Flat White

“They’re everywhere, those Hi-Vis Guys, polishing up to stay alive.” 

5 June 2020

4:25 PM

5 June 2020

4:25 PM

Somewhere in a Melbourne suburban street near you, someone in an orange Hi-Vis vest is polishing a lamppost with disinfectant and making a difference. 

It’s like an old Dr Seuss rhyme: “They’re everywhere, those Hi-Vis Guys in groups of five, polishing up to stay alive.”  

Those Hi-Vis Guys are signing up with the council with their university friends. You can tell they’re friends and from university, they’re way too familiar and articulate for my liking. They’re touching each other like pre-CoVid co-eds. Laughing as they polish the head of some woman’s baby with a Dettol wipe for the public good. Disinfecting the curbs and spraying the missing dogs posters: “Sosa the overpriced Puglier (if that is your real name). Wanted Dead or Alive.” 

Everything is suspect in the Age of Pandemic. Even you, in your tired black Just Do It t-shirt, 1990s nipple ring and hire purchase treadmill from Good Guys. Sorry, I was looking at myself in the mirror. 

They’ll spray me next if I stand still too long, like a monument. Stay Calm and attend your government-approved jazzercise class as Churchill said in WWII.  

Over there — in nearby Highett, where they have construction sites, not monuments — some struggling property developer with Ventolin inhaler and a Job Keeper payment is peeping from behind curtains, looking out into the street, over the neighbour’s fence. He could be anyone in Melbourne or Australia. He’s Generation CoVid  

Don’t knock him. Gen CoVid is raising record revenues with these CoVid fines6000 Victorians fined so far at $1652 a pop, the most in Australia. We’re topping the leader board. It’s state-against-state, mate against mate. Its like a political Good Friday Appeal without Dennis Walters singing something from Whispering Jack’s back catalogue. 

In Victoria Dan Andrews calls them our Pink Slip Heroes. Well, he would, if I was advising him. But maybe I should be working for the Liberal’s Tim Smith, our muscle-bound Jeff Kennett in waiting. 


Dob in a business. Dob in your neighbour. Dob in your integrity. It has a certain ring to it.  

Back in 2016, I wrote about Andrews’s popularity due to the orange vested workers everywhere removing railway crossings and drinking cappuccino in places they would otherwise never be allowed – like Brighton. Or Glen Waverley. Can Do Dan and his masterstroke of the practical. Now our orange vesters are just spraying hand sanitizer and dobbing in elderly dog walkers ignoring the military curfew. 

Peter Costello told us to have babies – one for mum, one for dad and one for the country. And the pandemic has brought out a lot of national spirit. A friend of mine did his bit by dobbing in the neighbours for holding a two-year-old’s birthday party. He showed me the clandestine shots taken through the gap in the blinds. Not so much mummy-porn as non-explicit mamamia erotica as slim-lined mummies in their black activewear and invisalign grills stood in the street discussing paleo diets and the latest from Beyoncé. 

But as he said (and I quote), ‘It’s incumbent, if not a moral imperative to maintain the law at the moment.’ Which could be a new post-pandemic hit single if we could get Tones and I to record it. There is a lot of legalese being spoken by well-intentioned wannabe lawyers these days and it all needs to be on Triple J unless it already is.  

I’m showing my age when it comes to our nations great busybodies. Mrs Jessup? Mrs Mangel? Bouncer the Labrador? These are our new, bronzed Aussies. My childhood turn-ons brought to life as we collectively finger wag and gossip. Or maybe it’s more like Crocodile Dundee when it comes to these Premiers, all this doubling down on the self-isolation – that’s not a pandemic restriction, ‘this’ is a pandemic restriction.  

On television, they’re trained up too.  At Bondi or St Kilda beach with the Ten News crew, or Nine. Nine usually have the better suits because of all the money saved when they sacked Karl. Turn to camera, look horrified; ‘I don’t think they’re 1.5 meters apart!’  

Our next generation of artists – a lost generation eating McDonald’s and devastated by the pandemic – is sitting over there and already writing ‘but really, don’t we all wear masks?’ Like they’re Marcel Marceau philosophers holding-up bread sticks pretending there French and leaning against a self-isolating invisible wall until an art critic from Rowville creates their own art installation by beating them up. 

We don’t want anyone to die. This is what you say in polite company now. This seems to be the non-negotiable. Some journalists are quiet happy to shout this at you, at an appropriate distance while pointing a microphone in case you are stupid. Annastacia Palaszczuk recently made the same point at her press conference by asking a journalist; “Do you want your family to have community transmission from NSW?  

Well, from NSW, no. Especially Balmain or Point Piper. Who knows where they’ve been.  

In America, they’ve forgotten about self-isolating. Just flick on CNN if you want to see a crowd intermingling, burning cars and living the pre-COVID good life. In the UK, they want Boris Johnson’s irritating chief advisor sacked for ignoring the pandemic rules. But I think it’s just because he’s irritating.  

Back in TV Land, Kochie leans forward because he can’t hear the Hollywood reporter who’s working Ceasuceu-style from a laptop somewhere in a self-isolated darkened bedroom near where River Phoenix OD’d. Allegedly. 

He’s shouting something about Adele’s weight loss and the national tragedy of it all. Can’t the West produce its own slimming pills anymore? Forget Huawei, the winnowing of our celebrity class is the real Chinese conspiracy.  

Kochie has Sunrise Cash Cow. They used to have Blocky on 9. I was always more of a Blocky man. If you took the ‘C’ out he was just a bloke. Probably Mark Latham in a cardboard box. But Blocky got disappeared during the great Karl purge of 2019.  

Maybe it’s a demarcation dispute, which can be resolved now Sally and Christian are talking. Like a cure for COVID, a miracle IR vaccine, the return of Blocky.  

Bring Blocky back I say. Forget Cash Cow I’m Lactose intolerant. Which is the least of it in the age of plague. 

Michael Scammell wants Blocky back on air. He writes at https://mdswords.wordpress.com.

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