On second thoughts, she probably won’t be alright
Australians are often proud of our relaxed, easy-going, “she’ll be right” ethos.
In fact nothing could be farther from the truth.
Most of the time she will not be right and on the rare occasions that she is right it’s only because someone more industrious – say a Scandanavian for example – has gotten off their arse and done something.
As a longtime and avid adherent to the art of inertia I come to this conclusion reluctantly. However there is something about seeing one’s mother on the verge of being strip-searched at an airport that can make a man think there must be a better way.
But first some context.
This buoyant national belief in things spontaneously turning out for the best is peculiar to Australia. Of course in the US there is a similar ethos that anything can be accomplished and miracles can happen, however this is predicated on a) working hard, and b) believing in something. The latter may include oneself, God or – for really major miracles – Oprah.
In Australia, by contrast, the abiding principle is that things will go well if you do nothing and believe in nothing – an ethos admirably exemplified by the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party. Unfortunately there is little historical evidence to support this position.
On the contrary, when one does nothing the most likely outcome is that someone else will visit great horrors upon you, as can be seen in the cases of, in order, the Trojans, the Hittites, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Macedonians, the Greeks, the Gauls, the Britons, the Egyptians, the Romans, the Germans, the Pagans, the Catholics, the Protestants, the Armenians, the Jews, the Germans again, and anyone who’s ever been eaten by a shark.
Despite this, the laissez-faire attitude persists in many Australians, including, I am sorry to report, many of my friends and relations.
This was brought home to me during a recent 16-hour trip home from Fiji. As some readers may be aware, this is a long time – even by Fijian standards.
Prior to departing Sydney I had booked my and my mother’s return flight from the main airport in Nadi for just after 4pm, based on my sister’s assurance that connecting flights go to Nadi from Suva “all the time”.
Then, a couple of days before we were due to go back, my sister found out that this was not precisely the case and that the only flight that day was for 10am, giving us a generous six hour wait between flights. Again, even in Fiji this is an unusually long time.
My sister, who was staying on for a few more weeks, had also decided that it would be a good idea to get my mother to take home some items for her. I informed my sister that we were already over the weight limit, but she assured me “it’ll be fine” and began the process of loading Mother up like a mule.
As a result, when my mother’s hand luggage was screened at Nadi airport, the x-ray detected a plastic bag full of half used bottles of perfume, deodorant, insect repellent and a range of other liquid potions whose function escaped me. This was, the security people explained, in breach of a ban on liquids being carried in the cabin on international flights and they advised us to check the items.
We returned to the check-in and queued up again with saintly patience and after another 20 minutes or so presented my mother’s bag at the counter. Unfortunately it emerged that the bag was six kilos and, given she had already tipped over the limit with her suitcase, could not be checked in.
Of course the overall weight being taken onto the plane would not have changed one iota, however this logic did not appear to alight on the robotic bureaucrats at Pacific Blue. I have also always been curious as to why having excess baggage is a major threat to an aeroplane’s flying capacity when all safety risks can apparently be eliminated by a $35 fee.
At any rate, the bag could not be checked and the mean-spirited check-in attendant was thus presented with a range of feminine toiletries which my mother assured him had hardly been used and might make a nice present for his wife.
We then made our way back through the security screening, where this time the guards took exception to my bag, which they had cleared to fly less than half an hour earlier. As it turned out they were upset by around 15ml of deodorant left in a bottle and the remainder of my toothpaste. Clearly these people had a major problem with personal hygiene.
Of course this time it was I who had foolishly presumed that nothing could possibly go wrong with having such items in my possession. As it turned out the phrase “she’ll be right” perfectly captured the situation, the only problem being that the “she” involved worked for airport security.
After another change of planes at Brisbane and a cab driver at Sydney Airport waiting 30 seconds before leaving so he could charge me an extra 20 per cent for travel after 10pm, I arrived at my building.
A friend of mine who I had lent my keys to while I was away had assured me they were placed in the letterbox as arranged and that all was perfectly fine. Not wanting to dislodge them I opened the letterbox and carefully removed the mail, however despite such caution I heard the unmistakable sound of my front door key sliding from between two envelopes before disappearing soundlessly into the foliage below.
Again I had been foolish in my presumption, this time that the keys would be placed in an envelope, or at least on a keyring or some other identifying marker. Instead they had just been tossed in loose and I ended up with the key to my building but not to my flat. While I gained a new appreciation of the foyer that night, after some consideration I decided that I would prefer to be in my home, or at least somewhere with a chair.
Of course my friend had not intended to leave me stranded and homeless at 11pm on a Monday night, she had just figured that everything would work out fine.
In fact things only worked out fine after I had dragged my friend Byron out of bed and made him drive around with the spare key which two years earlier I had ordered him to guard with his life.
Because that is how things work out fine: When you think about what might go wrong and work out ways to stop it from happening.
All over the country there are people who just go about their daily lives doing things in a haphazard, casual and thoughtless fashion without the slightest concern that something could go wrong down the track or that a piano could fall on their head at any moment.
Well I say enough. I had to stop smoking bongs and shotgunning goonbags in the 1990s and I don’t see why everyone else should be able to keep having a good time while I have to live with the thought that I am inevitably going to die of bowel cancer and may have left the stove on at home.
And then just when you think it can’t get any worse the goddamn North Koreans decide to start a nuclear war.
So when people say now is not the time to panic, I say now is in fact the perfect time to panic. It’s about time people stopped calming down and started to calm the f*** up.
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