I have never voted drunker than that in my life. Pop that one on the CV. One day employers are going to Google me and find this blog, and it may end poorly for my chances of gainful employment. But what can I say? I’m a good and dedicated worker, quick-thinking, and sober during working hours. State elections are just not something I view with the same sense of respect. Especially when it’s the old Turd Sandwich vs. Giant Douche contest.
Not that any of this was exactly by design. As with all the best results, these things just happen. My friend Jimmy is an interesting chap. He’s blokier than the Lord Bloke of Bloketown during the annual Bloking Day Parade. Whatever is the blokiest thing that can be done in any given situation, Jimmy will be doing it. You could take Jimmy to a Lady Day Fairy Picnic Tea Party and within minutes he would be showing the girls how to skin a wild beaver and fashion it into a slingshot to fire napalm at rival motor-racing gangs. We befriended each other at Pyramid Rock some years back, the blokiest rock festival of all, and reconvened there three years in a row. It involved utes and moustaches and 4×4 buggies and giant sound systems and repeated smuggling and slabs…so many slabs.
In between times, Jimmy is obsessed with making homebrew. He brews up batches in his shed, hundreds of litres of it. Hoegaarden, Beez Kneez, Corona, Boag’s. Then a couple of times a year he has a massive homebrew party called Beerfest, with an adapted filmic subtitle. Beermageddon. A Few Good Beers. Or my personal favourite, 28 Beers Later. At this point everyone has to come around and drink all of the homebrew. All of it. He gets very sad if there’s any left. Then with the shed cleaned out, he starts all over again.
This was my first Beerfest since coming home, so I was determined to get there. But it ended up being one of the most convoluted journeys of all time. Jimmy lives in the far reaches of the eastern suburbs, so getting there from the far reaches of the northern was going to be a bitch. Luckily all the political ads cramming my mailbox informed me that good old Steve Herbert, our local MP, had recently instituted a new bus line. It pretty much went from my local station to Jimmy’s door, via an hour-and-three-quarters of meandering through dead-end suburbs. I was supposed to go earlier but I fell asleep. Then dicked around for a while. It was ten-thirty before I even got to the station. Just as the bus came in, The Scientist called and said I could use her car. This was way better because it gave me an escape route from said suburbs next morning. Of course it also meant I had to get to Footscray. Another hour and more of trains, cabs, getting lost, walking. Got there, got automobilised. Then over the West Gate and I’m finally on my way – when my phone rings.
A friend of mine, clearly off his chops. He says he’s on Toorak Road. I’m about to pass the Kings Way exit. Mercy call. I do a quick turn and head off to find him. Scrape him into the car and take him home. He wants to shoot the shit. Normally I’d love to, but Beerfest is calling. He says we have to chat for half an hour before he’ll get out. I oblige. We strike a deal. After thirty-one minutes I scrape him out of the car. He sets off down the driveway, then turns back, one finger raised, as though he’s forgotten something. I pause in backing out. He drops his pants and plays his moon-bare arse like a drum. I know I shouldn’t reverse into traffic with my eyes closed, but the options were not exactly numerous.
Heading down Toorak Road now. Finally on my way, I think. I’ll be there soon. Up ahead is a car pulled to the side with hazards on and the bonnet open. It’s late. The road is deserted. I pull up. Everything alright? I ask.
A woman pops round the side of the car, startled, then relaxing when it appears that I’m not five dudes in a Commodore. She asks for help, so I park. Seems she has a flat tyre. Um…so why do you have the bonnet open? I ask politely. Apparently she was looking for the jack. She’s never changed a tyre before. She’s kind of freaking out. Now, I may be a useless effete Arts graduate, but I have changed a few tyres, and the memory is vaguely visible through the dim mists of time. Of course, I’m worried I’ll fuck it up. Jimmy would change it by giving it a stern glance, or attacking it with an angry bear. But my chance to be manly is ruined as soon as I look for the jack in the boot.
“You know your spare is punctured too?”
Turns out it’s her brother’s car. Obviously a man who pays attention to detail. She’s sunk. I push the car around the corner out of the clearway zone and offer to take her home. Luckily it’s not more than a few suburbs. She asks if I’d like a drink or something. It has taken a while to notice that she’s pretty. But … homebrew. My 16-year-old self is waiting in an alley to punch me in the back of the head when I say, “Thanks, but I’m running late. Best be going.”
It is half-past fucking two by the time I make it to the party. Half past two. The house is in darkness. I have that sinking feeling of failure. Then I notice someone on the curb. Jimmy is sitting there with an epic dirty handlebar moustache that would have given Washington a run for his money. I’d like to put this down to Movember, but I couldn’t even say that with any surety. He might have won it at the Birdsville races in a granite-quarrying competition while on fire.
Turns out it’s still kicking out in the backyard. A whole slew of friends I haven’t seen in a couple of years. I sink into a chair with the first sweet neck of homebrew, the blunt muzzle of the longneck butting affectionately up against my mouth. It has taken me over four hours of sidetracks and transit to get here. ‘You’re late,’ says Jimmy. ‘Better catch up.’ He hands me a giant novelty three-litre flagon of Beam, with a generous couple of inches of liquid remaining in the bottom. It’s a large enough amount to do some damage, small enough to mean I’m expected to drink it all. The longneck in my other hand is nine or ten percent. You can probably figure how the night goes from here.
By the time Jimmy wakes from a short nap next morning, the sun is up, the empties are mounting, I’m still awake, and Jay is telling me somewhat sheepish stories about how as a much younger man he survived driving a souped-up ute into the back of a parked car at 160 ks an hour while too far gone to remember his own name. He was thrown clear onto an embankment, lay there for a while, then knocked out a policeman who tried to arrest him. A few days later he went sheepishly into that precinct’s station and apologised, which he credits with saving him from jail time.
Jimmy appears on the porch. ‘Alright fellers. Who wants to go and vote?’
“Vote? Nah, farrk thet. Ah’m drinkin’.” Slurring has become the preferred manner of speech.
“There’ll be bacon and eggs down there, dude.”
“B’kaneggs? Sweet! Les vote.”
We set off down the street. Jay is a Darwin boy, hard as concrete. He’s been drinking at the same rate, but it washes over him. I, however, am three sheets to the wind.
It is only when you clear out the garage for a hard rubbish day that you realise just how much shit you steal while you’re young and drunk. I did this clear-out at the parental home just a couple of weeks ago, and the memories came flooding back. Road signs by the dozen, traffic markers, street signs. An entire rolled-up blackboard from a certain university. Several windows from suburban trains – at one point I made coffee tables out of them. One of the temporary plastic windows with the sign saying “This window has been vandalised. This is a temporary replacement window.” I loved the irony. A giant banner from a health food shop. Even looking around my room now, there’s an Exit sign I accidentally pulled off the wall at Revolver; the pricing numbers from a petrol station in Point Lonsdale; the wooden Bar Closed sign from the old Corner Hotel in 1999; a sign for a Weight Watchers meeting room.
Anyway. Apparently this compulsion is based more on BAC than age. On the short walk to the polling booth we pass a house up for auction. I immediately purloin the flag out the front. It has a convenient wooden handle. So when we roll into the local primary school, I am carrying a longneck of cold homebrew in one hand, and trailing an enormous red flag stating ‘Auction’ behind me in the air.
There is a sad absence of bacon and eggs. There is, however, a sausage sizzle. “Id’ll do,” I tell Jimmy. The woman at the sausage sizzle eyes me and my longneck. It is by this stage not quite eight a.m. I am indeed in a primary school. “Would you like me to pop that in a bag for you?” she asks with her head tilted to one side, in that way that mothers do.
“Ah! Wouldjoo do that?”
“I would.” And she rustles up a neat little Myer bag, just the right size, and makes me ever-so-slightly more discreet. I hang the bag jauntily from my pinkie, thus allowing the full management of flag, bread, snag and sauce. When you are this drunk, you think everything is hilarious, even though most other people think you’re a pillock. As you get more experienced in drinking, you start to be aware of the times when everyone thinks you’re a pillock, but because you’re that drunk, the fact they think this is also hilarious. This is approximately where you find me at the present moment. I am swigging from my Myer-homebrew bottle. Jimmy and Jay are cringing and giggling and spluttering. We go to vote. The lady eyes off my Myer bag.
“You can’t vote if you’ve been drinking.”
Suddenly my enunciation comes back. “Excuse me? I dispute that. There is nothing in the Constitution of this country to say that I can’t vote while I’m drunk.”
“Is that right?”
“Madam, I studied Constitutional law.”
“I’m sure you did.”
“I did indeed. And I can categorically state that there is no provision in any electoral statute pertaining to eligibility for suffrage based on intoxication or otherwise. Indeed, I am legally required to vote, and here I am, voting.”
“Well, here are your papers. Number these boxes one to five, then on this one…”
“Madam. I know how the preferential Senate voting system works. And I can count to 28. But thank you for your assistance.”
I scan up and down the line of booths. I am definitely the only person in here with a longneck. I am also the only person with an enormous red flag over my shoulder. Most people must think I’m either a Labor apparatchik or a communist. I don’t really mind. Voting is easy. Just put Family First last, and work up from there.
We roll on out of there feeling like we’ve just won the war. Triumphant and unscathed. There is a loud conversation ricocheting around the three of us as we pass the party monkeys at the front gate. Along the lines of, “Why would you stand around in the street handing out Liberal cards? It’s like handing out cards on how to molest children.” The Libs, despite most likely being sober, respond with even less dignity, yelling abuse at us down the length of the street. They’ll get the last laugh though. The seat of Forest Hill will fall to them later that evening.
We settle back in at home for a minute, till the doorbell rings. Jimmy comes bounding back from the front door, half laughing and half terrified. “You’d better give that flag back right now,” he says through muffled hysterical laughter. I go and look through the peephole. There does indeed seem to be a real estate agent on the front step. Pastel pants suit, clipboard help officiously in front of her. I can’t figure out how to open the front door though, so I go out the back and round the side. There is a big tangle of vines and things at the front corner. In my mind’s eye, I can see exactly how this situation pans out, though I couldn’t quite at the time.
I, a very large and dishevelled man, suddenly leap clear of the shrubbery. “Ah ha!” I cry.
“Aah!” she shrieks, jumping up and backwards.
“I suppose you’ve come for this!” I say, grinning manically and thrusting a large red flag at her.
“Um…no,” she says, looking bewildered and slightly alarmed. “I came to leave this.” She holds out her clipboard. It’s not a clipboard. It’s a box. “Are you one of Jimmy’s friends?” she asks after a moment.
“Would you give this to his mother?”
“Um…sure? Yes. I’ll… do that.” She hands me what is in fact a lovely flat box of stationery in assorted shapes and colours. It was Jimmy’s mum’s birthday recently. This is one of her friends. I have just accosted her with a real estate flag. She backs away somewhat warily, smiling all the while, while I retreat back into the shrubbery from whence I came.
Sometimes you hold it in, then laugh so hard your body hurts. This is one of those times. The others join in. No real estate agents will ruin my day. Ten minutes later and I’m crashed flat in the spare bed, curled protectively round my rolled-up flag, and sleeping the sound sweet sleep of the democratically discharged.