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Friday, 7 November 2014

Texas

I'm in the ice cream shop, sitting in the office in the back when, seeing a man and a woman at the counter, I start walking to the front of the shop and call out hello.
'Hello,' I call to the man, who is standing directly in my line of sight, and who is shortish, quite fat and has a grey beard and grey hair and is wearing a faded ash-grey Hawaiian style shirt and combat shorts.
'Hello young lady,' he says.
'Did you just call me young lady,' I say to the man as I reach the counter.
'Yes, yes, I did,' the man says to me, 'aren't you a young lady?'
'Um,' I say, 'have a really good look at me and I think you'll find the answer is a no,'
The man laughs, and so does the woman, who is much shorter and standing next to him.
Then the man says-'Woah, looks like you spent the night in a tattoo parlour,'
And because I don't know what else to say I laugh and look down at myself and say-'It would have taken more than a night for all of this,'
Then, the woman, who has her hair cut in a blond bob and is wearing a dark blue tee shirt and mum-style Levi jeans, tells me that the man, who it will turn out is her husband, asks me where I am from.
'Melbourne,' I tell her, which is a lie.
And for a few minutes we talk about Melbourne, what's the best place to visit and at what time of the year and so on.
Then the man and woman ask to try ice cream flavours.
'You got banana,' says the man?
I tell him yes, we do have banana, and I dig in the banana ice cream tub with a tasting stick and hand it over to him and he tastes the banana and then tells me he will have that, in a single sugar cone.
I serve him up the single banana in a sugar cone and then the woman tells me she would like a mint chocolate chip.
'Why is the mint chocolate chip pink?' she asks me as I lean into the freezer to scoop the ice cream, 'shouldn't it be green?'
I have no real answer for her question so I make one up, telling her that due to a chemical change during the freezing process and contact with dairy product, there is an enzyme in this species of mint that turns pink, and that if she were to put this kind of mint in a container of milk in the freezer at home, she would find the same thing happening.
So then, after they have their ice creams in their hands, they stand in front of the counter eating them and we talk about where they are from.
'Dallas, Texas,' the man tells me.
'Oh,' I say, 'as soon as I hear the word Dallas, I get the theme tune from the TV show in my head and see the opening titles, that split screen thing, and then I see Southfork,'
The man and woman laugh.
Then the man starts to open his wallet.
'You know what kind of money we have down in Texas?' he says.
I don't say anything because he is already putting a Mexican 100 peso bill on the counter.
Then he laughs, but I don't because I think he might be attempting a racist joke and I do not want to encourage him.
Instead, I tell him what a beautiful colour the note is and what gorgeous art work it has on it.
'Yeh,' says the woman, 'every other country has beautiful money, except us. Our money is ugly,'
'Yeh,' says the man from Dallas, Texas, 'it might be ugly but everybody wants it,'
I am staring at the man now and getting annoyed and I start thinking, yes, a lot of people want a lot of things American, but like the money, a lot of the stuff they want is just ugly and overrated.
Then Krista, who has just come into the shop, and is standing to the left of the man, says that there's a lot of counterfeit US money in circulation.
'The secret service,' she says, 'apart from guarding the President, it's their job to travel the world and find and destroy counterfeit dollars,'
And then, while I turn my back on them to clean the ice cream scoops, these Americans talk about their money and various other American-themed topics.
Then, as I turn back to join them, the woman from Texas says, 'Hey, have you ever been to New Zealand?'
I tell the woman no, I have never been there and because I have no other information to offer on New Zealand, I tell her that the relationship between Australia and New Zealand is perhaps a bit like that between the US and Canada, a kind of friendly rivalry that we invent for no good reason but to have rivalry and pick on another country's accent.
'I know the French hate the Canadians,' the man from Texas says, 'and you wanna know why?'
I tell him yes, I would like to know why.
And he says- 'It's because like we got the African Americans, the Canadians got the French,'
Then the man and woman laugh.
And even though what he has said might get laughs in some places in Texas, here in California I do not find it funny so I just stand there looking at the man from Texas, and say nothing.

And I do not laugh.