I suppose some time or other I will need to explain this nickname.
At eighteen years and a few weeks old, I got a job working in a hardware shop, in the accounts/office area.
My bosses were a childless couple, more of them later (maybe). The wife, bottle blond, brittle, over-mascaraed, gum chewing, long nailed lady, about 38 or so I would guess.
I had no problem with the accounts, or checking orders or anything like that. I could even help out with customers. With my background I knew tools, I knew nails, cement…but that phone. Man, that was a problem for me.
In Esigodini, we didn’t have a phone. Its too small a place. If you need to speak to someone, you went to visit them. We could walk most places easily and if you couldn’t, you were sure to bump into them or see them on Saturday at the club or Wednesday at tennis.
Now this phone didn’t only have one line, it had four. It had four corresponding lights. At this stage, I had taken apart and put back together two tractor engines, I understood how an electric motor worked, the difference between three phase and single. I could ride a horse, a motorbike, drive a lorry, I knew which leaves to use in the bush to wipe my arse. But that bloody phone switch board gave me the screaming heebiejeebies. It actually gave me nightmares. Not a figure of speech either that, this was the real deal. I once woke up screaming, sweating. All the lights on the stupid phone had come on, it made that sound like on Star Wars and then blew up.
In the mornings, I would eye it like a horse eyes a too big jump and hope the boss wouldn’t ask me to do anything on that desk.
To give her her due, she started me off slowly, got me to answer it when she was around or during a quiet time of the day.
Now lets get back to my age and all. Remember I had lived all my life in Esigodini, and went to the Convent. At eighteen plus a few weeks I was living with my Man, (I cant remember my intimate endearment of the time,) who having gone to the army and then university, had been places… was a man of the world. ..
Back to my boss…
Well on this day, a quiet time, I was sitting at the dreaded desk and a red light came on. I pressed the button and had this posh voice going. I had no trouble putting the guy through to whatever department he wanted. Then another light came on and another. Now three lights were on, two flashing to say ‘bring bring, bring bring’ and the other one blank red to say ‘boo, boo, boo – someones already using this one.’ Well, I think that is what it all meant, I never found out, really.
So, now I’m going to skip past the really embarrassing part…because even now, I dunno how many hundred years later, I still don’t want to think about what I overheard on that phone…
My bosses husband walked into the office when I was still in shock, dazed, my head slowly moving from side to side, exactly like a bull who collected a head-on from a bigger bull.
As usual, he fondled her while looking at me. (They had some strange, strange sex thing going those two..)
“Hey hon,” she says, “you missed the laugh of the century.” Waving her newly painted nails at a chair opposite she invites him to listen to her story.
“…so (suck, suck, on the chewing gum) I’m doing my nails here, in this chair. I hear her fancy voice, “Hellow, how may ah help yah,” and then she presses a button and she looks so pleased. I never saw anyone look so happy to have pressed a button.”
(suck, suck, on the chewing gum)
“So, I’m busy with the brush on my pinkie finger and when I look up, I see her staring at the switchboard like it’s a Seventh Day Adventist at her door. Eventually she presses a button and does the fancy voice again. She presses the hold, and then almost as if poking a bees nest, pushes a button.”
Suck, suck, suck.
“She had the phone stuck to her ear,” my boss held her hand against the side of her head, “and I swear, her eyes got bigger and bigger, and then her mouth fell open. She breathed in and in and in. And then she blinked. I recon she hadn’t blinked for an hour.”
My boss cracked up, holding her sides, her bottle blond curls bobbing up and down against her head.
“I jumped up and pressed this and pressed that until all the lines had been sorted out. Man, I couldn’t stop laughing, so I asked her what she heard and all little miss innocent here could say was ‘Cushion. He called him Cushion.'”
By now, the hubby had some sort of grasp about what had happened, the crossed lines and my fear of the switchboard.
“Oh man, Honey, She wasn’t making much sense. Her eyes filled up her whole face and she wasn’t breathing.. And she blinked a bit more.”
Then, with tears pouring down her face she told her husband I had got the lines crossed onto an intimate discussion between ‘our resident poofter’ who worked in the basement and his ‘man of the moment.’
I just squeezed my eyes tight shut.
She managed to wipe her mascara, you know how those types do, with their middle finger kind of against their lower lid.
“Ah common,” she wheedled, at me. “Tell us. Common, give us details.”
But I couldn’t, I nearly died. And even now, I get the screaming heebijeebies thinking about it.
At five, and time to go home, my Man came to fetch me and my boss yelled out at the top of her very brassy lungs, “Hey, your Cushion is here to fetch you.”
I was once again stuck, struck, mortified – now I had to tell him about the crossed lines and Cushion….and what they did last night and what he “really, really liked…”
I’m still not sure why I started using Cush as a term of endearment, probably a reason something like “getting back on the horse when you have fallen off…”
Or the “worm on the plate syndrome”
Maybe to stop them all teasing me so mercilessly