The unexpected need for a night time shopping run necessitated a stroll through the human residue left behind by Australia Day.
The first sighting was two youngish guys hanging out just near the bus stop across the road, conducting one of the more content-free conversations of the 21st Century to date – and it was so bland and unnecessary, I doubt they could have identified what it was about or why it was happening – at a discreet volume just loud enough to be heard in any home within a 75 metre radius, given that they were basically standing out IN the street, as opposed to within the commodious garden, residence or porch areas of the adjacent place I assumed they’d been drinking at.
As if to confirm this theory, from that property, a female voice of an extremely Australian and nasal timbre, but what it lacked in class, it certainly made up for in sheer volume, would occasionally bellow, “We evta go get more woin!” The two guys reacted to this in no way at all, continuing with the chat so dull it had forgot its own subject.
The taller of them, affecting his version of casual bus stop-leaning cool, was toying with what appeared to be a basketball. Bouncing one of these intermittently, with both hands at the same time, is not that cool-looking, as it transpires. Neither is tossing it unsteadily hand to hand and almost losing it. And as I walked past, and he attempted a casual one-handed bounce routine and it hit his foot and he had to run down the road after it, coolness was no longer a paramount thought in any potential onlooker’s mind.
Just passed those calamities, hardly ten yards further down the road. An ungainly tall but running-to-paunch early 20s fellow in shorts of unbecoming brevity and flaming red colour is swaying in place and yelling into his phone.
“I’m still here where I was,” he maintains adamantly. A car, presumably his Uber order, just then approaches the corner, slows, rounds the bend in front of him, stops, with his indicator blinking.
“Is that you flashing your lights at me?” yodels the drunk fathead. The car is still there, not that it’s flashing its lights or anything, but anyone with an IQ above that of a tea-strainer might have figured it to be a sure thing. “Are you my car with the lights on? I’m still here.”
I left them to sort it out, as it was all starting to resemble the lyrics from a particularly dim New Romantic era pop song of the early 80s.
A half block or so down, I became aware that there were two figures loping up behind me at pace, and a real sideshow exhibit type guy lurching at even greater pace in the bike lane on my outside.
There was probably nothing in it, but discretion being the better part of valour and all that, just as they surrounded me, I cut straight through the middle of them, out across the street.
On the other pavement, wave after wave of gaggle after gaggle of what I imagine would be euphemised in the papers as “exhausted revellers” staggered at me and somehow missed me. They were laughing a great deal at nothing readily apparent and seemed to struggle to complete sentences. Towering proportions of cleavage marched my way in phalanx formation, much of it female.
My former non-assailant, the one who walked jerkily and disconcertingly in the bike lane, like the victim of a sudden localised electrocution, suddenly crossed the road to join me, walking as if in lockstep. Once again, he stuck rigorously to the bike lane as opposed to the footpath built for the purpose, and it occurred that he was probably looking for a cab, and thus, along with me, was the last person in this part of Australia who hasn’t worked out Uber yet.
Although he looked nothing like him otherwise, he may be of considerable value to those who study both show business and human movement as his oddball forward-leaning walk made him an exact replica of the pose Iggy Pop has maintained both moving and standing still for around the last two to three decades.
It was head and chest forward at the front, and butt defiantly sticking out a mile at the back. It is curious as all hell to look at because not only can’t you work out how anyone can remain upright like that, it’s difficult to believe that science could ever manage to build a machine to replicate it.
In complete darkness, one thoughtful resident, perhaps the last in metropolitan Melbourne to possess the kind of sprinkler device that is essentially a transparent garden hose with holes punched in it, had left it on with the apparent aim of dampening people all night.
The shopping itself went without incident, or pleasure for that matter, but I’ll take “without incident”.
On exiting to the street I immediately encountered the three bus stop loiterers from earlier in the evening’s entertainment. They were continuing to burble about nothing in unnecessarily loud voices, but it was revealed that the ball the taller guy still gripped like a talisman was not a basketball but one of those kid-sized, half-transparent bouncy balls with stars and doodles on it, which didn’t conspicuously make the overall effect any less embarrassing.
Walking away from the shopping centre, on the home stretch, there was a belligerent swaying mid-20s knob with two women. He belched “That’s him! Over there, that’s the guy!” which, as there was no-one else in the immediate vicinity, seemed to fairly clearly invoke yours truly.
Dropping into the sneering rasp famous the world over as the pre-violence bark of the contentious Australian drunkard, he continued:
“You, you’re a f—ing c–t!”
Rather than share a few good-humoured words about the sometimes comic nature of mistaken identity, I kept right on walking at my conventional shopping trip pace, which could beat some slower greyhounds you might have bet on. A female voice was heard in the increasing distance saying “Nah” and the other added, “It’s not him” so further social discourse involving me was spared.
The idiot with the all-night perforated garden hose running on his nature strip sprayed my shorts one more time for good measure.
Half of everyone with anything that vaguely resembled a balcony in the area were using it to grog on and piffle even more on. This did not include the perennial dumb-arse guys with the most on-street and arguably best of all balconies in the area, who had gone out too hard too early in the day, being in full swing and dominating the streetscape with their wise pleasantries from a shade before 11am. (I was on a beer run.)
In all fairness I had an inkling the antique bearded beer-burbling knotheads were not going to make the distance when I overheard one of them, at just before 11am, in a voice which was already knocked screwloose and semi-coherent by alcohol even then, claim:
“In me biggest day, like, I knocked off 500 cans. 500 cans mate!” Using our best powers of reasoning and speculative calculation, we can assume no more than five saw him off on this particular day. And probably on the “500 cans” day as well.
Just as I got to the last corner before my place, Belligerent Drunky Guy with his not quite so drunk lady friend saw a car was crossing the main road from sidestreet to sidestreet, and in that I Am More Important Than Anyone Else On The Planet manner that truly distinguishes the most hopeless and horrible of all Australian life forms – not excluding that particularly large and toxic funnel web spider they have as their chief tourist attraction in Newcastle, NSW – deliberately jinked in the path of the car and walked at a 90 degree angle in front of it to make it wait, even though he could have avoided it entirely and not stopped walking.
The car stopped and waited. Had it ploughed straight through him and the unfortunate companion, I wouldn’t have been able to honestly say, as a witness, that it was the car’s fault.
In fact it would have been difficult not to reflect that the driver had also improved Australia significantly and made it a distinctly better place in which to live.
(Although the whole business would have been admittedly rough on the woman pedestrian concerned, whose only voluntary error involved apparently appalling taste in menfolk.)
I reached home and relative safety. By this stage, every group of 20-25 year olds bumbling past were, without exception, shrieking, hooting, cackling and yeehawing, to better indicate to all hapless residents and other shrieking yeehawers that they had had the “best torm of anyone, mate, in the whole world, of all of Austraya Day, mate (burp)”.
It was difficult to avoid the impression that every one of these legless luminaries and imminent serial vomiters had thought when they had a drink today that they were smart, extraordinary and wonderful people, and that when they managed a second, it was a personal and scientific breakthrough probably worthy of acknowledgement in official Australia Day honours list.
There was not one out of a procession of dozens of them that didn’t sound dumber than a pack of cheese slices.
And a happy Australia Day to all.