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Better days lie ahead - the signs are all around us

Opinion

Some signs in life are obvious and others are more difficult to read, writes Rebecca Levingston

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I pulled up behind a car at a set of traffic lights and there was a small printed sign stuck to the rear window.

The sign read: Sorry for driving so close in front of you.

It made me smile. I despise tailgaters too. Wonder if their subtle signage works?

Some signs in life are obvious – like one friend’s very clear indication she’s done with this year. She’s put up her Christmas tree. I’ve started eating mangoes, a sure sign that Christmas is coming.

While you’re here a quick note on the correct way to eat a mango. Slice both cheeks off as closely as possible to the seed. Hash cut the sides, immediately flip them out and eat the cubes cold. Peel the remaining skin off the mango and consume over a sink. It’s not pretty, no one needs to see it, you deserve alone time with your mango. Wash your hands immediately.

In an alarmingly fruity choice, my work colleague once casually confessed to me that she eats mango skin and that’s a public statement that still confuses me.

I’ve been trying to read the signs this week by checking up on small businesses that display a crucial word on their front door: Open.

I found a bookstore powering through this pandemic where the book of the month was Sir David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet. It documents his 94 years exploring the Earth and humanity’s impact on nature. A sign of the times perhaps? Apparently the classics are selling well too. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …

Ducking past the corflutes in the high street featuring the colours and faces of candidates, I wondered whether those political signs work. You see them every campaign on the side of the road, so there must be some proof there’s logic in the strategy. I just feel awkward when I’m stuck at traffic lights next to someone in a fold-up chair waving. Is that a sign?

Next, I visited a gourmet delicatessen filled with tiny little signs on cheeses, tarts, cured meats, and pastries. The owner told me people are eating out again and he feels like the signs of normal life are returning. He’s relieved and I’ll be returning for rainbow olives.

I stepped into a shoe shop where the demand for slippers has skyrocketed. The owner has stood down staff, but has hope because sales of hiking boots are hitting new peaks. Footwear fashion has become a sign of the desire to stay in the home office or head for the bush.

Last stop on my symbol search was the barber shop. I met a mustachioed barber who’s been cutting hair for 52 years. When he started as an apprentice in 1968, a trim cost 80 cents. The sign up next to the mirror with the price list has changed, but the customers keep coming.

As I was waiting for a chat, one gent picked up a broom to sweep up the hair of the customer ahead of him. I couldn’t see a name badge or any kind of sign that he was staff.

He was smiling, wearing a peach polo shirt and happy to wait his turn. He looked relaxed and well-manicured. Outwardly, he gave off signs of contentment.

I asked why he came in for a cut every three weeks and his eyes grew misty. Companionship was his answer as he gestured to the salon. His wife died last year from metastatic breast cancer and he found his time in the chair with his friends a brief respite from his grief.

His eyes were dark, but twinkled as he smiled at me, explaining how fortunate he felt finding comfort amid his sadness. You can’t always read the signs.

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