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Sunday, 1 December 2013

There's nothing wrong with surly

Stu Kidd at the Rio. (Photo by Dug Blane)
"I'm not going in there again," I tell my son as we're driving along Radnor Street looking for a good place to grab a bite on his birthday. 

"Guy behind the counter's a surly git and he sticks five percent on the bill if you pay by card."

"Nothing wrong with surly," he tells me and goes off on one. 

"It's a Scottish tradition. It's how you know you're not in New York. You don't get everybody telling you to have a nice day. I don't want total strangers telling me to have a nice day. I'm not their friend. I don't know them. They don't know me. I've got my shopping. I've paid for it. I just want to get out of there. Have a nice day yourself, you artificially cheery little twat."

He stops to draw breath. "You all right now?" I ask. 

"I'm fine," he says. "How about the Rio? They've live bands at the weekend, so we go there often. It's friendly. Stu Kidd plays there a lot."

So I turn right and head up Argyle Street, past the Kelvingrove and find a parking space outside St Peter's Primary. The Rio is jumping when we get inside, but the waitress, who looks about twelve, finds us a table not too close to the door, since it's a chilly morning, and right next to a heater, which is cosy, and we settle down to study the menu. 

My sister's looking good and seems perkier than usual, without the strain lines round her eyes that she's had for a while. "I had the carpet taken up and vinyl put down," she says. "I'm allergic to house mites, I've discovered."

"Seriously?" my son says. "What do they do?"

"Make me tense," she says. "I'd started swearing at other drivers and tailgating them."

"Because you were pissed off with the house mites?" my son says.

"Some chemical they produce was making me stressed," she says. "But I'm fine now. Dead relaxed even in the car."

"Your yin and yang look well balanced to me," he says. "Speaking of which my pal Jawad is into this whole middle class lifestyle thing - wife, sales job, beamer, house in the country. Now he's bought himself a giant dog called Paul. 

"No hang on. It's John I think. George. Adam. Rex. Rover." He chunters to a halt, looking puzzled.

"Bruce!" he shouts and the woman at the next table jumps a foot and chokes on her coffee. "I'm sorry," he says to the waitress walking past, who gives him a raised eyebrow and a tentative smile.

"I have trouble with names," he tells us. "They tested me at College recently and said I was smart but my short-term memory's useless."

"Why were they testing you?" I say.

"I don't remember," he says.

I take a sip of coffee and look about. Busy café with lots of women and little toddlers wandering around. Clatter of plates and heels. Hiss of the coffee machine. Nice feel to the place. 

"You got any mushrooms?" my son says, shoving his food around on the plate. 

"They're under your egg," I tell him. "Maybe chemistry's your problem, same as Helen. Could be food additives. They cause headaches, hair loss, acne, impotence and brain damage."

"Is there evidence for any of that? he says. "Or are you just Daily Mailing it?"

"Less of that," my sis says. "I get the Daily Mail."

"I don't get any news," he says. "Don't have a TV. Don't read the papers. No idea what's going on in the world. Which means I'm much happier than you guys. Death and disaster don't get beamed into my brain every day."

He spears a pensive mushroom. "Only trouble is I'll be the last to hear about the end of the world. Like an asteroid's headed for Earth or robots have replaced the humans and I'll be wandering the deserted streets alone. Hapless, gormless, clueless and doomed."

"It's happened already," I say. "All those people telling you to have a nice day are the first wave of the robots."

"You reckon?" he says.  

"Sure. In fact how do you know I'm not a robot? Or your aunty here. You could be the only human in this whole café."

I jerk my head and go "Bzzzt. Have a nice day," in a robot voice. "Exterminate! Exterminate!"

"Pillock," he says and stabs a surly sausage with his fork.

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