Yesterday we got our enrolment confirmations so, come November, we're ready to hit the polls. I was pleased to see they had accepted my occupation of Shop Girl (and very diverted by Vincent's Homemaker). Since then I've been thinking about my job - what it is, and what people think it is, and all the little rules no-one who comes in really thinks about. And I've been thinking about the Very Interesting, Very Orthodox Couple.
They come in every couple of months, usually to buy an engagement present, or a house-warming present, or a wedding present. The first time, it was just him, quiet but friendly, looking for a present for her birthday or something. He finally settled on some earrings. I couldn't imagine them on a girl on his arm. He returned with her, and the earrings, a week later.
There are special rules with couples. Even if he asks the question, you reply to both of them, switching eye contact equally, especially if your answer is going to elicit a laugh. If the girl is plain, equal eye-contact is no longer enough; everything has to be directed at her, with a few acknowledging glances at him as if he might be her dog, or her baby. What he looks like is completely irrelevant.
Both of the V.I.V.O.C. are plain, but there is something thoughtful in his face. She looks as if she is holding back, and that it isn't an effort anymore. I'd really like to see her drunk.
Last time they came for a wedding present. As I wrapped it, they told me it was the third set of the same dishes they'd bought (one for another wedding, one for themselves), and then stood watching awkwardly. I tried to make conversation but ended up conducting an interview. The wedding was the next day, somewhere near Brisbane. She couldn't go because they'd just been on holiday and she'd used up all her leave (and had his mother bought the art for the happy couple as she said she would?). She was going to have a girls' weekend with her mother, who was coming up from Tauranga. I think we were all relieved when I tied the ribbon (and he remarked that I'd done that before).
The entire time they stood without touching, about a foot apart, and I couldn't help imagining them in bed together, and then in bed the first time, and how they ended up there. I imagined them at a couple of mutual friends' party or bbq in summer, he in ironed jeans and a thin shirt, she in slightly heeled sandals and a short-sleeved cardigan (partly for warmth, partly to balance the extra centimetre of cleavage her dress cut under). They didn't really speak that night, except for a quick introduction and maybe some small talk outside the bathroom, and if they remembered each other it was more because they remember everyone and didn't smoke weed at school than any lasting impression they made on one another. Now, at parties, he makes his way over to where the boys are, she to where the girls are (inside), and he'll come and top up her wine, until the groups merge and then they support each others' stories and everybody thinks what a great couple they make.
Part of me is horrified by them, and part is fascinated. Is there enough comfort in buying a present together that they don't need to touch? Are they following rules when they interact with me? Are they really robots? I'll tell you more next time they come in.