The meter maids stroll by, gold sequins glittering from caps which offer some sun protection, and from bikinis which offer bugger all.
One maid smiles with impossibly white teeth at passersby while the other texts on her phone, her long gold fingernails making hard work of it. The pair sashays down the mall, high heels clacking, flanks flexing.
The flashing duo, despite radiating like twin suns, are not especially remarkable here in this swirling galaxy of bright consumer goods.
It’s an acid trip.
People barely exist here; only stuff does. Beneath, behind and beyond the layers of branded stuff, there’s probably humanity, but even when I occasionally glimpse behind the make-up, jewellery and sunglasses, I’m still not sure. The eyes are dull, blinded by the glitter. There is no vision.
With clothes, shopping bags and red cans of sugar all spelling out the brand names blinking from the surrounding shops; with telephones pinging, piped music playing, credit cards beeping and helicopters hovering – the senses are swamped.
It’s garish, that’s for sure.
Subtlety is for losers. Subtlety may have been okay for nature (back in its day), but it does nothing for business. And business is what Surfers is about. It’s what Queensland is about; what Australia and the whole damn world is about!
This is what we are told every second of every day, as if it were true. Consumption is the core of progress: from society to marketplace; citizen to customer; logic to logo.
Consumerism is bright and noisy. It has to be – or you may hear something you don’t like. (Like the sound of civilisation fracturing.)
No, I haven’t ingested acid. I’m ingesting sushi from Euro Sushi. (You can get foie gras sushi. That’s progress.)
The meter maids nod to the old accordion lady, and giggle. She’s weird. She, playing That’s Amore, nods back, her bright red lipstick creasing into a smile under huge square sunglasses (very popular on the Gold Coast). Amid the colour and cacophony of conspicuous consumption, some humans survive, living on the scraps that fall from economic excess.
The accordion lady dances a sort of old person’s polka around her open accordion case, even though she has the heavy instrument slung around her neck, and her age is probably twice the combined age of the meter maids.
She sings snippets of the song in a voice like a tortured cat. Old songs from an European youth, a funny dance and an awful voice – her obvious humanity stands out in this maelstrom of materialism. She is a freak show.
Across the mall, an older man, comfortable looking silly in a pink shirt and pink cap, sits at a pink mobile desk. He provides information to credit cards with legs. At the moment, no-one needs to know where Rip Curl is, so he taps his pen to That’s Amore and mouths the words.
A Chinese family stands and watches the accordion lady. Dad wears a gold watch, a white Lacoste shirt and a look of incomprehension as the old lady dances up to him and screeches ‘That’s amore!’
His wife wears pearls, diamante sandals and the ubiquitous large sunglasses. She pushes an all-terrain pram wherein a small face is surrounded by fluffy toys and an iPad. The other child is a beach ball sucking on an ice cream.
Uncomfortable, the family turns and heads for McDonalds. They leave no money, only ice cream dribble.
The accordion lady finishes the song. The pink bloke gets to his feet, stretches, and strolls over to the old lady who is picking up the few coins from her accordion case.
He gives her a five dollar note.
Humanity still survives in the G20 fantasy. But it’s getting tougher.