Ford Australia has invited me and a plus one to the Presidents Club Function for the Geelong Cats versus Carlton Blues game at Etihad Stadium and it’s as we’re riding the elevator to the Limelight Room that my plus one, Reservoir Mum, says, ‘Finally. I’m getting something from this blogging thing.’
‘That’s right,’ I say, beaming like a mega-star and training one eyebrow into the raised position, ala, the Rock. ‘And this is just the beginning. It’s all red carpets and free dinners for us from now on, peppercorn. And we’ll never have to drive again because soon we’ll have a fleet of limos with drivers we’ll refer to as Jeeves or Alfred or Rick Astley – whatever we want really – because we won’t have to learn their real names if we don’t want, or even have to treat them like humans…’
I stop as we step into the Limelight Room to see a few hundred people standing around in business suits and I notice right away that these people have the mannerisms of the rich and powerful and so I practice emulating them by throwing my head back to belt out a HA-HA-HA at the ceiling, as if I’d just heard a corker of a joke, and then I hold up my hand to stop a waitress who’s holding a tray of Arancini balls and when I say, ‘What’re these balls made of?’ she replies ‘Rice pumpkin and chicken’. I keep a finger in the air as I bring the ball to my mouth because I’m planning on ignoring my frontal lobe and my lax upbringing by just nibbling on the edge and then placing it back on the tray with the compliment, ‘Exquisite!’ but as soon as it gets within range of my flaring nostrils I hoover it into my gaping orifice and cough ‘espliffit’’ and now I’m whimpering a little because they’re so fricken yummy and before the waitress has even taken a backward step I’ve hoarded seven more.
Just as RM’s tugging on my arm to correct my behaviour I turn to see Bucky from Tackle Nappy who’s here with his plus one – wife Alanna – and we’re laughing like we won the lotto and taking photos of each other a little sheepishly because seriously, this is not our usual experience of a night at the football.
As we’re ushered towards our table I keep a keen eye on the mannerisms of the rich and powerful and even say ‘Pardon me for the inconvenience’ at one stage after accidentally scuffing the back of someone’s expensive shoes and when people look at me I nod with pursed lips so that they assume I’m just like them and know heaps about business and wall street and algorithms.
The Ford rep waiting at our table is Jennifer and she’ a lovely lady who shakes our hands and smiles and after she says, ‘Oh you’re Reservoir Dad. I read your blog’ I smile back and say, ‘Yes, you do’ which makes RM laugh and so I introduce her. ‘This is RM,’ I say, with my Rock eyebrow in full affect. ‘She’s my plus one for tonight, and wife.’
We hang around for a bit looking out the massive windows to the sporting arena as Bucky and Alanna engage in idle chit-chat and, yes, this is the best viewing vantage point at Etihad stadium, right on the wing, and I’m feeling so old school male right now that I even consider asking RM to carry my purse, but instead I sweep an arm from one end of the ground to the other to indicate the spoils of my labour saying, ‘You see RM. I’m a traditional man now, a provider of material things’ and after snaking my other arm around her shoulders and pressing my forearm against her chest, to signify ownership, I lead her to our table to look for our seats.
We’re looking for our actual names Tania Pizzari and Clint Greagen and just as I’m flexing my pecs to shake hands with two more Ford employees – Wes from Detroit and Alistair from the UK – we see this…
‘Oh no!’ I scream.
‘What?’ Jennifer screams.
‘Hahahah!’ RM screams.
‘You’ve given me RM’s last name!’ I scream.
‘Oh no!’ Jennifer screams.
‘It doesn’t matter,’ I scream. ‘We’re really happy!’
All of a sudden there’s laughter and hilarity and the charade is over and RM and I take our seats and the free beer and wine flows and here comes the first course of our three course dinner and just as the other half of the Tackle Nappy team, Chubba, arrives with his plus one, wife Amber, I’m telling the whole table about the last time I was officially a Pizzari way back in 2002 during our honeymoon when we were delivered a communal wedding cake that read ‘Congratulations Mr and Mrs PAZzari’ right next to the name of another coule – most likely another error – ‘Mr and Mrs Blot’.
Wes and Alastair are telling us about the new Ford Mustang because I assume their boss told them to and probably the main reason we’re here and it’s just as I say, ‘I’m not really that into cars’ that the Ford CEO Bob Graziano comes over and shakes our hand and talks very politely to RM and he seems so genuinely interested in us that I promise myself that I will never think poorly of the upper class ever again and when he leaves us I feel this deep longing and run him down for a photo.
I return to the table thinking holy shit, this wining and dining is really having the desired affect on me and so I say ‘Wes, I do like cars. Could you and Alastair talk to Bob about getting me a Ford Ranger Wildtrak for freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee?’ but Wes says ‘no’ and so I mix my ever increasing level of intoxication with a line from one of my favourite children’s books and whisper into RM’s ear, ‘Wes, the king of all Wildtraks just tamed me with the magic trick of staring into my yellow eyes without blinking once’ and suddenly the siren happens and we’re sitting on the other side of the massive double glazed windows watching a pretty close game with our mouths stuffed full of scones and RM and I agree that eating scones at the footy is about as appropriate as eating hotdogs from a thermos at Her Majesty’s Theatre but that doesn’t stop us doing some celebratory jam-spitting at the final siren as the Cats win by five points.
There’s drunken backslapping and high-fiving as we head back into the Presidents Club and I really feel that we’ve all become fast friends over the course of the game and when we pour ourselves another glass of wine to finish off the bottle, we calm down a little. When Wes mentions cats I’m expecting some footy talk until I hear this, ‘We arrived here two months ago but they’ve only just landed in Australia.’
‘Hang on, do you mean the Geelong Cats?’ I say.
‘No, my cats,’ he says.
‘Oh, so actual cats?’
‘Yes,’ he says, holding his phone out to show me this picture.
‘They’re gorgeous,’ I say. ‘Two months?’
‘Yeah,’ he says, rolling his eyes. ‘By the time they’ve had all their injections and microchips and…’
‘They even had their own comfort cuddlers to keep them happy.’
‘What? People are paid just to cuddle them? I should get one of those.’
‘Aww, I’ll hug you Mr Pizzari,’ says RM who is seriously the best plus one I’ve ever had.
‘Jennifer’s got a good cat story too,’ says Alastair, and here comes Jennifer with a sigh and shrug to take centre stage.
‘Our cat got hit by a car once and my ten year old daughter found it on the road and came running inside yelling, ‘Mum! The cat got raped! The cat got raped!’
‘Wow,’ I say, as Wes and Alastair, and Bucky and his plus one, and Chubba and his plus one, and me and my plus one all laugh together, our eyes rolling in our heads like we’re a pack of spun mules. ‘Why did she think it’d been raped?
‘I think because it’d been knocked on the ground,’ Jennifer says. ‘It had a big sore on the back of it.’
‘Wow,’ I say. ‘Can I include that story if I write a post about this experience?
‘Yeah,’ she shrugs.
‘Can I use your real name?’
‘Okay, well. I’ll just call you Jennifer then.’
The Limelight Room is empting at an alarming rate and so Wes suggests we head over to a nearby bar and on the way there I’m buzzing because this really was a great night and several minutes later I’ve invited Wes and his family to a BBQ at our house and he seems really happy about that until I tell him that he should dress down a little so that people don’t see him getting out of his limo and assault Jeeves so they can steal it.
A big thanks to Ford Australia who tell the greatest cat stories ever. You’ve been loving me long time even though I don’t love cars, but hey, I do love Cats – the blue and white hooped ones, the lost in transit cuddled by-proxy ones and even the mistaken as raped ran-over ones. And now here’s a picture of the new Ford Mustang (and a few more Cats).