RULES AND SIGNS
Trip Start Mar 10, 2004
50Trip End May 10, 2005
Sometimes, searching for work in an unfriendly foreign city can be tough on a guy. But, then, he puts on a little of the Argentinian '80s sensation, "Soda Stereo," on the earphones, and he gets rocked out into being all smiles again.
Incidentally, the last job I didn't get was as a bar-tender in an '80s nightclub. I'm renting a room and searching for work in a northern English city, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (pop. 500,000). (I originally reported the population was 400,000, but I'm now saying at least 500,000 people live here.) (Seeing as how I obviously had no idea about my facts the first time around, you'd have to be awfully foolish to believe this second number.) (But, I'm writing it anyway, because I know some of you are.) (For example, one of my friends is actually called "Tonto." (translates to: "Fool.")) (This just in: expect that last population figure to change soon.)
Yes. I, who says, "Long live the Queen and the '80s," who still thinks girls ought to wear sweat-bands and big, hair-sprayed bangs, who - for god's sake - has discovered bands in other LANGUAGES tht sound like "The Cure" or "Depeche Mode," didn't get the '80s bartending job. I didn't get the job because I'm not a legal worker here in England. It's all very annoying.
In most countries, I woudl've had a job by now. It's just, the English like to set and follow rules like nobody else. Life is quite orderly here. Whoever wrote the song, "Anarchy in the U.K." (another '80s reference? or not quite?) must've been talking about a United Kingdom pre-school play area, because that's the only place you won't find Brits lining up in - how they say - "queues."
Interjection!: if you're bad at doing a fake English accent, here's a Modern Oddyseus tip. Just say, gently, "There's a queue (pronounced, "kyoo," not "kyoo-ee-ooey") for the loo." It can't fail.
England, in addition to soccer hooligans and Lu's in queues for loos, is the world's greatest manufacturer of signs. When commercial business-owners aren't immediately attending to a customer, they're busy writing notes on paper and taping them to their windows. The shop-windows are cluttered with blocks of useful information. Some stories you can barely see into. The signs will say anything from, "Bathrooms Are For Customers Only" to "Bar-Staff Needed" to "Now Open From 2:00 pm On Fridays" to "I Was Bored, So I Thought Our Window Needed Another Sign" to "Thieves Are About" to "CCTV In Operation."
CCTV is a video camera system that almost every private business owner in England has turned to to try to encourage thieves not to be thieves. The cameras are in every shop, always watching. Rob, who gave me a ride before when I was hitchhiking, was really freaked out about all this CCTV, and I don't blame him. He felt this was an intrusion into people's privacy, similar to that George Orwell book, "1984." (There we go, another '80s reference! ... okay, okay, even if the book wasn't WRITTEN in the '80s.)
Rob said, and I quote, "It's getting so that they'll be able to watch you ALL THE TIME! I mean, soon, I won't even be able to share a romantic moment with my wife, or steal a pack of cigarettes."
- Ha, ha. I'm just kidding. He didn't say that.
But, yeah. I had a job interview today. The interviewer showed me the way out afterwards, but I spotted the bathroom on my way, and so I ducked inside to do my business. But, then, it occurred to me the place probably had CCTV. Anyone could've been watching me just then, and it frightened me. I mean, something like this could've gotten me deported, for using the loo without actually being a customer - that is, I suppose, if they weren't going to deport me already, seeing as how I was trying so futilely to get a job here.
And that wasn't even the worst of it! It occurred to me that, as I was hovering over the urinal, a well-placed camera shot could've revealed to ANYONE out there a view of ANYTHING. Even - how they say in England - my "dinghy" - or, how they say in Scotland - my "glonger" - or, how they say in Northern Ireland - my "hamflammigan." I tried my best to hurry the procedure along and got out of there.
Some of these signs in England are just ridiculous. It's as if sign-makers believe they can "save the world," and all it takes is enough carefully-placed signs.
My Greek flat-mate, George, noticed an especially unneccessary one. In a park, a sign read, "Please No Swimming And No Drinking From Park Pond." The water was a polluted brown; you'd think that'd be sign enough.
But, the signs do help keep things "orderly." There are many signs in Newcastle, there were many signs in London.
Many people in northern England dislike London, the big city. However, I actually felt London to be a friendlier place than Newcastle. In London, people would make eye contact as you passed. In London, strangers would talk and joke to you more.
Newcastle has its own accent and its own culture. For example, the people here are out partying every night as if it was some huge occasion. It's quite cold yet, but the girls go out in short skirts and low-cut tops. The guys wear short sleeves, and few people bring coats at night. On their way to or from a club, they just stand around freezing, which is pretty amusing to watch, actually.
People from Newcastle are called "Geordies." This is because, during a long-ago revolution that occurred in England, Newcastle's province was the only one that remained faithful to the king. It's kind of funny, when you think about it. How did they see things differently from every single, other area in England?
The king's name at that time had probably been "George," hence the Newcastlarians' nickname. It kind of seems like every king England has ever had was called "George." Or, for that matter, "Henry." Or "Richard." The "Richards" were always the ones in control when England got invaded, it seemed.* The "Henry's" were always fat. And, the "George's" all just seemed like bumbling fools who shouldn't have been made rulers in the first place.
What kind of a name is "George" for a ruler, anyway? George sounds like the stubby, old guy in the pub who's sitting next to you, grouchily, and still has salt and vinegar on his chin from the evening's fish & chips meal.
Oh, my. What am I talking about!? MY country's ruler is currently named "George!"
Except, if he was in the pub, I think he would have all the kegs of beer securely in his corner, where he'd be sitting with his friends. Maybe a guy named something like "Tony" would have a few kegs. And "Tony" would be kissing "George's" cowboy boots. Everyone else in the pub would hate them.
... Okay, okay. This nonsense has got to end! I've gotta find myself a job!
Long live the '80s and the Queen Mum! - Modern O.
Thanks to George; and Jeff & Sandy for the rides!
* - footnote: You must remember that everything said here has no actualy basis on English historical fact, English historical knowledge, or anything really. If I was given a mile for every tidbit of English historical knowledge I possessed, I wouldn't have enough to take me the eleven miles** across the English Channel to France.***
** - I have no idea how many miles it is across the English Channel. Or if Fran****ce is on the other end of it, for that matter. It could be Bombay, what with all the Indian restaurants in Britain.
*** - If England ever had a king named "Jean-Claude Pierre," and then France came in and easily conquered Britain, I think we'd know something was up. Especially - ha ha! - when you consider France's military.
**** - *****!
***** - CCTV Is In Operation.******
****** - I was bored, and so I thought what this story needed was another footnote.*******
******* - Isn't this nice and "orderly?"