Monday, August 07, 2006

Basement George

He knocked at two am; a light rap on the grey door accompanied by an incoherent voice strung out on cocaine, mumbling a request to

- open the door; let’s talk. -

This was the first time George had made a personal call or crossed the hitherto strictly amicable and neighbourly divide Ray had expounded so much mental effort on attempting to create, with diffident nods and friendly smiles calculated to ingratiate himself with George, in the hope of creating a social buffer built on mutual respect.

Ray wedged in the earplugs trailing from a small plastic radio, turned up its volume and began praying for a different reality; one sound proofed to insulate him from the dysfuntional behaviour of nutters like George. He tried to focus his mind on a drunk radio-caller mapping out his booze fuelled vision of tackling anti-social behaviour to Pat, a snappy sounding jock manning the graveyard shift at the decks of Talk-Sport Radio, station of late night chat.

- Well, sure, they should be making laws against it. Ban the lot of them completely. Street rats going about the place terrorising honest hardworking people just for the fun of it, thinking it’s brilliant craic and a great gas all together. Filming it on their mobile phones and putting up websites about it. Scum, that’s all they are. -

Unimpressed with Ray's failure to respond, George struck his fist on the door and re-entered his room with a muffled curse, loudly slamming his door and, as he threw himself onto the bed, hurling a tirade of abuse at the flimsy partition wall he kicked upon landing.

Pat was engaged in his usual routine, playing devils advocate to an idiotic caller named Terry, his voice effortlessly oozing the soft bland burr of sophist reason weaving along its 107 FM path to the ears of insomniacs and night-shift workers throughout the city. The background moan-fest and signature of Sport-Talk’s early AM show.

- So you think the government should introduce legislation in relation to this problem Terry? Some kind of anti-social behaviour law? ASBO's maybe? That’s certainly one way of addressing the issue, and one which our listeners will no doubt have opinions on. If there’s anyone out there who want to have their say on this topic, give us a call on the usual number. -

It briefly crossed Ray's mind that, if he possessed a phone, he could call Pat and acquaint him with his own anti-social situation of being the unlucky neighbour of George and closest witness of his slide into chemically induced madness, fuelling an aggressive paranoia now directed at Ray through twenty millimetres of jaded plasterboard the colour of dog dirt fawn; functional, like a dump. A picture came into Ray's mind of holding up the phone so Pat and his fellow listeners could hear George's routine, imagining the manufactured concern in Pat’s glib response as a hollow empathy filtered out of the radio’s tinny plastic speaker to scratch at George’s deaf and drunken ears next door.

Trying to remain silent Ray began dressing as Pat and Terry continued to chat about the possible connection between hooded tops and anti social behaviour; one which Terry believed to be obvious and the intrinsic links of which he began to expound upon with all the eloquence of a man trying to argue the existence of extraterrestrials from inside a portable toilet.

- What do they be wanting to have the hood up for when its warm? They can be only up to no good. -

- Could they not have the hood up because it’s wintertime Terry and they, understandably, have the desire to remain as warm as possible, which is what the hood is there for in the first place? - Pat, not unreasonably countered.

Terry seemed oblivious to this interjection of sensible comment, blithely waffling on and unburdening his load like a conspiracy theorist railing from the stump of Speakers Corner.

- Well, I watched a news report on the RTE about a gang of young ones in Westport who do nothing all day but happy slapping and now everyone in Mayo’s too scared to go into the town for their shopping. Pensioners and disabled people too terrified to leave the house for the fear of it. Grown men unable to walk the streets because of it. It’s complete and utter madness. They should be shot. -

As Ray slipped into a pair of lightweight mountain boots whose robust clunky soles and stout tailoring offered full comfort and equipped the feet of the wearer with a trusty sense of protection, Pat began working up to a predictable denoument, preparing to cut Terry and his unconvincing argument loose; discard him into the ether after a a last word salvo of synthetic outrage had completely rubbished his opinion.

- But Terry, you can’t tar everyone who wears a hoodie as scum, - said the record spinning chat king, in a register of professional insincerity honed by years of late night blathering to oddballs and weirdos,

- I, and many others, including numerous friends and family have worn hooded tops on many occassions and neither I, nor any of my friends and family, as far as I’m aware, have ever mugged or felt the urge to physically threaten anyone when wearing one. Do you not think, Terry, that you are going completely over the top here; that the opinion of making hoodies illegal and shooting people for attiring themselves, in what many people consider practical and comfortable clothing, is an extremely illogical one which can serve society in no beneficial way whatsoever? -

But Terry was unswayed by this artificial voice shifting through the gears of midnight reason and told Pat he was firm in his conviction that hooded tops should be outlawed and withdrawn from the racks and shelves with immediate effect.

- It’s the only way to stop it. - Terry said, impervious to the critical flaws Pat had isolated in his theory.

He sounded drunk, lonely and increasingly deranged. Another sacrificial lamb from the dial chained masses, functioning as Pat’s verbal punch bag; a fish in the barrel-offering to be slaughtered at the altar of late night radio.

- If it was up to me I’d be making them illegal tomorrow. It’s too dangerous not too Pat. The whole country’s going to the dogs through young ones who’ve got no control and can only think of mobile phones, burgers and runners; hiding themselves and smashing the place up. Vandalising, sniffing glue and taking all sorts of mind bending drugs. -

Terry was beyond redemption and Pat began working up to the inevitable blow off, crunching the logistics of Terry’s vision by concentrating on the fact that criminalizing hooded tops was a very impractical enterprise to embark upon.

- I’m sorry Terry, but I don’t think that’s a sensible idea, or one which has a chance of working in any way whatsoever. I would strongly argue that it is in fact a pretty stupid idea and one that no rational normal human being should hold, as it would be an incredibly foolish and effectively impossible undertaking. -

The first sound of Terry's attempted rebuttal was instantly cut off as Pat disconnected him from the airwaves and cast him abruptly into the night with all the aplomb of a pub landlord slamming the door on a sozzled patron. Ray pictured Terry's booze befuddled brain taking a few seconds to realise what had happened and imagined him aggrieved; like the kicked out drinker who had spent his money and time boring a pub manager before the sudden pushed exit left him facing a locked door instead of the late night lock in he had been expecting. Pat’s voice effortlessly segued into a flirty timbre for the next, female, caller; switching to a register leaking an homogenised brand of airwave magnetism male DJ’s aspire to imitate in their quest of becoming radio emperors and housewife heart throbs.

- OK, we’re going to have to leave you there for now Terry and take a call from June somewhere in the South of the city who wants to tell us what she thinks of hooodies. Hello June your though to Talksport. So, June, what have you got to say? -

Ray slowly laced up the boots and reclined back on the bed fully kitted out for a night street roaming. Excellent footwear to keep out the cold November chill of a windswept seaport.

June began pouring out her opinion with a cliché, telling Pat how a few bad apples were giving the rest of the kids a bad name; but just as she started to warm to the theme by giving the example of her own teenagers, who were all law abiding hoodie wearers, "Hot Legs" by Rod Stewart drop kicked its way from George’s stereo and through the wall in a sonic boom, drowning out June’s voice and Pat’s sudden switch from love god to attentive asexual conversationalist. Pressing the earplugs tightly down with the tips of his fingers Ray tried to suffocate wrinkly Rod Stewart and concentrate on June telling Pat about her perfect family, closing his eyes and searching his mind for faith.

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