mad panda

There’s a few of us gathered back at the office in the late afternoon, most of the day’s visits done, chasing the admin side of things, making referrals, further appointments and so on, waiting on the late jobs, the last minute visits, unforeseen events. It’s rare that it happens like this, a slack, re-grouping kind of time, when you’ve got the space to chat with your colleagues and catch up on things.
Magda is sitting next to me. She’s just had her hair cut – shaved close up one side, the rest in a heavy blonde fringe she scoots out of her face now and again. She looks tired but I don’t say it. Magda is the hardest working person I know. Not only does she pull extra shifts as a nursing assistant, but she works most weekend nights as door security on the clubs and bars in the city.
‘Man,’ she says. ‘I don’t think I can do it anymore. It’s not worth it.’
‘Why? What happened?’
‘Do you ever get those nights when you think – shit! Did I miss something? Did they fly a plane over town and pump it full of crazy spray?’
‘Did you get some trouble, then?’
‘Did I get some trouble? Yes, I got some trouble, thank you very much for asking. The funny thing was, they put me on the door of that comedy club you were talking about the other day. And I was thinking – okay, my only trouble here will be staying awake. But then these four guys show up, enormous guys, the kinds of guys who play rugby or some such shit, and I don’t know, bend girders for a living. Gigantic pain in the arse kinda guys. And when they turn up to the club they’re already pretty drunk. So I say to the bar manager, I say to him: Watch those guys and don’t sell them any more beer if they start getting too loud, y’know what I’m saying? They’ve already had too much. But of course, what do they do? They sell them plenty. And the next thing you know they start getting very loud and very aggressive, particularly this one guy, the biggest and tallest. So I go over to him, and I lay my hand on his shoulder like this, and I say to him: Can I ask you to please keep it down? Otherwise you’ll be asked to leave. And you know what he says to me?’
‘No. What does he say?’
‘He says fuck you.’
‘I tell you, man, I was like: Don’t you be saying fuck you to me! Who the fuck do you think you are, saying fuck you to me? And his friends are like: We’re very sorry. It’s his birthday. And I say I don’t care if it’s he’s won the Nobel prize for fucking CHEMISTRY. There’s no call to be so nasty to me. And then the other guys stand in front of him and they say: It’s just the beer. He’s not normally like this. He’s normally kind and quiet and basically a mouse. And I say: Well I’m sorry to have to tell you, but it’s not the beer making him a dickhead. The beer is absolutely fine. It’s your friend being a dickhead that makes him a dickhead. And the guy leans through them, and he says to me: Hey! You! You’re much too pretty to be doing a job like this. So I say to him: Keep your sexist opinions to yourself, my friend or you’ll see what this pretty girl’s capable of. Meanwhile all his stupid friends are crowding round saying sorry, sorry, sorry, please forgive him. And then the guy himself starts saying sorry, putting his hands together doing a pisshead kind of namaste. So I said: Okay. Okay. Against my better judgement, and because it’s your birthday, I’m gonna give you one last chance. And they’re all like thank you, oh thank you very much and everything. And I’m just about to go when I give the guy one last look and you know what he does? He flips me the middle finger. That’s it. I don’t wait for backup. I’m too mad and I’m too tired. I just grab him by the collar and march him out. And all his friends are jumping up and down saying sorry and he won’t do it again and please don’t, it’s his birthday. And you know what I say?’
‘I say Happy Birthday, Dickhead. Now fuck off and don’t come back.’
She sweeps her hair back from her face and takes a long drink of tea.
With her large round eyes, accentuated with dark blue-black eyeshadow and heavy black mascara, her pale face, and her sleepy demeanour, she reminds me of a panda. But even though Magda is a good friend of mine, and she’s used to seeing me around, still, I wouldn’t fancy getting on the wrong side of her. No way would I rile her up. I’ve seen how she crunches bamboo; I’ve seen what she can do with those paws.

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