This Would Be More Glamorous If I Lived In New York City.

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I have a friend who is incredibly astute.

“That’s the problem with being female in a big city,” she said recently. “You’re always either hunting for an apartment, a job, or a guy”.

Living in London is like living in the worst video game ever. You can’t pause, you don’t get a second chance, and you never die. Just you, and eight million other freaks, aimlessly wandering this damp shitfest of a conurbation, where the default setting is autonomic hyperactivity so high, there’s no way a discreet smile can be interpreted as anything other than life-menacing.

I didn’t realise they decorate the hamster wheel of compartmental destitution for Christmas. They do. In the really fucked up way that makes a rodent really excited, because the bars of his cage got a fresh lick of paint. Hey! You! Don’t be hoodwinked into toying with notions that your pathetic existence is meaningless and vapid. Look at all the things we have to offer! You can pay for your ride through tunnels of dust contactlessly. You get nectar points. Everything you drink is about to taste a hundred times better, because WE JUST STARTED POURING STUFF INTO CUPS THAT ARE RED!

The world also just got infinitely more exciting because Samsung have brought out a “notebook” that spontaneously combusts as its way of telling you it’s fully charged. I can’t sue for identity theft here, but dude.

I’m a writer.

We have two tools we can exclusively call our own. Notebooks and pens. We’ve been around for thousands of years. Ten minutes, you’ve been on the scene, and you’ve already violated the very elements that constitute us. Just behind “photographer”, everyone is (of course) now also a “writer”. I see them, polluting my headspace with their toffee nut proletariat, while I cling mercilessly on to my one remaining pleasure. Writing on 22×7 squared Clairefontaine notebooks with a brushed vellum paper weight of 90g/m².

Now I’m both angry and sad, because the fancy pink grapefruit I bought to cheer myself up was rubbish, and the £500 Waitrose are promising I can win in return for feedback is a sad lie. My postcode is too bourgeois.

 

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Next Stop, Deutsche Bank.

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If recent posts are doing a poor job sequestering my love for all things infantile, fine. This is my pram, these are my toys, and I’ll throw them how I choose.

In a world where little boys sit in glass-wrapped offices and rest their Helmut Lang elbows on mahogany desks, I’m calling bullshit. Why?

Because I am a lady who rides the bus. And when some clown freezes the Jubilee Line because retrieving his smartphone from the tracks seemed a “better idea between trains”, Canary Wharf also rides the bus.

The bus is an interesting place. Seat margins replace profits, Tartine et Chocolat gives Tom Ford the middle finger, and there is no UberSelect. It’s called “I put my coat there first”. For all the billions these heavyweights net in their high-rises, I’ve yet to see one of these fuckers come up with a counter-argument for the twelve year-old who was “sitting there first”.

And that is because the bus is the rail replacement service to childhood.

Everyone pushes to get on.

Everyone wants to sit by the window/at the back/on the convex bit that’s cool because it’s above the wheel.

No-one argues with the driver.

Shoving? He’ll call you on it. Press the bell when the sign clearly says someone already did? He’ll call you on it. And just like at school, if you’re the victim of bullying, eyes on the road, didn’t see a damn thing.

Food gets more interesting here, too. Fast food joints on the street won’t even register on your radar. But when that nurse pulls out a congealed tray of cold noodles? Noodles are the greatest thing CREATED EVER.

The older get priority seating.

They should get priority boarding, but no-one gives a shit.

Nobody should be littering. Everyone still does.

Someone always misses their stop. There is one acceptable reaction to this. Man the fuck up, and shrug it off.

If you’re on your way to an interview and on a bus, you’re probably not going to make it. To the interview, and you know, in life, generally. Still, retain what Google told you. Look like you’ve got it together. Sound like you’ve got it together.  Make eye contact.

Except on the bus.

If you happen to be on the phone (which I believe these gargantuan office transactions at some point require), make sure everyone can hear you. No, louder. We like having our own little world hijacked by why you will or won’t be turning up to dinner, broken down into microscopic detail, then blasted through a megaphone. Make sure to repeat yourself. They might not have heard you the first time.

Make sure to begin your call with “hi, it’s me”.

No. Better. Leave it in a voicemail.

My popularity-guaranteed life coach services are available seven days a week. Except when I’m on the phone.

via Daily Prompt: Honk

Little Girls In Pretty Boxes

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Camden Council wants to reward me for recycling, a law which is already punishable with a penalty fine. For recycling all my cardboard and paper, they’re going to give me vouchers. For local cafes. That sell coffee. In paper cups with cardboard sleeves.

Particularly like that their little scheme involves sending “bin spies” which is cool because I’ve never been to Russia.

Royally gutted finding out the whole recycling process actually consumes more energy than is efficient or good for the planet. The one thing that made me feel really good. And tangibly, not distant, yeah, someone, somewhere down the line now finds their twice-daily 20k hike for water 0.4% less taxing but I’ll only remember I even agreed to it when I check my bank statement.

Actually good.

I don’t donate money to Africa. I haven’t inspected the quality personally, but I get the feeling Sierra Leone’s warlords have enough platinum plating on their M16s to be getting on with. I like to think my vaping adds moisture to flowering plants and also, it helps educate children on how trains used to work. I can’t measure my carbon footprint because carbon isn’t visible and I often just wear socks.

So I’d recycle, which made me feel good (N.B. Camden Council, still do).  And I don’t do things by half.

Tins are for amateurs. The real pros can spend a solid five minutes evaluating which parts of the soup container are really truly recyclable and which are purely there to fuck with your head because yes, it’s plastic but not that kind of plastic. Thought you were gonna hoodwink me, there? THINK AGAIN, MY FRIEND!

I know your lids like the back of my expert goddamn hands. I see your semi-permeable membranes of witchery and I will not be fooled. And though there are so very many other things I could be doing with my five minutes, I’m happy to be your green bin bitch because not only did I get soup, I got dopamine for being such a good girl.

I think they also offer vouchers for independent stores. Who probably sell soup.

This will never end.

Oh. Right.

I couldn’t find a picture of a recycling bin that wasn’t either weeping with McDonald’s overflow or so achingly patronising, it made Lucky’s cumulative 40k water trek seem comparatively dignified, so here’s a picture of mummy and baby elephant. They have a forthright march because they’re off to the sustainably sourced dump.

 

Le Tabac versus Hamster Wheels Of Compartmental Destitution.

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If the boulangerie is the Côte d’Azur’s beating heart, its lung is the tabac. I mean, you’ve got to give it to them, they’ve tried. Bans. Warnings. State-sponsored ads. Cancerous throats. Kaddish For An Unborn Child in photographic form right on the fucking packet. Whatever it is benzene and polonium-210 are getting up to, they can take a hike. This lot aren’t budging. Granted, nor are their cilia, but I don’t see anyone giving a shit. In the US, you wake up, brush your teeth and pour yourself a tall glass of milk. In France, you wake up- either already in some effortlessly chic shift dress or, conversely, fully nude; both will do here for what I’m going for- achingly French, and you reach for the cigarettes.

Aha! So we’ll drive them outside! But where? Onto south-facing terraces with optional parasols and iced Perrier on tap? FINE BY US!

Driving smokers outdoors in London vaguely works. It’s become very… Soviet. We stand in bunches. Huddle. Always end up facing the rain. There are many hardships. Lighters that just won’t take in this wind. Raincoats that seemed dry but the sleeves are still damp from earlier because whoever designed this piece of shit umbrella didn’t factor in that in this godforsaken land, it rains sideways.

It costs so much but feels so cheap.

Inhaling poison becomes a pleasure; the emergency escape exit from a broken record of cyclical soul-squalor that should’ve died out years ago from inertia but somehow ploughs mechanically on to the sound of Depeche Mode on a loop. The hamster wheel of compartmental destitution. It operates in cogs, each 3.5cm apart from the next. It has no beginning and no end; a shuttle bus to nowhere filled by a hop-on-never-hop-off populace of humanoid rodents in lacklustre suits from Next and cheap cologne. You don’t get to pick your start point. Since this cycle must commence somewhere, we’ll go for the fixed rate mortgage cog. 3.5cm from the dead-end job cog. That one’s a real fucker. It arrives boutique-packaged like a box of artisan chocolates; all shiny desks and swivel chairs wrapped in ribbon but no scissors. Just a line manager called Dave who wears bad ties and honours you with regular progress reports because life’s ultimate aptitude test begins and ends with how good a team player you were this week.

3.5cm from the Northern Line train home cog. Now that one generally “operates a good service” but is prone to the kinds of “minor delays” that occur remarkably frequently but under only two distinct circumstances. One. The really need to be in early today (for my weekly progress report because really, if there’s a better way to insult my graduate status, I’d like to hear it). Two. I just want to get the fuck home, already. You’d try to read the sorry excuse for why you’re still stuck in the tunnel, but the 20,000 other people sandwiched into the carriage are blocking the view of the scrolling sign of doom so it’s back to the ever-reliant tannoid. You’ll be sitting here for a veritable epoche due to what the driver helpfully describes as a “delay”. Yeah, they’ve got a real gift, that lot. But that’s all fine, because fourteen stops down the line, you can hop to the next cog. The broken escalator that so elegantly leads you to the replacement bus service, only a “swift eight minute walk” (thanks, Foxtons) to your shoebox of a first home.

 

It’s dark. You’re not going to the gym tonight. Or ever.

You will sit on your Argos sofa with rubbish rosé from Tesco and watch Masterchef because I guarantee you, nothing will ever leave you quite as failed as stabbing holes in the cellophane of a microwave carbonara while some nineteen year-old skyrockets to culinary fame by boiling a quail’s egg, sticking it on a plate, adorning it with a sprig of parsley and a squirt of balsamic vinegar and calling it “cuisine”.

Of course, there’s a way out. All you have to do is look. It comes right before the next cog.

That brief window of air. The cigarette.

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© Rebecca Cukier, 2016