Flat White

Never mind the bollards

29 April 2018

7:48 AM

29 April 2018

7:48 AM

I am from Melbourne and I am a bollard lover following the 12 Steps Program to recovery.

Since last year’s terrible incident over 600 of these anti-terror bollards have been installed around the city by politicians wanting to make us all feel safer. We just can’t help ourselves down here.

No, let’s be clear – ‘I’ can’t help myself. (Step 9 of the recovery process – taking responsibility for other people’s actions).

I am not alone. My single friend thought she had met a really nice guy but it turns out she’d also falling in love with a bollard (Step 7 – becoming attracted to inanimate objects).

But that’s ok (Step 5 – acceptance of failings). These things happen and these days in Melbourne they happen all the time.

No doubt the call for even more bollards will get even louder given the growing trend – take the latest events in Toronto even though this seems to have nothing to do with terrorism either.

There are rules and awkward moral questions to be avoided when it comes to anti-terror bollards.


For example, how many security solutions is a politician allowed to embrace at one time? And should a politician sleep with a bollard on the first date or at least wait until other less obvious but more frightening options are considered? (Step 21 – creating irrational fears so you get re-elected).

I used to be giddy about bollards but now I’m just fixating on CCTV security cameras instead to help me kick my habit. (Step 20 – replacing something with something else and pretending it will make a difference).

Meanwhile in nearby Richmond which could well be Australia’s drug capital if they only tried harder (‘Proudly Addicted’ is the logo, I think) – they are busily building a safe injecting room. But what is a safe room other than a reverse panic room with all the scared people on the outside with the cigarette smokers? It’s like an inside-out designer jumper designed by one of our world-class architects to fit in with the local streetscape. Except when you’re stoned you don’t realize it looks exactly the same as the other award-winning one outside Bilbao Guggenheim. (Step 33 – being pretentious).

It’s never been a better time to have politicians concerned for our well-being. (Step 40 – irrational gratitude).

It isn’t just bollards and it isn’t just governments. It’s even supermarkets who are now getting rid of their plastic bags to save the environment or just to save us from ourselves. (Step 50 – using shopping as a way to bring much-needed tedium back into your life).

I once had this conversation with a guy who worked at Chadstone Borders where he tried to get me to pay for the bag I wanted him to put my just bought organically-grown coffee table book in.

He wanted to charge me 70 cents for the bag because Borders wanted to save the environment or the panda by becoming ‘bag-free’ and ‘I’ argued that shouldn’t the price of the books be reduced instead if I didn’t use a bag given this cost no longer existed for the store – ipso facto or something. (Step 32 – irrational use of mathematics and footnotes).

I said isn’t this bag fee a scam being used by corporations to bolster their image? Which was a bit passive aggressive (Step 12 – well-meant passive aggression directed at loved ones and store staff).

I always felt guilty about this conversation (Step 76 – an understandable sense of self-loathing). Chadstone Borders closed three months later and I somehow thought that maybe I was responsible and maybe my maths didn’t add up because I was a bit of an idiot at school. (Step 80 – facing reality).

Sometime later I spotted Borders Guy again. He had had a haircut and was wearing a cheap suit in the cosmetics section of the Bourke Street David Jones. He looked sad and morally compromised as he dosed old women with perfume and worried about the effect on the environment.

Down Hardware Lane there is a disused anti-terror security bollard sitting at the end of one of Melbourne’s very famous inner city lanes. A self-conscious piece of art-grooviness that other recovering bollard lovers have brightly painted with graffiti. I think they call it ‘Boll-Art.’ A $10,000 carbon fibre bike leans against one side and some homeless guy is using the other as a pillow. They don’t look any safer.

But in amongst all this panic what am I to do? (Step 12 – turn yourself into a piece of Boll-Art).

Michael Scammell is a freelance writer. His story Baby Jesus appears in the May issue of Quadrant magazine.

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