Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Sin... Fair to Middling...

Fair to middling. That's what people say, isn't it?

"How's it going?"

"Fair to middling. You?"

"Not bad, not bad."

You walk on, not particularly remembering whether the person you just spoke to had actually said "great," "wonderful," "fantastic" or "crap." It's almost a rhetorical question, in so many cases. You're so tied up in your own slide from 'middling' to 'fair' to 'crap' that the "How's it going?" was out of your mouth before you even realised the words had escaped. It's a reflex, an automatic social custom that you don't notice you do until you've done it.

"How's it going?"

"Shit, thanks. My cat just died, my wife is having an affair with her step-father and my kids hate me. I've lost my winning lottery ticket and a plane landed on my house while I was on the toilet so I had no paper to wipe my arse. Oh, and my dog thinks my leg is next door's poodle for some reason. I assume that's why he keeps humping it. You?"

"Not bad, not bad."

It doesn't quite go like that, but it could. The response is never really listened to. It's blah-blah-blah, a white noise that simply elicits a nod and a smile. Even if you were told that their budgie had died and a Panzer tank had accidentally driven over their car on the way to parking in their front room - without using the door and stopping right in front of the TV - you'd nod and smile and not even register.

And if you did? If you did stop and ask and listen to the answer, so attempting to strike up a dialogue? The other person would be taken aback, shocked that the customary question was being mutated into an actual CONVERSATION! How dare you? Don't you know the rules? Don't you know that, beneath the 'fair to middling' simmers a witches cauldron of sickly popping circumstances that were wearing away at your victim's psyche until their frazzled husk could do naught but stare into space and wonder how 'middling' became 'murder.'

But you know this, so you don't. You nod and walk on. They nod, and they walk on. Neither really remembers what the other said. Sometimes neither remembers who the other was, let alone the fact that someone was even there.

It's like telling the time. You look at your wrist and you see it's 3:30. It's afternoon, clearly, as it's daylight and you're not tucked up in your bed or propping up the local bar to make sure it doesn't fall over and spill your tenth pint or fifteenth vodka all over the floor.

You're nice like that.

You don't consciously think that it's half past three, post meridian, it's more of a feeling. The time grazes your mind, leaving only an impression. If someone sees you look at your watch and thus asks you the time, you have to look again, and it takes a second to work out what you'd seen and knew only a second or two before.

You meet, you ask, you pass, you forget.

Fair to middling. A throwaway phrase that masks the underlying fear of actually opening up and interacting. You need to catch your wife, find the ticket, make friends with your children and spay your dog, all before the local shop closes at 8:30. Otherwise you'll be too late to buy any toilet paper.

Of course, let's hope no-one asks you the time.


  1. Very astute. You can never have too much toilet paper

  2. And, unless you're Mucous Mickey, toilet paper is hard to come by!

  3. There are two things we'll never run out of in my house - shampoo and toilet paper.

    The stories just keep getting more interesting.

  4. Thanks Donna. I do hope I never get to the point where I need toilet paper and only have shampoo to hand..