Don't know what I want
Johnny Rotten (John Lydon), the Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK," Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols, 1976
Hey," called Annie to her banner-partner of the moment, "I need to take a break."
"'Scool," called back the young woman at the other end, a Pendleton-and-jeans type who looked femme and dressed butch (Kids today, thought Annie, in a matronly moment, you just can't tell), "Hey Suzie, you wanna come here a while?"
Suzie, Laura Ashley hand-me-downs, nose ring and ripped red sneakers, came softly smiling up (Partner? wondered Annie, Roomie? Oh what the hell, but it's fun to guess) and relieved Annie of her duty without a further word of English being spoken, which suited Annie.
Having asserted herself, she was ready to float again ... coffee, the drug of choice ... there must be some. Of course! Dharma's was down the street. This organic fast-food joint had tried to preface its name with a big em and a little see, but carnivorous lawyers in expensive suits soon put a stop to that nonsense. (Now, who was it who had that farm ee-eye-ee-eye-owe? Scrooge McDuck?) Still, the concept survived and it was an act of solidarity to visit every now and then, one that Annie actually liked to do. Turned out the place was doing unusually good business in take-out, thanks to the largely sympathetic crowd up the street, which was only too relieved to know that the nearest watering hole was also the most correct in miles. Every demo should be so well catered.
The parking-lot scenery was not inspiring, nor was the muddle of uniforms she stumbled across, in conference at the far end of the Triple-A building. The coffee was frankly mediocre, she knew she should have gone for the freshly squeezed juice of free-range carrots that had been raised with love not chemicals. The cookie she had rewarded herself with for the afternoon's efforts was a little stodgy and bland. And she had an irrepressible shit-eating grin all over her face. It drew attention all over, suspicious from the bluebottles, friendly from the demo freaks and hangers on and frankly inquisitive from some guy about her own age, which she took as a compliment, accepted casually as her due, and flung carelessly aside as replaceable. Some days you're on.
She meandered back through the steel and chrome towards the human bustle at the other end. Something was up, it seemed. There was a focus around the door and she decided to aim for it. As she approached, some kid she didn't know, in surfer-dude shorts and bootleg blackface Air Bart T-shirt, asked her politely, "Excuse me, are you going into the insurance office?"
"No," she laughed, "I'm here with the demo." He was presenting a hand-lettered sign that read, "If you have business with DeFrietas, Gwyn & Pollard, please come through." She read it carefully.
"I think that name might be spelled wrong," she pointed out tentatively. She knew very well two of them were, but she was almost as reluctant to impose her opinions as she was to give them up. Still, the sign seemed like a swift move and they might as well get it right. "Isn't it 'ei'?"
"I before E except after C?" suggested the youth, taking another look at his placard in a friendly kind of way.
"That's English," pointed out Annie, encouraged, "I think he's Portuguese or something." Tsk, tsk, kiddo, he? She was right, naturally, but one is not supposed to make these assumptions in political discourse. The one-in-whatever chance of slighting a woman who had made it always trumps the hard reality of the odds. This confused Annie, who thought it made more sense to tell it like it was (he) than like it should be (it, they, recast to avoid); she missed in this the power of words to create the truth they describe, but more surprisingly she missed her own ability to blend and bland and give her audience what it expected. What was she doing, slipping out of character? Or into it?
"Well, I know it should be a double-en," conceded the maitre-d' with dignity, overlooking any faux she might have passed, "But I figured it would look worse to fix it."
"It's a great sign, anyway," Annie rushed to tend to the fragile male sensibility. "Was it your idea?"
The tight knot by the entrance was unraveling some, and the negotiating lieutenant was drifting out the side.
"Yeah," said the kid, happily.
"Well," she wondered, "What's happening?"
"Oh, the cop wanted to know when we were gonna split."
"And Keith said, When was Bush going to bring the troops home, and the cop said, C'mon, we've let you had your fun, and Luke said, What do you mean fun, and Zoe said, We haven't even started yet, we're occupying this joint, and then the guy from the Insurance office started to get really mad..."
"Even though we were letting people in?"
"Yeah, we had this sign already, from the last time he came out ... anyway, I guess it's kind of a stand-off right now."
As stand-offs go, thought Annie, or is it stands-off, it's pretty cool. No sign of Black Marias or riot gear. Just then, a large van pulled around the corner and she flinched for a second before realizing that it was white and had a huge great dish antenna on the roof and Action News 11 painted prominently on the side. Hey, live remote. Check it out. The sign-man saw her looking and checked it out.
"Cool," he commented. "Live at five."
"Already?" wondered Annie, who had lost some touch with local time but not, she thought, that much. It couldn't be much past, oh, well, four-thirty she supposed and kept it to herself.
"Takes them a while to get set up."
"Should I get people round from the front?" she wondered.
"In a while, sure. We got half an hour anyway."
"I'll go spread the word."
Me? she thought and laughed again.