I was browsing about the city, not shopping for much at all. I’d bought some underwear – that never goes to waste – and was poking about for something else to satisfy the consuming urge.
After dithering over a complicated tea infuser in one of the arcades off Pitt Street, I kept strolling along the arcade and chanced on a new Quality Opinion Supplies outlet. It was a bit of a surprise to see QOS now had a branch in the city centre where you’d think the passing trade might be too rushed for careful opinion shopping.
In fact, most of my opinions were getting a bit ragged and I’d been caught short a few times, so I thought I may as well go in and see what they had in stock. QOS is a reliable brand, and there are often specials on opinions that are still fairly fresh. The other good thing is that the staff don’t push you like they do at Opinion Express and If You Ask Me. Cogitations and Expatiations, renamed C+E, used to be good in the upper end of the market, before they sold out to Starbucks, who just needed to diversify, but who know and care nothing about the opinion business.
Anyway, I drifted inside. What opinions did I need?
I checked out the book section. There were interesting opinions on the merits of Booker winners over Nobels, so I bought a simple one of those. After the Jane Austen fad of the nineties, people knew there’d soon be unfavourable opinions on anyone that popular, but they were still holding off. I really didn’t want any, but I thought I’d better get a few negative views on a few of Austen’s works at least. You can sometimes just sense when you’ll be needing these things.
They wrapped my new opinions for me and asked me to pay at the main counter. I suppose that’s to keep you browsing, but with so much buying over the net these days you can’t blame a retailer for having a trick or two.
The music section didn’t have much. They had a run-out on negative Mozart opinions from about ten years ago, after the Mozart boom and all those open air concerts in the eighties. I’d already bought the opinion that Mozart is lemonade trying to be wine, and I’d pulled it out on a few occasions. It felt a little worn, that opinion, especially as I don’t mind listening to his music. I asked the lady at the counter if she had any new Mozart opinions, and she said there was nothing definite in stock or on order. Mozart is in opinion limbo, so I passed on him. There were some opinions on Miles Davis. Though I never listen to his stuff, I thought I should have a few opinions on someone so indisputably cool and major, so I picked up a few of those.
I brushed past the politics counter. A few years back you could buy hot opinions on Bush and Obama, now an opinion on either would take you nowhere. A young hipster with a plummy voice was buying an opinion that political opinion was futile. He wanted to take it to the Ironists’ Ball. I thought about it, but none of my friends are that ironical. If I bought it, an anti-opinion opinion would just sit in a drawer going stale. In fact, I’ve since bought an opinion that the irony thing is presently overdone.
On the way to the main counter to pay, I passed by the climate section. I really didn’t think I needed much, all my current climate opinions were fairly good performers in most conversations and encounters. Then I remembered that with some recent changes in weather I’d had a few problems, so I thought it better to get some fresh stuff if they had it.
The young fellow serving in Climate told me that there was now a shift to emphasising extreme weather over tangible warming. Climate science was as settled as it ever was, but, after floods in Australia and blizzards in the Northern Hemisphere, there had been some adjustments. So, the science was settled, but differently settled. I liked the nuanced way he presented the opinions, so I bought a few. Just on an impulse, in their kids section, I picked up Little Bindi’s Opinions on Overpopulation, a gift for my niece. I could have just copied my own opinions and given them to her, but these were charmingly wrapped; and I think it’s nice if children can receive their very own opinions.
I was just about to pay at the front counter when I passed a promotion table, where a young girl was selling fresh opinions on Judaism. She smiled very pleasantly, yet without pushiness, so I decided to check out her stock. When I told her I’d been the owner of opinions opposed to Zionism and Israel’s expansion for years, she was impressed, especially when I mentioned that I’d bought most of my stash at QOS. Then she asked if I was interested in a new product which might go beyond what I had previously purchased.
I was quick to point out that I was a QOS customer of long standing because I could be sure that there would be no race or gender problems with any of their products. She was quick to respond – in a non-argumentative tone – that the owners of QOS and the owner of the particular franchise were all Jews, and that there would be no hazard of racism-infected opinion in any QOS store.
So I asked to see the latest opinions from the promotion. She explained to me that while all religions had what she called exclusivist elements, Judaism, as religion and philosophy, was legalistic/materialistic in the extreme, which separated it from other spiritual belief systems. This unique character had a pronounced isolating effect which explained Jewish apartness and a certain incompatibility with gentile attitudes and institutions. It all seemed to make sense, and the sales lady had been very pleasant and helpful. I added the new opinions to my check-out basket.
When I stepped out on to the street, I noticed a crowd milling about a chocolate shop I liked to visit, just across the way. There were demonstrators with placards, shouting, chanting, customers being jostled. On passing nearer, I saw a bloody looking Star of David smeared in red paint on the front window.
Immediately, I thought of the opinions I had just bought, and decided to return them.
When I approached the lady who had sold me the opinions she was busy for a while with a new customer. When she was at last able to serve me, I explained what I had seen over the road, and asked if I could return the opinions.
The young sales lady said she had heard of certain difficulties involving the chocolate shop, but all of that had nothing to do with the opinions I had just bought. Most of the people rioting in the street, while very sincere, had bought their opinions in Red Rag and Aryan Storm – even though the two suppliers carried completely different stock.
I insisted on returning the opinions, still unused, and the young lady asked me to wait while she fetched the owner from out the back. The owner was an older lady of evident Middle European origin who explained to me that it was not normal to give refunds on specials or promotions. She asked for my reasons. When I again explained what I had seen just outside the shop, she told me that she herself was Jewish and that QOS was a Jewish business. The opinions I had bought did not reflect in any negative way on educated and liberal-minded Jews like herself. If people acting on opinions bought elsewhere behaved in an injurious or abusive manner it was either because their opinions were defective or they were provoked to the point where opinions did not matter. The chocolate shop was, after all, a supplier to the Israeli military.
Just as I was about to insist again, a brick crashed through the plate glass. The young girl who had served me received a cut to her forearm, while the older lady ducked down under the counter. A red smear of paint was appearing on the area of glass that had not been broken.
After the police arrived and the crowd dispersed a little, I was finally offered a full refund by the owner of the franchise. QOS no longer seems to stock those opinions, though perhaps they are kept out the back or in-warehouse.