Saturday, 20 April 2013

Trevor Ludlow: Australian Folk Hero

When I consider the amount of money tradespeople seem to make in comparison to my meager salary as  an under-employed office wage-slave, it does give me pause to consider that I may have made the wrong career choice and should have become a tradesperson instead.

I often sit hunched over my keyboard at work, furiously typing, with visions of the life I would be leading if I had taken a different path. I see myself on a construction site; stony faced, resolute and shirtless, as I down carton-after-carton of 'Oak' iced coffee, deep fried treats from the nearest bain marie whilst casually wolf-whistling at passing women and cultivating some honest Australian melanomas.

Friends of mine who work in the building industry, or have trades themselves, are quick to shatter my idealistic illusions when it comes to this sort of work. They point out that I'm not physically fit enough, the work itself can be tedious and repetitive and I would simply not cope with hours-on-end of Triple M being blasted through the airwaves on a building site. 

This does give me pause to consider my position, and I realise that even beside these points, I would have a hard time hiding my lilly-livered past and un-calloused hands from my co-workers. What would they say when they found out I studied a semester of romantic poetry at university?

Worse still is the fact that I tend to get quite angry and have altercations with people whenever I try to complete any task involving manual labour. A lot of people that know me are aware that I'm a pretty placid fellow and nothing really riles me up, but if you've known me long enough, you'll realise that every year or so there will be some incident that sends me into an uncontrolled rage that is quite disturbing to behold. The worst part is I never know what the trigger is going to be.

The last time I remember it happening was about a year ago when I trimmed back the hedges in our garden. A modest amount of green waste was produced which was enough to fill the back of our Holden Astra hatchback. Normally I just pay the $25 fee to dump it at our local tip, but on this occasion I noticed the adjoining council let you dump a boot-load of green waste for free. I decided to travel a fair distance to take them up on this offer. 

When I arrived at the transfer station, I was greeted by a slack-jawed, overweight individual with the hooded-eyes of someone who just seemed to be going through the motions of being alive, whilst secretly praying for an early death. 

"Forty bucks," he said.

"Um, Isn't it free for a boot-load of green waste?" I replied.

"Yeah, but you've got the back seat down, so that doesn't count as a boot-load"

I could feel tensions rising. Foolishly I thought I could ease the pressure by being a smart-ass. 

"Well, I suppose I could just dump some of the waste on the pavement, put the seat up and do two trips. It would be free then, right?"

His gormless expression remained unaltered.

"Yeah, but then I'd have to call the police"

Uh-oh, the trigger had been pulled. If I was wearing purple pants they would have been torn to ribbons. Eyewitnesses would have commented that my skin appeared to turn green. I'm not even sure what I said to the guy after this point, but I know I felt deeply embarrassed and it probably involved a stream of expletives. It's weird, but in situations like this, it almost feels like an out-of-body experience and I'm just  an observer. I remember that nothing I said or did had any effect on the guy and the fact that he saw me as such a non-threat just acted as a feedback-loop strengthening my rage.

I freely admit that I was in the wrong here. I should have just taken it on the chin, but there's something about pettiness and humourlessness that I simply can't stand.

A while ago I was watching a documentary about Elton John. There was some rather candid footage of him berating someone about some ultimately inconsequential matter. His anger seemed like it would have been legitimate to him, but confusing for onlookers who were unaware of the source of the anger. I immediately recognised the behaviour as similar to my own. What to me seems like unbridled rage, to others comes across as a confusing hissy-fit. I can't even get angry properly!

Recently I had to trim the hedges in our backyard again and I was terrified of another similar incident occurring.

This time I took the waste to our local transfer station. I was charged a comparatively reasonable $25 and managed to dump the waste without incident. I felt that I had made up for my previous indiscretion and had been welcomed back into the open arms of the Aussie battlers who just go about their business with a minimum of fuss.

To celebrate my new-found status as an upright member of the community, I decided to stop at the recycling centre that had been set up at the entrance to the transfer station. If it's one thing that I'm always a sucker for, it's a fascination with things that people throw away. I spent a pleasant ten minutes rifling through some mouldy-old garbage before leaving through the side door of the building. 

A yellow-vested worker was sorting through recently-arrived stock. I gave him a pleasant smile before heading back towards my car.

Suddenly, I was stopped in my tracks.

"Where are you going?" the man said sternly.

"Um, back to my car," I said, pointing in the direction of my vehicle.

"You're supposed to leave through the main entrance," he said, in a tone which sounded like I had personally affronted him.

"Sorry, I didn't know. My car is just here," I said, Indicating that my car was only a few feet away.

"So's mine," said the worker. 

He tilted his head indicating that I should walk back inside the shop and leave through the front entrance.

I could feel the finger on the trigger. It was about to be pulled.

Pettiness... Check!

Humourlessness... Check!

But wait!

I'm an adult - shouldn't I just do what the guy wanted? 

So, I'd have to walk an extra 50 feet to my car. What's the big deal?

I considered my options. 

This was my chance to prove I was a bigger person than him.

I felt the rage subsiding.

I gave the guy a subtle wink.

I had made up my mind. 

I wasn't going to do what the man wanted. 

That would be stupid and childish.

Instead, I skipped the last couple of feet back to my car as if I was Dorothy skipping down the Yellow Brick Road. I cheerily waved goodbye as the yellow-vested man shook his head and muttered under his breath.

I hadn't done what the man wanted, but I was proud of myself for not getting angry this time. I considered my actions on the way home. In a way I was similar to Ned Kelly. Surely, I was just railing against an unjust law? In a way wasn't I just continuing the long tradition of the Australian larrikin spirit? Maybe I should reconsider my undying respect for tradespeople and the Australian working man? Doesn't this just prove they are just as trapped by rules and regulations as me?

More importantly, don't these people need outlaws like me to prove it's possible to beat the system?

"I'm the real Aussie hero," I thought to myself, as I drove off into the early morning sunrise.


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