Thursday, 11 March 2010

Write of Passage Number Nine

Quite early one morning, I'm making a whistle stop at the Rideau Centre on the return leg of the morning's commute between home and younger daughter's school. The women's washroom is ringing with the excited squeals and giggles of a quartet of high school girls who are probably en route to elder daughter's high school which is a fifteen minute walk away. Two girls are fixing their makeup as I slip in between them to wash my hands. An imposing young lady, who is obviously the leader of the pack, is leaning against the wall by the hand-dryers, giving a lengthy and lively narration of the latest scandal. She may be raising her voice for the benefit of the last of her cohorts, who is still in the cubicle, but I rather think this is her accustomed way of talking. She's using high school vernacular of course, lots of "Oh my god"'s and swear words. Every now and then, she pauses in the story: "Teneesha! Are you coming?" Teneesha replies in the affirmative, somewhat muffled but in a healthy volume.

An older woman stalks from the cubicles; she is large and formidable. I have turned from the sink to the hand dryers and so catch her eye. We exchange in what I take to be a sympathetic eye roll, but Formidable Older Lady wants to expound: "It's a shame we have to listen to such filth from these little sluts."

This bombshell has the desired effect. Imposing Young Lady loses no time: "SLUTS??? Are you calling us sluts???
She's even louder than before. She closes in on Formidable Older Lady: "Who are you, callin' us sluts??? You're old and ugly...."

I'm waiting by the hand-dryers, wondering how to escape. The only way out is through No Woman's Land. My problem is solved when Formidable Older Lady lumbers out, hurling a couple more insults over her shoulder. They are unheard in the cacophony of enraged, indignant, thrilled imprecations.

I make for the mall's main thoroughfare, keeping well back of Formidable Older Lady. Behind I hear Teneesha's high and excited voice: "Where is she?" She's evidently finally finished in the cubicle. She comes hurtling out of the washroom into the passageway, then stops a few feet behind me as I turn into the stream of morning commuters.

"Where is she? Where did she go? What did she look like?" She eagerly peers up and down, flushed with excitement.

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