Word Crimes

Word Crimes. I love the general response to this song. For a long time, I’ve been that person who corrects everyone else’s spelling and grammar, both online and in person. Some of you may remember passing me notes in lectures only to have them returned with proofreading marks all over them. I would like it to be known that I never intended to be hurtful or imply stupidity when doing this (although it’s always tempting to write, “You can’t even [spell, use apostrophes, capitalise],” when dealing with people I don’t agree with online), but I realise now that sometimes people are offended and I come off as condescending and/or cruel. As someone who has always loved the sometimes seemingly arbitrary rules of the English language, it has taken me a long time to understand that some people just don’t get it, and just don’t care.

I’ve been interested for a while now in the social aspects of ‘correct grammar’ and what it means for different people. This has coincided with my increased interest in feminism.

As a teacher, I feel responsible for critically examining why I teach certain things as well as how, and I want to be prepared for questions like:

  • “Who cares?” (about grammar, spelling, syntax, etc)
  • “Why?”(do we have to do it this way, do you insist on this, does it matter)
  • “Shouldn’t you be encouraging my efforts instead of tearing them down?”
  • “Why can’t I use language my own way as a subversion of cultural norms, or to make a point, or to express my creativity and independence?”

Okay, I’ve never been asked the second two, but I wish students would ask them more often than the first two, and they are the questions I tend to ask myself.

Basically, what I have become uncomfortable with is the shaming of people over the language they use. Those of us for whom ‘correct’ language requires very little thought need to consider why. We need to acknowledge the privilege that comes with living in a society that values the way we speak and write over the way others speak and write.

The first argument that comes to my mind when people ask “y dey kant rite da way dey want” is, “because you sound like an idiot.” I made a short (25 second) video designed to get students thinking about language, where I use that argument. As I’ve come to understand the way we, as a society, use language to shame fat people and lgbtq+ people and people of colour and women and so on and so forth, I’ve decided that it’s not okay to use language to shame people who don’t use language the way we want them to, just as it’s not okay to shame people who don’t look  or act or love the way we want them to . People use ‘txt’ language all the time. People say “them lot” and “yous.” People write “apple’s 99c” and “are friends r going too there house.” We understand them. Seeing and hearing these things make me cringe. I know they’re ‘wrong.’ But what right do I have to say that those people are inferior for writing or speaking that way? They are communicating; it’s what we do. Language evolves and those ways of speaking and writing are no less valid than mine or anyone else’s. 

In Shakespeare’s time, spelling was not standardised. Even now, that word, “standardised,” has two acceptable spellings. Here in New Zealand, we officially use the British “-ise,” but in schools, the American “-ize” is also acceptable, as long as the student is consistent (i.e. not using -ise and -ize interchangeably, but using one or the other in all work). And let’s be honest, English is confusing: we always use an apostrophe to show possession (Emma’s cat, the cat’s tail) unless it’s the word ‘its’ (its tail, not it’s tail). We write connection but complexion. Bow and bow do not rhyme, but gruff and tough do, and bough rhymes with bow but not bow. Or tough. Also, all of these poems exist.

Anyway, back to “Weird Al” Yankovich’s Word Crimes.

First of all, isn’t it interesting that the word ‘crime’ is used here to describe what is simply a departure-from-the-generally-accepted, yet so many people still make excuses for rape, just like Robin Thicke in the song that Word Crimes parodies?

Okay, now I love the song up until the first insult, at about 1.03 – if you don’t know when to use ‘less’ or ‘fewer,’ you were raised in a sewer. ( A sewer as in effluent system, not someone who sews). As a self-professed lover of language since childhood (in the early 90s) and someone who has been teaching English since 2008, I was quite embarrassed to discover I’d been using the word ‘less’ when I meant ‘fewer’ in 2011. But no-one had ever taught me that, so why should I be embarrassed? By that stage I’d been through kindergarten, primary school, intermediate school, high school and undergraduate study at two different universities, and read thousands of books of all kinds, from picture books to fantasy to literary classics to academic textbooks and everything in between, and I’d never picked that up. Just because you don’t know something doesn’t mean you weren’t ‘raised right.’ In addition, this insult implies that homeless people are inherently stupid. Now that’s stupid. (I originally wrote ‘fuck that shit,’ but after reading this article, I’ve decided I will no longer suggest raping things I don’t agree with.)

I love the next few seconds (explaining that “I could care less” means it’s possible to care less, so therefore you do care somewhat), but then the name-calling starts. “Don’t be a moron.” “Show the world you’re no clown.” “You dumb mouth-breather.” “You write like a spastic.”

“You’re a lost cause.” Wow. What I hear when he says that: You don’t use language the way I think you should, so you have no value as a human being.

Then there’s more shaming based on ‘how educated you are.’ It’s only acceptable to write words using numbers if you are seven. Not five, or six, or eight. Just seven. You, as a person, are unacceptable if you write “n00b” or “b4″ and you are not seven years old (or your name is Prince, because, you know, celebrities live outside of the real world and have a free pass to do whatever they want). If you finished second grade you must know everything. Everything you will ever need to know about language should be in your head by the time you are about eight years old, depending on what country you live in (Year 2 students in New Zealand are generally 6-7 years old). Oh, by the way, if you didn’t finish second grade, it’s okay, you’re allowed to be stupid (because I get to say who’s allowed to live a certain way and who isn’t.)

“Go back to preschool. Get out of the gene pool. Try your best to not drool.” Have you ever critically evaluated these statements? You are not educated enough to be around me. I don’t want more people like you in the world, so you shouldn’t reproduce. Anyone who can’t grasp the complexities of a confusing language must have problems with basic physical functioning, and people who have problems with basic physical functions are all imbeciles. What? Your logic hurts.

Side note re: Violence (“that makes me literally want to smack a crowbar through your stupid head”). Now the words here are actually okay. When we see and hear things we don’t like, it often makes us feel frustrated to the point that we want to lash out. And the song describes that: “…makes me […] want to…” It doesn’t actually promote violence against people who aren’t speaking (or acting, or living) in a way we agree with. I just wanted to bring up the point that the violence described is not appropriate in any circumstance, and especially not over the misuse of the word literally. Violence as a solution is over-represented in media, language and in our lives. I just want it to stop and thought it was worth bringing up here.

I love language. Language is an indicator of culture (and by that, I don’t mean “Golly, you misspelled ‘definite;’ you are so uncultured,” I mean that the language we use, especially when we’re not thinking about it, says a lot about the way we, as a culture, think, and what we value, and how we define ourselves and others). I value effective communication and I think that educating people about language and metalanguage is awesome, but I think we can do it without resorting to insults and devaluing people.

Now, I appreciate Yankovich’s parodies. He’s a clever man. He interacts critically with pop culture in a way that highlights the ridiculous, which I’m a fan of. I don’t like all his work, but nor do I disapprove of it. Just like everybody else, he uses language his own way. We all need to be more aware of how the language we use can shame or objectify others. 

 

Categories: Language, Teaching | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Yoga makes me angry

Maybe I’m doing it wrong. I went to a yoga class yesterday for the first time in 3 years. Three years ago, it made me angry. Yesterday, it made me angry. I just don’t get it. I love stretching, I’m quite committed to breathing, and I’m pretty open to the whole getting-in-touch-with-yourself thing. Continue reading

Categories: Day-to-day | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 22 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Summer is early (and I like it)

Apart from the intermittent downpours on Monday, this past week has been a gorgeous foreshadowing of the pure joy that will be summer.

I’ve been to the gym four times (one of those times happened to be Monday for an outdoor crossfit session – we were sodden within 2 minutes!), joined the Tauranga Writers Group, been on a date that went wonderfully (there were real life fireworks), and loved working with the students who came in for extra school holiday lessons at work.

I’m currently drawing pictures of mermaids to get an idea of what the characters in my soon-to-be-written novel will look like (mermaids are totally the new vampires, which make me happy because mermaids are awesome and everyone should love them, but also makes me a little bit sad because now they will become over-commercialised and everyone will be writing novels and making movies about them and the ones in my imagination will no longer be special).

Things for NaNoWriMo are gearing up – including a new layout of the website, which is way better than the way it was, and I’ve officially entered the details for my novel. Working title Undercurrents – still not sure about that, but we’ll see how things turn out.

Guess what, guess what?

Here’s the picture from last week’s (or was it the week before?) Guess What It Is?

yum!

yum!

And a new picture for this week:

Hmmm... what is it?

Hmmm… what is it?

 

Hope everyone is having as awesome a week as I am :)

xEmma

 

Categories: Day-to-day, Guess what it is! | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Please look after this bear.

If anyone knows of a good place for bodies, I’m looking to trade-up. My one’s broken.

From six weeks of influenza to excruciating back pain and all the meibomian cysts and nasty cramps in between, I’ve come to realise my body is probably trying to tell me something. I’m guessing it’s something along the lines of “I need more love. Please look after me.”

I signed up for the six week challenge at my gym. It starts today. My aim is to improve my flexibility and stamina. There are many other goals to work towards, but let’s keep things simple.

Now that the emotional pain of it is wearing off, I’m ready to announce to the world that I have withdrawn from my teaching course. I do intend to finish it one day, maybe even next year, but for now it’s just not what I’m meant to be doing. For now I need to look after me. Not finishing my course this year does not make me a failure. Acknowledging my need for help does not make me weak. I recently discovered Boggle the owl, who is a wonderful friend to have. You should check him out. In addition, I’ve decided I should perhaps get a luggage tag like Paddington’s made.

Please look after this bear. Thank you.

Guess What It Is?

Time for a new Guess What It Is? (see here for details)

whatisitwhatisitwhatisit?

whatisitwhatisitwhatisit?

Last Week’s Guess What It Is:

Cutie Cutie Baby Otter

 

Finally, in other news, Saturday was the UN Day of Peace (check out Peace One Day in my “I support” list to the right), and coming up on the 2nd of October is the International Day of Non-Violence (Gandhi’s birthday). If you happen to be in or near Hiroshima, japan, do go down to the Peace Memorial. I don’t know if they do it every year, but when I was there in 2008 there was a beautiful gathering of people celebrating with music and cake. Between these two dates, young leaders of GirlGuiding all over New Zealand are organising Take Back the Night marches, rallies and gatherings. The Bay of Plenty gathering is this Friday.

xEmma

Categories: Guess what it is!, Saving the World | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Oh, I have a blog?

I do tend to forget about this old thing I set up years ago called a blog (short for weblog, did you know? I still remember the first time I heard about this new form of journaling). Sure, blogging is mostly just glamorised navel-gazing, but I do enjoy it and I like to think that someone else, somewhere in the world occasionally enjoys reading the words I’ve pieced together.

September, apparently, is #nanoprep month. I feel it has to be written with a hashtag because the only place I ever see this term used is on twitter. NaNoWriMo 2013 is fast approaching and I have a vague chance of winning this year. More of a chance than any other year I’ve attempted it, at least.

And now for a quick round of ‘guess what it is’ – where I post a tiny portion of a photo that was too small to begin with and you try and guess what it is.

What is it?

What is it?

xEmma

 

Categories: Guess what it is!, Writing | Tags: , | 6 Comments

At the coming up of the sun

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

The Ode of Remembrance” is the fourth stanza of Laurence Binyon‘s 1914 poem “For the Fallen.”

I woke before dawn this morning. I dressed quickly, attached my new head and taillights to my bicycle, and I rode down to the Greerton RSA Hall.

It’s the fourth Dawn Parade I have attended (in commemoration of those who have served New Zealand in the armed forces over the years). There is something especially moving about attending the Dawn service as opposed to Continue reading

Categories: Day-to-day, Flashback, New Zealand, Photos | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tauranga week 3 (or Never Flat With Ross J Riley)

Last Saturday the flatmate from the new house I’d met the week before, AF, arrived from his hometown of Waihi with his girlfriend, E. I was so glad to not be alone in the house anymore! One of the other rooms is spoken for, by returning flattie LZ, who should arrive in mid-Feb, and the other room – the one I looked at first and wasn’t impressed with – is still waiting for a tenant.

It was so nice to have someone to talk to, and although E warned me that AF has moved from his parents’ place to his brother’s place and so is effectively a first-time flatter, I have been relieved to realise that he has plenty of common sense, knows how to cook his own meals and clean up after himself, and is easy to talk to. We don’t have a great deal in common, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get on, and at least there are a few tv programmes we can agree on.

He’s been working during the days, and E left on Monday, so I’ve been alone again during the days, but that’s been okay, too. Since he spends most of his time at home in front of the tv though, I’ve picked up the habit, even when he’s not around, and have subsequently ended up watching a lot of rubbishy day-time reality shows. A lot. Of rubbish!

But I haven’t been a complete couch potato. I collected Clara from the bike shop, working like new, and have been for a few rides. I went to the third session of boot camp, but missed the fourth, because I was busy at the campus library trying to apply for more jobs. I joined the campus gym, which has a heated outdoor swimming pool, too. It’s lovely! I drove to Katikati and walked the Haiku Pathway. There was only one haiku that I really liked, but just the fact that it’s poetry in public makes me happy! I went to the cousins’ place for dinner again, shopped at SaveMart (yay, new vests!), and today I cycled around the Waikareao (“sparkling waters of the new day”) path – a 9km loop around estuarine wetland. At one point I saw a cheeky white face in the mangrove, then, as I cycled along the boardwalk, a dozen white-faced herons took off, flying gracefully over the low mangrove forest and taking my breath away.

And of course, the last instalment of the Maitland Street adventure: I went back on Friday to use the internet and collect the few bits and pieces I’d left there. As I drove in, I was pleased to see that Ross’ car wasn’t there. Again, a key had been left in the lock on the inside of the door, but a bit of a wiggle with my own key dislodged it and I was in. As I walked in, I was hit with a sinking feeling – what if he had locked my bedroom door? I no longer had a key and wouldn’t be able to get in. I approached the door and breathed a sigh of relief as it opened.

He’d been in there, even after I asked him not to. There was no sign of any of my things. Even the bed had been stripped. I felt a mix of panic and anger. I pulled open the closet and thank goodness my washing basket was in there with my pillow and the few other bits and pieces I’d left behind. But no sheets. And no blanket. My Brownie blanket was gone! I checked the washing machine, the linen cupboard, Ross’s room (as weird as that felt), the empty room that used to be Bruce’s. My sheets and blanket were gone! I admit I raged around the house for about 30 seconds looking for something to destroy. Then, outside, I found my sheets and blanket in a box. I can’t think of any reason for that. Ross is such a weirdo! I didn’t stick around, just gathered my things and left. So glad to be out of there! Goodbye Maitland Street. Word to the wise: if you’re ever looking for a place to live, and it turns out Ross J Riley lives there, run!

Week three in Tauranga over, and I definitely love it! Just the fact that I’m sitting outside at 8 in the evening, and the concrete steps are warm from the sun, and the air is warm, and the sun is glowing gold behind the trees across the road, and 5 year-old Kanye from next door is showing off his scooter skills, and he clearly hasn’t worn shoes in months, because the weather’s just so nice, makes me happy.

 

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Tauranga week 2

I had two weeks to find a new place to live. That was the deal: two weeks’ notice. I wished I’d only paid Ross the rent in advance, rather than the rent and utilities combined. I had an appointment to see a place on Saturday morning, but first I was off to meet a distant relative I’d never even heard of before.

I’d spoken to my dad on the phone, and worked out that my great grandmother and this relative’s grandmother had been sisters. I had no idea what that made us. I decided I would be calling her my cousin. Much easier. I met her at the farmer’s market, where she was selling organic bread for the business she and her partner started one or two years ago. The sun was shining, the market was busy, the bread was popular and I felt like I loved Tauranga, despite the weird guy I happened to have moved in with (he’s actually an Aucklander, so it’s not a Tauranga thing). My cousin was lovely. We chatted easily and she gave me a croissant to munch on as she sold loaves and buns and greeted regular and new customers alike. When I left to go and look at the flat I’d arranged to see, she gave me two loaves of sourdough to take with me. Turned out the flat was just around the corner from her place, so we arranged to meet again afterwards.

I drove to the flat and wasn’t really impressed from the outside. Or with the bedroom. But the living room, the kitchen and dining room, and the back garden were lovely. Nowhere near the tastefully appointed rooms at Ross’ place, but spacious and comfortable and light. Then the landlady showed me the other room. They prefer to have couples there, as it’s so big, but they rent it to one person at a reduced rate if necessary. I love it. We chatted, and she and her husband, a friendly couple from New Plymouth, were surprised to hear I’ve only been in Tauranga a week, yet already have a flat that I want to move out of. They asked and I answered honestly, explaining briefly why I wanted to leave Maitland St. They encouraged me to ‘pot’ the landlord, and I left, feeling disappointed because the rent is more than I really wanted to pay, and I’ll probably have to keep looking.

At my cousin’s place, I met the whanau and felt embarrassed when 3 month old baby Ida cried when I said hello. I got a text from the landlady. She made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I said yes, as long as I could meet a flatmate first. So I met AF, a 19 year old electrician’s apprentice, and my new flatmate. He’s refreshingly laid back. I moved in that very afternoon, leaving a note for Ross at Maitland St that I was going away with some friends for a week and I’d be back on Thursday or Friday (I had paid for utilities, after all, and knew I would want to use the phone and internet again).

It was a lonely, but lovely week. I set up my room (again). I went to dinner at my cousin’s place. I met a friend of a friend, another contact to have in Tauranga. I went to the library and applied for jobs. I met the neighbour kids, Harmony and Kanye (really, Kanye!). I sunbathed, I went to the beach, I explored the campus where I’ll be studying. I joined a boot camp exercise group and attended the first two sessions. The cousin lent me her bike, Clara (a sister for Lulu!) and I took it to the bike shop to be serviced. I baked and iced cookies in the shape of dinosaurs, but added too much baking powder and they tasted more like scones than biscuits. I weeded the strawberry patch, picked strawberries, made plum crumble and lemon sorbet.

I went back to Maitland Street. Ross had left the key in the lock on the inside of the door so I couldn’t use my own key to unlock it. So I climbed in the kitchen window, feeling angry, knowing he must have done that on purpose. My room was unlocked (I’d left it locked, although I’d taken everything out of it). He’d made the bed and moved things so it looked as though I’d never been there. The house was a mess.

I put on some washing, used the phone and internet, made myself some dinner. Ross came home and asked me what I was doing there.

I asked him if he’d gotten my note (apparently not, though I don’t know how he missed it), explained that I’d ‘been away’ and was still looking for a new place. He said “Oh.” While I was hanging my washing on the line, he went into my room, stripped the bed of its sheets and pillows and also switched off the modem in the kitchen, implying I shouldn’t be using the wi-fi.

I switched it straight back on again, not feeling the need to explain myself, as he hadn’t explained taking everything (including the duvet, which he’d been happy to let me use the previous week) off my bed.

I took the chance to download the latest episode of Glee, which I had missed while travelling, watched his DVDs (he’d offered the week before) and made a bunch of phone calls. None of this cost him anything, but he was clearly upset. In the morning, I told him I was going camping, would be back on Friday, and was moving out on Saturday. I left my bed made with my own sheets and pillow and blanket, a pair of pyjamas on the bed, some dirty washing in my washing basket, and left. He asked me for the key to the bedroom back. I gave it to him and asked him not to go in my room while I was gone unless it was an emergency.

I took everything else and left. Back at my new place, I felt lonely, but glad that I was nowhere near Ross, and that he had no idea where I was.

Week 2 in Tauranga was over.

 

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Tauranga week 1

I drove into Tauranga on the 29th of December with a hitchhiker in the passenger seat. We cruised along The Strand, which was packed with cars and people revelling in the stunning weather. After dropping off the hitchhiker at a backpackers in the centre of town, I drove to Maitland Street to see if I could spy my new home for the year.

I had sent a message and tried to call the guy who advertised it on TradeMe, but had had no reply, so I didn’t know which number it was. I drove down the quiet cul-de-sac street, trying to spy anything I recognised from the pictures on the flatmates wanted listing. I guessed it was number 12, with the wooden fence enclosing the front garden.

I waited and waited, but still no response from the owner/landlord/flatmate, so checked my map to find a camping ground. The only one I could find was packed full of teenagers steadily drinking. It was after 8pm, but felt much earlier because of the gorgeous summer weather, so driving away from there, I felt confident I’d find somewhere else. No such luck.

About 9.30, after driving around aimlessly and watching the fuel indicator on my car sinking lower and lower, I pulled into a Countdown carpark and tried to settle in for the evening. I’d been driving all day in the heat, and all I wanted was to take off my clothes and have a shower, but ever since Outward Bound, I’ve been sharply aware that discomfort is fleeting (as much as comfort is, though discomfort tends to be more rewarding). Sleeping in my car wouldn’t do me any harm. I wriggled my bra out from under my top so I could sleep more comfortably, wound my windows down, let back the driver’s seat, curled up and closed my eyes. I got about 50 minutes sleep, then after tossing and turning, decided to drive and see if I couldn’t find somewhere more comfortable.

It was a Saturday night, and town was full of drunken youths being intimidating. I tried to go into the backpackers, but even though there was a guy sitting at reception, he wouldn’t open the door for me, just sat there looking at me. I stopped a police officer, who was patrolling the streets, to ask if there were any other backpackers nearby. He sent me to the other side of town, but that one was locked up for the night, too. Fair enough: it was after midnight.

By 2am I was grumpy and decided I’d spend all my money on a motel or even a hotel if I could find one open, but all over town the “No Vacancy” signs were up. Eventually I drove back to Maitland Street to wait it out, reasoning that at least it would be quiet there. It was. So quiet I felt comfortable peeing on the side of the road (I’d tried all the public toilets I could find in town, but they were locked). As the sky started to lighten, I felt suddenly weird about camping out in my car on the street that was home to my future neighbours, so I drove around the corner and discovered a swimming pool and park within easy walking distance of my new home. This made me pretty happy, and I parked by the park, dozing and watching the neighbourhood cats stalking the morning birds as the sun came up.

I had received a text from the other flatmate the night before. The owner, Ross, had given him my number, as he was out of town (he tells me this late on Saturday night, after I had told him on Friday that I was driving up to arrive on Saturday afternoon). Bruce said I was free to go to the flat and have a look. He was at work, but his partner was there looking after his two girls, who were up visiting for Christmas and New Year. Ross hadn’t told me anything about this partner or the girls, so I was a little confused as to who I would actually be living with, but I called Kim, the partner, and she said to come on over. I gladly did.

The place was gorgeous. The room I was looking at was large and bright, with cheery yellow wallpaper. The front garden, enclosed, was lovely and peaceful, with hammocks, a nice deck and plenty of palms and broad leaved plants. The living areas were beautiful, the kitchen large and light. Kim said only good things about Ross and said I’d get on well with Bruce. Bruce’s girls, 8 and 9 years old, were incredibly well-behaved and cute to boot. I decided I wanted to live there, even though I hadn’t actually met Ross or Bruce, the two men in their 40s I’d actually be living with.

I called Ross and said “Yes.” He seemed pretty happy, and I went for a swim at the local pool so I could get a shower and brush my teeth and feel normal before going back to move in.

I was so happy those first few days.

I loved the house, I loved the weather, I loved Bruce’s girls and I really liked Bruce, except for one moment when he told me I was getting old and needed to start having kids now if I wanted to have kids at all. Whenever I asked him about Ross, he said nothing negative, just saying he liked to have things about the house a certain way. That didn’t sound too bad; it was his house after all.

On Wednesday Ross came home while Bruce was taking his girls back to their mother’s place in a different city a few hours away. I was sitting in the refreshingly cool living room, eating strawberries and yoghurt, enjoying the pleasant quiet.

“What the f#@% has he done to my lawns?” I hear from outside after a car pulls up. I figure this is Ross, as he makes his way around the property, obviously having keys to get in. There is plenty of swearing and exclamations of wonder. I figure he’ll come in and introduce himself to me when he’s calmed down. It takes him about half an hour, but he eventually comes inside, and I go to introduce myself. He apologises for being in a bad mood, welcomes me and takes me around the house explaining the way he likes everything done. I’m a little shocked when he swears in the kitchen, “Why the f#@% would he put that there? Put things back where you f#@%ing found them!” and he moved a bowl from one shelf to another. That’s a little over the top, I think. It’s just a bowl. But as we go around the house, and he talks and talks (he’s a talker, I already knew that from speaking to him on the phone), I think, “Ok, he likes things just so, and he gets angry when things aren’t done right, but he’s actually listed everything, there will be no surprises, I can live with his preferences. They’re not unreasonable.”

Ross goes back outside to inspect the ‘mess’ Bruce has made of the lawns (he thought he was helping out by mowing them. Turns out Ross is nuts about his lawns – he’s one of those people who waters his lawn before his plants, and the mower has to be on the right setting, so as not to ‘shave’ the grass). There is more swearing. I take myself off for a walk as all the swearing is making me uncomfortable. I figure he’ll calm down soon enough.

Two days go by and Ross is calmer, but still very critical of everything Bruce and all past flatmates have ever said or done. I see how some people couldn’t stand to live with the guy. I am probably the most tolerant and patient person I know, so I convince myself I’m not bothered. I also think Ross likes me and respects me because he says he’s impressed with my attitude to recycling and common sense. We seem to be getting along. I’ve finally settled into my new room. Everything is unpacked, I’ve bought some kitset shelving units and set them up, I’m thinking about how I’m going to spend my days. I can’t wait for Monday and businesses to start opening again so I can start my job hunt seriously.

Late on Friday afternoon, I go for a drive, deciding it’s time to explore the Mount, now that I know my way around my neighbourhood, Greerton, and the city of Tauranga. I’ve been out about 20 minutes when I get a text.

Hi Bruce and Emma. Guys I don’t do locked doors in my house. If you dont want people in your rooms thats your call, yet just say. If you want to lock your doors find some other place to live. It’s a bit strange for me, considering you hav my stuff in the room yet also a safety issue. Cheers. Ross. (all lack of apostrophes his errors)

I am upset that he has tried to go into my room while I’m out. I understand I’m using his furniture, but that’s normal when you rent a furnished flat. I text him saying I need to lock my door for my insurance (a white lie, as I hadn’t set myself up with insurance yet, but it would be true as soon as I got a policy).

No. Thats not happening. Sorry. You may hav to find somewhere else. Ross.

I say:

I’d like to talk about this face to face. I’ll be home in about half an hour.

I’m confused. Why would he want me out? I’m about the best flatmate he’s ever had, if his stories are anything to go by. I’m willing to live with his eccentricities. I don’t mind being careful about putting bowls back where I found them. I thought he liked me. This sounds like a lame excuse to get me to move out.

He’d been going on and on about how his house was a home for us all. How he doesn’t want someone who’s just after a ‘room’ but someone to have a drink or meal with in the evenings, someone who will look after his house with him. He admitted he was very house-proud, but said he was open if we wanted to make changes or add our own little touches. Every little touch I tried to add – hanging a mirror in my room, not having a phone or tv in my room, putting a peel-off decal on my door – he was suspicious of and seemed annoyed, though never actually said anything. I loved my room, I loved the house, I got on really well with Bruce. I was willing to accommodate his oddities.

I got home and he wasn’t there. I started looking on TradeMe for a new place, thinking I won’t really have to leave, he’ll see sense. Bruce called me and said Ross was at the pub and he’d be pissed when he got home. He offered me the couch at Kim’s place around the corner if I feel uncomfortable. I said no thanks, I wanted to stand my ground.

Ross wasn’t pissed when he gets home hours later. We had a brief discussion in the kitchen. By discussion, I mean, I asked him “So what’s the deal with no locked doors?” I was genuinely curious, not accusing him of being psycho. He shut me down. I told him I was moving out. He said okay.

I went to look at a few places that very evening. Nothing is nice. One place has a sign on the shower door saying “Please do not use soap in the shower, to avoid soap scum forming on the tiles.” I shook my head in bemusement.

My first week in Tauranga was over.

 

Categories: Day-to-day | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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