It’s my first day at the job. I’m walking down Flinders Lane with its shadowy art deco buildings passing Degraves Street and dodging sleepy tour guides drinking macchiato before the first shift.
I’m listening to Dylan’s Desolation Row with its Nurse Ratched riff of empty hall ways and urinating property lawyers worried about the election and like Dorothy its like there’s no place like home.
Maybe Eleanor Rigby would be better with its lonely Centrelink vibe. After all we are in the People’s Republic of Victoria and I have Daniel Andrews on high rotation offering me a solar panel – as if that’s going to save my soul from Israel’s damnation list.
Early light under the Flinders clocks you can’t miss the new steel bollards just installed for our piece of mind. Overnight the broken concrete blocks have been removed with their woollen cozies and stencils of a Fat Boy swallowing an Atom Bomb while waiting for the Banksy shredder. I dig it. I’m hip. I’m 56.
I once wrote about a woman who fell in love with a bollard because she mistook it for a real estate agent. She felt it had a clear sense of purpose, nice suits and ambition.
I’ve made it to Brunetti Cafe with the other job insomniacs, drinking cappuccino because I’m middle class. One morning there I read this Age article about chemical testing of the Yarra and how it contains more cocaine in it then any other water supply in Australia. I’m not surprised – why else do you think all those private school rowing sheds are on the Yarra?
Across from Brunetti’s is Bible House but now its corner bottom shop is Kiss Kill lingerie instead of God-bothering ceramic Jesus statuettes. A middle-aged woman checks out the mannequins in their suspenders but nobody else is noticing.
I walk past Crazy Horse strip club on the corner with Elizabeth Street where they all get kicked out the door for a 6.00 am close and the short walk to Persian Kebabs. This is where Jack T the actor friend all those years ago snuck us in the back door and past the bored strippers with the needles in their arms who asked us 17 year old private school boys why we weren’t smiling more as this was the greatest day of our lives.
At lunchtime I head out. I’m feeling good from the Ventolin rush. They say business suit types have no heart but really we have no lungs.
On the corner of Collins and Elizabeth chuggers in lime green tops are juxtaposed with some rough sleeper propped up against the wall and next to him the guy selling Big Issue with his mangy grey Labrador.
My new leather shoes are biting and giving me blisters so I’m not in the mood. The chugger waves and tries to block my line of sight. I want to punch him in the head but us Melbournians are known for our sophistication so hire other people to do these things for us.
This is what our world-class Gangland wars were all about back in the 2000s. It’s all politeness, plausible deniability and wearing something black and sophisticated you saw recently in a magazine at the dentist.
It never goes away. I’m reading how Tony Mokbel got plastic surgery for his face after being stabbed but now has brain damage as well meaning he can play himself in the next TV mini series after all.
Is it me or have the lifts in the city just got posher? I’m waiting in my new suit and blistered feet with the other tie-wearing plodders staring at the numbers as a Visual Arts PhD who couldn’t follow his dream of a career in telemarketing announces each floor.
In a previous career we sat right near the lifts and there was this ambitious girl who as her career progressed increasingly sounded just like the floor announcements. This went on so long that eventually we thought maybe she was the lift and it was the lift that was doing the filing. We just wanted her to hurry-up and start sounding like Christopher Pyne or maybe Julian Burnside so we could get on with our lives.
People say you can never go back but really that’s all any of us ever do. Now I’m catching the train each day to work with the herd, like a real boy and just like Jay Gatsby I’m mixing it with a better class of upskirter.
Michael Scammell has a job.
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