Initially Titled: Project Shitnic
I'm going to have a Shitnic. A Shitnic is a picnic in a shit place. It is an outdoor, al-fresco dining experience in an odd, uncomfortable setting. It could be eating supermarket sandwiches next to a road, perched on some bent railings - or drinking cold coffee out of a soup mug at a bus stop.
I'm going to have a Shitnic because I miss these sorts of moments. Moments outside on the way to places, moments I've shared with friends or family but equally as much on my own. Moments that arise from a busy, hectic city lifestyle or holidaying on the cheap: too hot sat in a dirty doorway on a steep street in Lisbon eating supermarket bread and cheese and grapes. Or cowering from a rainstorm under a bike shelter munching on boiled eggs, or the doorstep of a Waitrose in Glasgow eating cheap pasta salad from Tesco.
A Shitnic for me is a moment unplanned. It is a moment that arises out of necessity. You are hungry, you need to eat, a variety of factors (usually financial) prevent you from going "for a meal" and you spy a Sainsbury's Local. There are no benches (Shitnics cannot take place in a designated seating area), you look around... a step, a wall, it's all you need. Having a Shitnic is a a very particular sort of experience. I have seen it done simply sat leaning against a shop wall, two girls and a pizza box from dominoes on Nicolson Street during the first tentative liftings of lockdown in August.
You can do it on your own, or you can do it with a friend or your sister. You can do it just about anywhere, eating any sort of rubbish food or snacks you may have with you (I usually like to carry dry oatcakes, nuts and apples. Just in case there isn't food because you never know). The most important aspect of a Shitnic though, is that you embrace the experience wholeheartedly as if you were in fact having a Picnic in the most beautiful and picturesque location imaginable. It is this attitude toward the situation of eating a cheese sandwich next to the traffic lights outside Union Square that transforms it into a Shitnic. You are self-aware, you look around and you laugh. This raises the experience to Shitnic level, far and above your average pleb scoffing a Greggs on a bench on George Street.
Today, though, I am bending some of my own definitions as I have planned to have a Shitnic. I obviously in no way can be allowed to decide where the Shitnic will take place - that would turn it fully into a picnic, by which point I might as well go somewhere nice. Therefore, I have devised a system to bring some spontaneity and chance into the experience: I will leave the flat when I am ready, not for a set or appointed time; I will walk to the closest bus stop; I will board the first bus that comes along; I will wait until the bus reaches it's final stop or terminus at which point I will disembark; I will find a place to sit and wait there for an as yet undecided amount of time; when I am finished the Shitnic I will return to the stop and board the next bus returning to my starting point.
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I sat on the white wall between the backs of the grey and black car. I drank black coffee, looking around, my eyes blinded by the low afternoon sun. It was cold and there was a slight breeze. I felt comfortable in this location as there were a few other people waiting outside of the test centre. This helped me feel in-context. I did consider sitting in the middle of a traffic island at a nearby junction on a Grit Box but decided that at this early stage I would feel too conspicuous. I want to be the observer, not the observed.
I looked around and I waited, I tried to observe, and make mental notes - to notice the architecture around, the signage, the old road-markings and cobbles, the cracked road surface. The carpark outside the MOT centre was full but there were not many people around, a few buses passed. This was a sort-of nowhere place, a place you would not choose to go to unless for a very specific reason.
I stayed for fourteen minutes before deciding to leave. It would be a full hour at least before I would get back home. I crossed the road and waited four minutes for a bus.