All Our Stakhanovite Friends



I had a thumb tack attached to the bottom of my shoe, my every step accompanied by a HACK HACK HACK sound. To my own perception the sound was at a level that made me conspicuous or I was just being overwrought, but I could swear that it was generating some attention from those I passed. I rotated my head so as to allow my eyes to find a place to sit, or even just perch, to remove the tack from shoe but this seemed more a travail than I had first estimated. It seemed that the modern world had lifted from its streets any place where those it deemed unsavoury may be able to congregate; benches, public toilets, flat surfaces were all removed or adorned with spikes to stop the vermin of 21st century Capitalism loitering. I thus was forced to lean, to lean would you believe it, against a wall which would support my weight as I brought my foot towards me, it is already towards me as it is part of me, but I brought it towards my face: the place from which I observed and experienced the world. I turned my foot as far as it could in its socket (I presume I could have turned it further but it would have broken) so that my sole was facing my face. This as I hope you can understand is an awkward and difficult manoeuvre by anyone’s standards and my arm which was supporting me against the wall began to tremble; my arm that is, not the wall. It was as if my whole arm had suddenly turned to gelatine and I awaited with little enthusiasm the point where my arm gave way and my head crashed into the wall, ending my pathetic life. But by some perverse turn of events a rail appeared. It was as if the world that had until that point shunted and rejected me, was finally offering me a lifeline, a handrail (not just any old rail). Through some sort of physical metamorphosis the hand which only a second later was jellied was now boldly gripping with a definitive grasp a foam-covered handle. It was sturdy, quite, but not unmovable so I was careful, I’m not always, as I brought my foot back down to earth. Once planted on firm ground again I put my other hand, the hand with which I’d prepared to extract the tack, next to my other hand on the foam handle. Where did you come from, I said affectionately stroking my saviour. My thanksgiving was interrupted by a rowdy voice, what the fack, the voice really did say fack, are you doing with my baby? I was as if as the words gushed from her mouth a piece of material, tarpaulin perhaps, was pulled upwards and the scene in front of me was revealed. I am sometimes like a horse with blinkers on, I see only what is to me at that moment necessary, trying to save sensory energy for when I really needed it (when would this ever happen?). I now saw that my two hands were planted on the handle of a buggy, one of those buggies with two pods to house two children one in front of the other. I thought how futuristic it looked, but decided this wasn’t an appropriate thing to say at this moment in time so I chose to say, ah he ah? In my head I understood what these referential noises referred to but from her face I could see that she did not. You trying to steal my baby? The way she said my suggested that I was trying to steal her baby specifically rather than any of the other numerous babies I saw on a daily basis. I didn’t know the woman and thus didn’t know her baby, so it seems rather farfetched that I would want her baby over the others doesn’t it? But she endured with that face so she obviously truly believed it. I was removing, removing a tack, a tack from my shoe. I realised at that moment, that moment specifically, that I hadn’t extracted the tack despite my elaborate gesture and subsequent social faux pas. I found this profoundly amusing and made noises that elucidated this feeling.  I had another realisation at this point: that I was still holding the buggy’s handle. And why shouldn’t I have been? It felt nice and spongy in my hand, and I wasn’t doing anyone any harm. But I made the mistake of looking down at my hands so the woman knew I was aware of where my hands were planted. I am however of steely resolve so I decided that because I had been standing there with my hands on the handle for such a period of time, a few seconds more would do no harm. So I brought again my foot towards my face and angled my sole towards my eyes. As the sole came round to my face, with one hand supporting me on the buggy, I reached with my fingers to where the tack was situated. But as my fingers scrabbled upon it, it became apparent that the tack was not submerged in the usual fashion that we (me at least) imagine that a tack becomes tacked, the point where an object becomes a verb. The spike was not spiking into the soft rubber of my sole but facing outwards, and in fact, IN FACT!, it was the coloured (in this case orange) flat top of the tack that was stuck to my sole. Oh what inconsolable mirth. How something’s use can be so farcically diverted into another pursuit. This little tack seemed to me in that moment the great heroic revolutionary of our times, subverting the capitalist commodity fetishism by literally turning the commodity on its head, its use value dissolving into an absurd mess like sand escaping a crack in a hourglass. A tear came to my eye and I felt like the resurrection of Alexey Stakhanov, a 21st century Hero of Socialist Labour, one of my fists instinctively jolting into the air. It was this moment that the woman took her opportunity to wrestle her child (or maybe children, there were two pods) back from my grasp and hurtled down the street, not looking back to see if I was pursuing her. I wouldn’t pursue her. I had a victory to toast.


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