I am sick and tired of discussing Covid, worrying about Covid, listening to news about Covid, and you probably are too. So I’ve dug up an old story to celebrate the beginning of our South African summer, and briefly take our minds off you-know-what.
“I really don’t understand you,” grumbled Yvonne, “first I can’t get you to wear your new Hawaiian shirt, then I can’t get you to wear anything else, and now – now! Heaven knows why? – you’ve gone and bought another identical shirt! What’s going on, Harry? Are you losing your mind – you’ve got one perfectly good orange , white and blue Hawaiian shirt, why buy a second one ? and in the same colours too – if you must have another Hawaiian shirt why not buy a different colour? I’m beginning to think you must be losing it. Harry? Harry!! Are you listening? I suppose not, you never do, you and that bloody newspaper!”
“Mmm,” murmured Harry, fractionally lowering the newspaper, and gazing mildly at his agitated wife. “Wassat? “
“I knew it! You never heard a word, you never pay any attention, I don’t know why I bother!” Yvonne viciously swooped onto the breakfast dishes and marched off to the dishwasher. Harry shrugged, and began smoothing out the newspaper prior to folding it neatly into a rectangle. He always did this. The small, meaningless ritual soothed him amidst the domestic hurricanes.
“I’m off for my morning walk – see you later,” he said, rising speedily and bolting out of the kitchen.
“And that’s another thing : why this sudden passion for walking? “ yelled Yvonne. “For years I begged you to join Walk for Life, but would you? No: of course not! But now you’re retired, you go and walk for hours. I give up!” The only reply was the throaty growl of Harry’s precious diesel bakkie/truck reversing out of the driveway. He drove sedately to the nearby Builders’ Warehouse, parked neatly in his favourite spot, and walked purposefully into the store.
“Morning”, said the Security Guard, echoed by the ladies at the Information Counter, and two nearby cashiers .
“Morning all,” beamed Harry, making a beeline for his haven. He arrived in the Outdoor Living section and fondly surveyed his two most favourite objects in the universe: a pair of striped beach loungers placed invitingly under a gaily striped umbrella, in front of the display of braai/barbecue equipment.
He paused a moment to decide: which would it be today? The yellow, orange and white stripes? Or should he use the blue, white and yellow striped lounger? Both had padded seat and back-rest cushions, and a perfectly angled downward sloping leg and foot rest. Whoever designed the chair deserved a medal. Either way, his shirt toned in with both of them, so it didn’t really matter. He opted for the orange chair. He needed bright cheerful colours after his stormy morning.
Harry settled himself in the orange lounger, nudged the back rest cushion up a fraction – aaahh! That was just right. He wriggled his bum into the maximum comfort position, lightly clasped his hands over his boep/bulging tummy, and breathed out a deep sigh of relief. This was more like it. This was how a man’s retirement should be . A bit of relaxation. Peace and quiet. He didn’t mind the muzak the store played, he quite liked it, he wasn’t a fussy man. His eyelids drooped.
A little later he drowsily opened them, and focused on Mr Venter, the Floor Manager, who tenderly enquired if he could send the cleaning lady with a cup of coffee for Oom/Uncle, respectful generic title? “Baie dankie,” said Harry, “that would be nice.” Man, this was the life!
Funny to think how it all clicked into place two weeks ago when he’d come into the store for six rawl plugs. He‘d felt horribly conspicuous in his ridiculous new, bright blue and orange floral Hawaiian shirt. Khaki was just fine, so far as Harry was concerned. Maybe blue, at a pinch, and a white shirt for Sundays. That was okay. But of course he’d given in under Yvonne’s attack: “You’re retired now Harry, I’ve bought you a new shirt
“Harry, no need to wear your old khaki shirts – put this on. “
Harry slunk into Builders’ Warehouse, and slunk down the aisle, pausing to linger by the Braai Section, like he always did. His eye was drawn to the two brightly striped loungers under their gay umbrella. The orange colour brought a fleeting memory of the bright orange lolly ices his Ouma/Granny would buy him as a Saturday treat. The chairs looked very comfortable. What if he? no – he was in here to buy rawl plugs, not to mess around with beach loungers.
En route to the cash-till he paused again besides the loungers. Oh, what the hell, he decided and quietly sidled under the umbrella. He carefully sat on the orange chair. Very comfortable, he thought. “Oom must swing his legs up too,” instructed a patrolling saleslady ,“then Oom will really feel how comfy our loungers can be. That’s right,” she approved. “Now lay back and close your eyes. See? Instant holiday, né? You test-drive it for a minute or two, and I guarantee you’ll walk out with two flatpacks under your arm!” and she bustled off.
Harry must have drifted off at this point, because when he opened his eyes, a small circle of onlookers surrounded the display, pointing at the dozing pensioner, commenting on how his Hawaiian shirt perfectly matched the chairs. Wives were urging husbands to grab a flatpack quickly before they sold out, and the hubbub brought the Floor Manager at a rapid trot.
He opened his mouth to call Security to eject the cheeky old man from his display, but when he saw the rapidly dwindling pile of flatpacks, he changed his mind. “See,” he announced to the growing circle of spectators, “our chairs are so comfy you just have to relax! Ask Oom here – he’s proof!” and he gestured towards the bewildered pensioner. “No problem, Meneer/Sir, you’re welcome to relax on our loungers any time, you maar/justcarry on, no rush. Enjoy yourself.”
Harry couldn’t have left the store even if he’d wanted to. He was hemmed in by eager customers and trapped on the lounger. When the last flatpack had been snatched up, the Floor Manager homed in on Harry, and suggested he return to the store on Monday, once they’d organized a re-supply of the loungers. “Please Meneer,“ he begged “ and be sure to wear your Hawaiian shirt, it’s perfect!”
And thus Harry found a temporary harbour from the stormy seas of domestic life.