I could represent what he said better, because the ! is really a strangled 'Oi!' which he realizes half way through he is not allowed to say because of corporate customer care policy (WH Smith is a franchise in railway stations) so he transmangles the 'Oi!' halfway through utterance and starts his sentence sounding a bit like our cats when they are particularly annoyed by the rain. However, he makes it clear with his follow-up that I should return to the counter.

Stretching his palm out expectantly he says "Thank you, sir, I need to scan the gum". He is just short of waggaling (please note the spelling is deliberate to emphasize just how much he wanted to waggal at me) his fingers impatiently. I wont be pushed around, so I say:

'Cant you just scan another pkt of gum?'

His near- waggaling escalates into near-waggagaling:

'Cant do that, sir! Need to scan for stocktaking. The Gum' (an order, linguistically an imperative, near waggalling reaching new peak of intensity).Thank you' (an expletive, socio-anthropologically a challenge to a death match).

'Well I've torn the packet now' I say, indicating an unreadable bar code.

The near-waggagalling becomes the full waggagal, indicating I should hand over the bar accompanied of course, with a curt 'Thank You' (phonologically his 'thank you's' have also become shorter). He looks at the packet in disgust 'Technically, that's shop lifting, you see' he says 'until its been scanned'. While saying this he's trying to scan the half open pkt o'gum with its damaged bar code. He realises very quickly this is impossible so he redoubles his efforts exaggeratedly sweeping the gum past his scanner, sighing dramatically.He contorts his body, twisting his upper arms so he looks as if he's doing an impression of a nesting ostrich, but the pkt o'gum remains unscannable.

Meanwhile,  I am amazed that I have practically been accused of shoplifting,  so look for support to the growing line behind me with a sceptical raising of the eyebrows and equally theatrical nod towards puce-face intended to be visible to my audience. There are not sympathetic tuts or wry smiles, indeed no support is evident and there's no sign of an incipient constituency either : queue-ers in WH Smith at this time of the morning are, by and large,  a certain type of Middle England commuter, the type of person who tolerates losing three hours of every single day travelling to work on a crappy rail system and buys the same middle brow newspaper  which  regularly reports on the crappy railway system and inhuman job market that makes people travel ludricrous distances to hold down a-shitty-job-in-a-financial-institution-that-caused-the-unemployment-in-your-home-town-that-means-your-life-is-just-a-procession-of-transferals-from-metal/train-box-to-concrete/office-box in the first place and who thinks these reports are about other people. For commuters like this, utterly self absorbed, life is 'that's just the way it is' and things are done a certain way because....well just because. Buying gum without scanning the bar code or four 'thank-you's' is a hanging offence. I receive no support;  instead I am tutted at (we have discussed the etiology of English tutting before and I wont repeat the discussion here).

I get my gum in the end, a definitively Pyrrhic victory,  and wander over to Pumpkin, the notorious coffee franchise people may remember from my exploits as a Leeds-bound commuter. At one time relations with the Pumpkin staff were not good, following an incident involving a ham sandwich and a croissant, but over the last year or two , the Pumpkin staff and I have grown closer.

'Where'y off to t'day then love?' says Lindsey as I gesture vaguely, which she inteprets (correctly) as 'tea with a little bit of milk'

'York, again' I say. I've explained to Lindsey several times over the previous two weeks  that:

1. I used to travel to Leeds but dont anymore
2. On Thursday evening I go to Beverley
3. Now I go to York every day.
4. Occasionally I go elsewhere

'Oh thats right,...' says Lindsey '....there you go love (handing over the tea).....I forget where you're off to ...cant keep track of all your travelling'.

That someone  who works in a railway/bus station/taxi rank is surprised that someone they regularly meet at (and because of)  a railway station,  should travel a lot is itself surprising, but Lindsey is lovely- bright, bubbly and friendly. I hand over £1.80 for my cup of disgusting tea and tell Lindsey 'Cheers. Thanks. Ta! See you later'.