Down & Under Pt11 – Stuck in the middle of nowhere.

I’m woken by the faintest noise of feet on carpet and spring to life. I’m recuperating from my week of Airshow kitchen by grabbing forty winks in a storeroom with the lights off. The cool change has come to Melbourne and I’m back out in the middle of nowhere, taking it easy in the relative calm of the leafy conference centre way out of town.

It’s late afternoon but manager Maria is already up to 6.5 and rising on her Greekness scale. She’s no doubt about to ask why I’m stacking chairs in the dark, when a Nirvana dance mix – I’m so sorry Kurt – blasts down the corridor at three hundred decibels and she turns on her heals and runs back the way she came came, shouting her little Greek head off.

We’ve got a hectic evening coming. In room one there’ll be a high energy fashion show for a major high street retailer, in room two, a management conference for one of the main supermarket chains and in room three, a dinner function for a firm of accountants. I’m so glad that I’m not working in a kitchen anymore that I’m positively bouncy. There are only seven waiting staff on tonight which is insufficient for this sort of do, but not to worry, we’re all pros and I prove this early on by smashing a box-load of champagne flutes right at Maria’s feet. This act has echoes of Vercingetorix – look him up in Asterix – but I decide it’s maybe not the moment to name-drop famous rebels from history. Damn, I just did.

No doubt due to this act of defiance I’m given the supermarket chain and accountants to look after all on my own while my colleagues get the nicely debauched, latex pants and skinny models gig. Oh well…at least there’ll be no Nirvana remixes where I’m going. I head out to rooms two and three which are approximately five miles from the bar. A column of accountants – I’m open to suggestions for the collective noun – arrive shortly after and match up to every imaginable cliché for their chosen profession. They are a quiet, grey herd of men who proceed to order from the wine list as though it’s by far the naughtiest thing they’ve held in their hands for a while. Even after a couple of drinks the function fails to ignite, until that is one of them has the bright idea of pulling out today’s copy of the financial review, upon which things go relatively wild and more drinks are poured.

I can’t handle the pace so I go next door to check on the supermarket crowd. They’re in the middle of a video presentation that uses crudely altered, well known film exerts to depict the chain’s planned expansion throughout the land. First up, a red line snakes across an old map until Indiana Jones steps from a plane holding a couple of shopping bags with the supermarket logo on. Small case of copyright infringement perhaps but all fine so far.

Next up, a film scene set in a bunker in nazi Germany where grey-suited generals push counters representing Wehrmacht and panzer divisions around a large map, only in this case the counters have been replaced with those bearing the supermarket logo. I wait for the taste police to burst in through the windows. Which marketing genius thought this was a good idea? Comparing the expansion of your retail outlet to that of the third reich is surely beyond bad taste, past the borders of sensitivity and well on the way to a land where no sane person dare tread. I’m gob-smacked for want of a better phrase and look round the room for similar reactions, of which there are none. We really are a long way out of town…

I head back to the heady world of accountancy, expecting that alcohol will have loosened tongues and they’ll have moved on from decimal points and spreadsheets to talk of their families and what they like to do at the weekend. Although alcohol has indeed upped the ante they’re still stuck on financial topics but now with increased vigour. It’s ten thirty – surely way past their bedtime.

I’m about to expire from boredom when I hear party noise from the pool enclosure on the other side of the corridor. I step out, and there behold the glorious spectacle of the girls from the fashion show dancing topless in the spa. Accountants to the left of me, topless models to the right. Here I am…

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