I’ve been invited to a lunch with the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney and I’ve agreed to go because all expenses will be paid and I’ll have a whole day cruising around by myself, kid-less. Also, because I used to do crystal therapy and read Tarot Cards I know that Woogs World and Crash Test Mummy and Stay At Home Mum and basically all the big wigs of Aussie blog land will be there. There’s also MamaMia who’ll be chairing ‘a discussion’ over lunch and her blog has gotten so noticeable and distracting that Australia – the whole continent – is humping the back of its leg in a tongue-biting eye-rolling fashion.
The day before I’m due to fly out Camilla from the Commonwealth Bank texts me to say that a driver will be picking me up to take me to the airport at 8am. I’m almost giggling – too excited some might say – as I text Thanks Camilla, I’m looking forward to checking out the Hummer’s minibar until she texts back with Oh dear, don’t get too excited, it’s not quite a Hummer and then the giggling stops.
It seems that I’ve only been staring out the window waiting for my driver – Graham – for an hour or more when he finally appears and I’m in the back seat waving freakishly at him before he even knows he’s here.
Graham is great. He talks about his holidays and where he used to work and lots of other things that I have no interest in but it’s okay because I decided last night that I would only dedicate one paragraph to him when I finally get around to blogging this whole experience and then I’m at the airport, trying to stop myself from yelling BOMB, and waiting outside the appropriate gate, twittering on my mobile phone, when I hear ‘Hi’, and there’s Crash Test Mummy standing there and we work out pretty quick that we’ll be travelling together, right next to each other, all the way there, and then there’s a moment’s awkward silence as we both struggle with relevant things to say and secretly wish we were home talking to each other on Twitter, or maybe even Skype with just the sound on.
The flight from Melbourne to Sydney seems to only take an hour and Laney and I become fast friends and as we walk the tarmac into Sydney Airport we get a text from Camilla telling us that Simon – our Sydney driver – will be waiting outside for us to take us to the Commonwealth bank and when we see him there, holding a sign saying Reservoir Dad, as if I’m some kind of fricken legend, my pants suddenly feel very tight and I hope no one else can notice but there’s really no time to worry about it because suddenly Stay At Home Mum arrives – all the way from Gympie in Queensland – and hugs Crash Test Mummy with a jittery, we’re having sleep-over kind of energy, before turning to me and shaking my hand like I’m a customer at Metricon and, to break the ice, I nod for no particular reason, whisper Wow and then jump into the front passenger seat of the car.
As Crash Test Mummy and Stay At Home Mum chat excitedly in the back seat Simon relates several things to me that are semi-interesting but I decide to only give him one line in the blog post and block most of it out.
When we arrive at the Commonwealth Bank building we pretend to act aloof and uncaring but deep inside we’re like little kids entering a carnival wearing those fluorescent wrist bands that get you unlimited free rides.
There is a split second, just before I enter the bank, when I look up at the towering, toppling immensity of it and feel a rush of power, as if I am a suppository being shoved into the building’s anus by a very large finger, completely against its will. I will affect this place in some way. I am sure of it.
We run into Dannimezza before getting sucked through the security gates and the elevators and the long hallways and become passable, unnecessary, invaders of the building’s ecosystem. There are waiters and bankers and cleaners and mail clerks and permanent tradesman and event organisers and cooks and it really seems nothing like downtown Reservoir and when I finally enter the room where our event will be held I notice two things – the floor to ceiling windows that hold us over the Sydney Harbour and make me want to speak to God and all the people standing around the huge immaculately adorned dining table, waiting to serve us.
Just as one of the event organisers – Camilla or maybe Jessica – says, ‘Oh, you’ve arrived?’ and greets me with an open hand I get an irresistible urge to look at a toilet and when I relay that information with a loud voice, so that everyone in the room can hear it, Stay At Home Mum and Crash Test Mummy admit to having the same urge and we all run back down the hallway, not looking at each other.
Kings and Queens would wash their faces in these toilets. They are immaculate. Fit to be buried and discovered and worshipped by future archaeologists. I lose more time than I need to just breathing in the fresh fragrant air. The urine I spill there becomes a golden elixir with the magical ability to improve wrinkly skin in the middle aged. When I die I want my ashes to be formally scattered in the Commonwealth Bank’s urinals.
When I take my seat at the dining table and see Reservoir Dad written on a place card I get that feeling again but luckily my pants were loosened a little from the last tightening episode and so it’s nowhere near as uncomfortable. The waiter asks if I’d like a drink and I ask if its too early to drink wine and he says no so I say, ‘Well, I’ve got two hours here and I’m getting driven back to my front door in Reservoir so don’t let me see the bottom of this glass,’ and then he laughs and we become fast friends.
I’m so happy to see that I’m sitting next to Stay at Home Mum because she has 100,000 Facebook followers and has become a legend in the game in less than 18 months and, besides all that, she’s from Gympie – which sounds like the name of a really cute cripple – and lives just down the road from Big Family Little Income! Sha-bang! Within minutes of us chatting together a photographer comes and asks us to pose for a photo and we pose so well together and through this mutual skill we become fast friends.
When MamaMia arrives it’s without fanfare and everyone seems to either be aloof to her presence or acting aloof to her presence and, really, there’s only one person who loses control and reveals their true excitement by prematurely exclamating a greeting: ‘Hi MamaMia!’ I say.
Luckily, MamaMia responds with, ‘Hi RD. It’s good to finally meet you,’ which gives me time to wipe the wine off my chin and look around at everyone like a smug-shy kid rolling his eyes and pressing his cheek out with his tongue and then the photographer’s snapping more pics and MamaMia and Stay At Home Mum are talking about their amazing shoes and how cheap they are and then we’re all ushered to our seats and a camera crew appear and Mamamia introduces herself and tells us we’re here to talk about children and finances and how to teach children to be better with money and because I am completely and utterly financially illiterate I keep drinking wine and the waiter keeps filling my glass and I wave across the room at Woogs World and BabyMac and I all of a sudden I feel very drunk.
It occurs to me that the Commonwealth Bank have lots of money and that they should have been able to afford at least one Hummer to pick me up this morning and I am almost certain that some bloggers here did get a Hummer and I harbour an inner anger at that because if there’s one thing I hate about rich people it’s how they ration their Hummers.
The two hours pass by very quickly and I speak quite a bit about a subject that I know very little about and all the time I am aware that there is a camera recording everything and then I realize that I am the only man at the table and so I try to take advantage of that by making a sexually appropriate joke to endear myself to everyone and because I can’t tell if the laughter I receive is genuine or simply a way to avoid an awkward silence, I try again with a less appropriate joke and leave it there.
Several times I look across the table at Random Ramblings Of A Stay At Home Mum and we nod at each other in a way that suggests we’ll speak to each other at the break but the break comes and goes and I speak to Woogs World about doing a guest post for her website and then I go to the toilet and stare at my reflection in the urinal walls – amazed that I appear thinner and more youthful – and by the time I get back to the meeting room everyone is seated again and my glass is full and after eating some of the rib-eye steak skewers, I interrupt Mamamia to say something that I will never forget, no matter how much I try. And then I look across the table at Random Ramblings Of A Stay At Home Mum and she avoids my gaze.
There comes a moment of clarity just before the event ends when I think of my boys and wonder what I will tell them if they ever ask me for advice about money and I decide that I will say this, ‘Spend a little less than you earn but if all else fails… check under the car seats and in between the cushions on the couch because there is almost always money there. Other than that refer all financially based questions to your Mother.’
Pfft. I dunno… the Commonwealth Bank’s Youth Savings and Dollarmites kids’ programs seem great – and they probably are – but we all know that they’re also a clever way to lure in life-long customers and increase the numbers of the Commonwealth Bank’s congregation.
Suddenly we’re back in the car with Simon again and then Stay At Home Mum and Crash Test Mummy and me are at the Sydney Airport drinking from large pots and talking blog-stuff and saying what a great time we had and when we wonder out loud if The Commonwealth Bank will ever invite us back I keep the answer to myself – yes, they will invite us back, but only if I never write a blog post about today’s experience. I make a mental note to to never do that, or – if it becomes to hard to resist – to include a big happy picture to represent the Commonwealth Bank (like the CEO laughing or something) and to do my best to avoid over-emphasising the glaring lack of Hummers.
We make a pact to stay fast friends and on the plane ride home I fall asleep on Crash Test Mummy’s shoulder a few times and she has to shrug me off but each time I turn to apologise she pretends to be asleep, which is really nice of her, and we become fast friends again.
Then I’m in another car that’s not a fucking Hummer with another driver who I decide not to name and to only dedicate a handful of blog post words to and somehow I’m walking down the long hallway of home and the kids are jumping all over me just like I’m a traditional Dad who’s just got back from a day’s work and Reservoir Mum gives me a hug and says, ‘Have you been drinking?’ and I’m so confused and say, ‘Yeth.’