Monday, June 27, 2005


On Saturday morning, while I was having my hair cut, a large, grumpy old man stomped into the salon. My chipper Irish barber bade him a good morning, but just he continued to scowl at the barber, me, and the salon in general as if we had all personally betrayed him.

"Have you signed the papers yet?" he demanded.

"It's right on the top of my list of things to do," my barber replied, with just a trace of nervousness inflecting his Irish cheer.

"So that's a no, then," the old man muttered dangerously.

"This afternoon," the Irishman breezed. "I'll sit down and sign them then, I promise."

"You've had plenty of opportunity to sign them already."

"I've been busy, you know. But I'll definitely sign them this afternoon."

I assumed that the old man was the landlord. He had the look of someone who could take a basket of adorable fluffy kittens, weigh it down with a big rock, and drop it off a bridge.

"Well you're not getting any of these until you've signed," the old man snapped, and I noticed that he was carrying a large tray. On the tray were a couple of dozen pikelets, individually daubed with jam and whipped cream.

"Ooh, they look good," my barber enthused.

"You can't have one until you've signed," the old man threatened, and he swept into the back of the salon, deposited the pikelets on a desk, and swept out again.

"I'll be back later," he muttered, eyeing everyone in the room as if trying to work out who to impale on a star picket first. Then he stomped out of the salon.

There was a brief silence, broken only by the gentle snicking of the scissors. At last my barber said, "He's been trying to get me to become an Australian citizen for years."


"I've been here fifteen years, and I've never gotten around to becoming a citizen. He got the papers for me a while ago, and you know, with one thing and another..."

"And now he's bribing you with pikelets?"

"Well, his wife is."

I felt a sudden, deep swell of patriotism. Anyone can be hostile to foreigners, but it takes an true-blue Aussie to be hostile to foreigners while bribing them with dainty tea-time treats.


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