Thursday, November 10, 2011

I can haz gormay burger?

Dear Gourmet Burger Places,

Movember has recently become a fun way of raising money and awareness for prostate cancer research. Men of varying ages attempt to grow a mustache for sponsorship by friends and family, whether they can or not. As someone who fits into that 'friends and family' category with a newly disposable income and an irrational fear of being diagnosed with cancer (even types I'm unlikely to get) I was more than happy to donate fifty of my hard earned dollars, of which actual tears went into to creating, to encourage my friend Lloyd to sport a filthy mo.

I previously thought it was great that burger places such as Jus Burgers and Grill'd gave away one free meal a day to guys with a hairy top lip during the month of November. Yes! Encourage the charitable behaviour! However, it recently occurred to me that this is a little unfair. While my male counterparts get lazier (don't shave their top lip for thirty days, which also gives them #hipstercred) they get many free, unbelievably delicious burgers. However, I part with a few hours worth of my pay plus I have to buy my burgers? Do you not think more people will donate money, if you gave the free burgers to the people giving away their money? Redirect the positive reinforcement, people!

C'mon, can I just have one free burger? I craved them big time while I was away and whinged to anyone who would listen. Sure I can afford to buy one but everything tastes better when it's free.


P.S. I swear I'm not saying this because I'm a woman and there's no Ovarian Cancer equivalent. I just want a free burger.

Customs/Quarantine Inspection Queue Officer

"Sian, this job sounds terrible. Why the hell are you doing it?"

Seemed to be a common theme among my friends' reactions to hearing about the job in the customs hall that my dad had lined up for me (he also works at the airport). So with dread I drove to the international airport at 5pm last Thursday, ready to start my night shift that would go through to 6am on Friday morning. I felt a bit like "those who can, do and those who can't, teach." As in "those who travel, do and those who can't watch other people walk through customs." Whenever I saw a plane taking off, I remember desperately wishing I was on it, not caring where it was going. Also, something about taking a job my dad had arranged for me seemed to be the last bit of individual decision making before my complete loss of independence since returning home.

After introducing myself ("How did you find this position?" Me: " Dad works here...Trevor Sugars?") to the Duty Manager, I was given a warmer high visibility jacket and promptly introduced to everyone else in the office or anyone we walked passed during my first shift. I was to be working with Jacinta, a familiar looking girl who went to MLC (a Perth girls' school). Halfway through the night I realised I had played netball against her during high school. During my first five shifts, I saw someone I knew coming through arrivals every night, with the degree of closeness getting smaller every time. It's wonderful to be back in tiny, tiny Perth.

Our job is basically to be a glorified, highly paid fence post. We manage the queue before people get into the queue to go through quarantine or customs. We also tell people to get their declaration cards out and put their passports away (if they want). That's it. That's all we have to do for twelve hours at a time. Managing the queue involves controlling how long it is and taking the abuse when we make people walk too far, or wait too long, which is often. As my first week was during CHOGM, many people, while waiting in the embarrassingly long line, commented that CHOGM put Perth on the map. I beg to differ; Perth's terrible international arrivals hall puts us on the map. It's as if the person who designed it has never been to any other airports and failed to realise that yes, even in Perth, the arrivals hall gets very busy. Generally during the middle of the day and night there are about four or five big flights that land at the same time or within ten minutes of each other which means that sometimes there are over one thousand tired, grumpy, jetlagged people in the arrivals hall, after they have had their passports stamped with immigration and collected their luggage. We end up making them stand  in a line that has tripled on itself like a coiled up snake, before they walk through a gap in the wall to join a line that is doubled on itself to have their declaration cards checked for a second time. This means they may either need to stand in another line that is doubled on itself for quarantine, or walk straight out the door. Many people have to wait over an hour to be told they can walk out and don't have to have their bags checked. Hint for avoiding this: don't arrange an international flight that lands in Perth for a few hours either side of midnight or early afternoon, if you can. And don't fly through Dubai, those flights take forever to clear.

I soon learnt that flights from Denpasar, Bali are filled with unattractive, drunk and rude passengers and are most likely to complain. I've never been a fan of people who think going to Bali counts as travelling (it's basically an international extension of Perth) but after being abused by these people at 4am because they "bet the Queen didn't have to wait in this line" I've given up all respect for them. And, no, she damn well didn't have to wait. When you're head of the Commonwealth you'll be picked up airside and won't have to bother with immigration and customs either. Sometimes when I haven't checked the flight screen to see where the flight is coming from I quickly work out they're from Bali by spotting the Bintang singlets, missing teeth, braided hair, sunburned skin and new, glistening, hideous tattoos. I quite like some tattoos and occasionally toy with the idea of getting one myself, but I certainly wouldn't get inked in Indonesia. Especially after hearing about all the people who have done so and returned with HIV. Huge numbers of passengers from Bali (especially flying with Garuda) have new tattoos and I shudder to think how many of those have contracted the virus out of stupidity [boganinity].

**EDIT: My darling mother has requested that I ad in a few sentences explaining that I too have been to Bali (I was 8, it doesn't count) and I too had braided hair (okay, I really wanted that). It's practically un-Australian if you live in Perth and haven't been to Bali at least once. And yes, I am aware that "normal" people (ie. some of my friends) holiday there as well. And it's okay for people to have less money and only be able to afford certain holiday destinations. That's fine, of course. But the majority of people coming from Denpasar are still fat and rude.

At least one person on every flight tries to convince us that they have already handed in their declaration card and attempt to walk past us. We tell them that they can't go any further without the card and can you please look in your passport because I know "the lady up there" (first customs officer marking their card for quarantine or customs) definitely gave it back to you. They look insulted in a how-dare-you-tell-me-what-I-have-or-don't-have-how-would-you-know-anyway and then they are surprised and embarrassed and apologetic to discover that "the lady up there" did in fact give it back to them. I love it. Every time. It's like performing a magic trick.

Jacinta and I became delirious by our third shift and started making up stories about/perving on the customs guys. We were in the mindset that if we didn't laugh, we'd cry, which seems to be a theme with my life of late. I have since switched to day shifts which is so much worse due to a five hour gap of no flights coming in or going out of the international airport. We (I now work with Matthew, from Ireland, here on a working visa) also have to liaise with the volunteers, or gold coats. The gold coats have been doing our job on their own for the past ten years and then the airport hired us to come in so they can guarantee that someone will be manning the flights at all times.The gold coats, being old retirees, who by nature are afraid of change and see us as their replacement, have taken this as a great insult and taken it upon themselves to be rude to us. I was going to explain an incident (or "teething tension" as my recruitment consultant referred to it) that happened with them on Monday but I came across sounding more immature than they did following the incident. So ask me about it, if you really want to. Or not, whatever. Basically young paid workers and old volunteers don't mix, especially when I've been running on five hours of sleep and working for twelve. The mis-communication resulted with me in hysterical tears and wondering why I didn't just stick it out in London. It's all sorted now, though.

Last week, Dave, the friend I stayed with in Seattle, asked me how I was coping with being back home. I realised I had almost forgotten about being away and said "all the hate in my life is now devoted to this job." Which I guess could be a good thing, but it's also pretty depressing. This was before the gold coats incident too. Thank Christ, I get paid buttloads.

I still can't get over how much I get paid for the little amount of work I do. I work four days on, four days off and make about $1000 (after tax) every week. It's absurd. I was working my arse off in London and made shit all - oh yeah, that's why I didn't stick it out. I have so much money, I'm not sure what to do with it. I've forgotten how to spend money on things I don't need. I am planning on buying an iPhone/Android at some point, though. Even though that's half "travelling alone with a smartphone would be so much easier" and "I just fucking want one."

With the amount I get paid, I don't care that Dad got me this job and I almost don't care that I'm living in Perth. I can look at a plane taking off and not immediately wish I was on it - what if it was going to Bali?! Considering the $500 transfer every week, I'm slowly paying off the disgusting amount of debt I am in to my parents. The airport is just trialing this position up til New Year's (oh yeah, I'm working Christmas Day and New Year's Eve/Day) but I don't want to keep doing this if it is turned into a permanent thing. I'm thinking more seriously about moving to Melbourne next year, instead of travelling around Europe/America again, even if Moving to Melbourne is more cliched than Living in London. But who knows, I change my mind more often than my underwear sometimes.

It's okay, I change my dacks at least once a day, that wasn't a comment on low standards of personal hygiene.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


So I changed it. Technically, I came up with 'Whatever, Fred' because this was my author name on blogger, but I was pretty proud of it so I adopted it for a more public domain. I was trying to think of blog names that sum up my apathetic, sarcastic, lazy and judgmental nature and this just seemed the best and makes me the least depressed (runner up was 'A Lack of Interest'). My best friend in primary school's grandfather (got it?) used to call me Fred (because he couldn't pronounce Sian), in case you were wondering where I got it from.

Sam, whose parents I stayed with in Chile, came up with the new URL. I said I'd mention whoever came up with the name and here I am, mentioning Sam. I like it. Much easier to remember than, anyway. It's also true. Because I have been known, on occasion, to do things.

After a few nights of judging the people who pass through the customs hall, I realised how fantastic I am at it and thought about what job I could get that requires people to be judged all the time. Realising I already have a blog, I decided to make it more obvious that this is one of my strengths, and toyed with the idea of renaming it 'The Judgmentalist' but decided that just sounds like a critique of the TV show The Mentalist. I know nothing about that show (the guy solves crimes with his mind? Because normally crimes are solved with your knees, right?) and abandoned the idea.

And yes, the picture in the title is Van Gogh's Almond Blossom.

Possibly going to stop linking every post to facebook because I don't have a whole lot of exciting things to write about in Perth. Come check for yourself every now and again. Please. If you want.

Sometime in the near future I'll write about my wonderfully depressing but disgustingly highly paid new job and the new intensified hate I have for people who travel to Bali.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pimp My Blog

This thang needs revamping now that I am no longer in England or even abroad. Suggestions encouraged. Something witty, but not so witty that it's lame. Anything with the words "musings," "ideas", "thoughts" etc will be rejected. Best blog name wins an honourable mention and the knowledge that they came up with the name for a moderately popular blog among my friends and family.