One night earlier this year, late, I was waiting at the lights on Concord Road, turning into Parramatta Road, becoming impatient sitting on a red at an empty intersection and so made the turn against the arrow . . . at the very moment of decision I looked in the rearview mirror and saw there was a police van behind me. I’d already seen them, about fifty metres up the road, heading in the other direction; or so I thought. I stopped immediately, rendering their brief siren wail redundant, and sat there cursing myself for being so stupid. One breathalysed me, the other took my licence, they both went back to the van to look me up on the computer. Several ages passed then the second cop returned and handed me back my licence. You wouldn’t want to be disqualified, would you? he said unkindly and let me go.
Why did they do that, I wondered, driving away. Most un-cop-like. The only explanation I could think of was that they took pity on me because the offence would have upped my points to the max (13) and thus prevented me from driving. I’ve never known precisely how many points I’ve lost because I’ve never been able to navigate the RTA site online . . . today I have to renew the rego on my car and, in order to get the best deal on a green slip, need to know where my points stand. While my boys sleep peacefully in their beds I make several attempts to get through the protocols but they all fail – ring this number it says in red at the top but who wants to spend twenty minutes in a phone queue? In the end I do ring them and get through almost immediately; what’s more the fellow tells me. I have eight points gone, one for speeding so long ago I can’t remember where it was, three for talking on my mobile phone while driving (odd, they halved the fine for that one but still deducted the points), four for speeding in a school zone . . .
Well, it was worth doing, I get a green slip $50.00 cheaper than last year and manage to complete the rest of the formalities online. Also catch up on missed tolls, mainly for the Harbour Bridge, and do the biz on various other fines I have. These are a constant, an occupational hazard I guess, and I always treat them the same way: wait until the last day then write a letter to the State Debt Recovery Office asking for leniency; when that is refused, which it almost invariably is, wait again until the last day then elect to take the matter to court; when my day in court arrives, usually about six months later, I plead guilty, either by letter or in person, and ask again for leniency; sometimes it is given, sometimes not; if not, depending on the size of the fine, I have the option of paying it off in installments . . .
This kind of nonsense takes up the whole morning; my boys wake late, after eleven, and make themselves toastie pies for breakfast. I spend an hour at the computer with Jesse, first cleaning up his Resume, then looking for a mobile phone deal that will give him access to a phone and text service and yet prevent his compulsive over-spending . . . the first phone he had, he subscribed to a ring-tone site which, unbeknownst to him or anyone else, charged some vast amount of money for each update they sent him and he ended up owing about $2000.00. It’s not so much that he’s extravagant (though he is), more that he loves to talk/text and, given the opportunity, will do so far beyond his means. Liamh’s the complete opposite; his phone is always in credit, his use of it always judicious.
I do the washing and hang it out then, at about 2.45, drive over to the base in Haberfield to give Bob my pay-ins and also pick up the $105.00 he owes me . . . but I’ve made a mistake, it’s actually only a hundred. This a cause for much hilarity among the day drivers knocking off, the night drivers logging on. The idea of ripping Bob off, that is. The impossibility of ever doing so. You get a green one, he says, filletting the note from his fat, cash-filled wallet. Then I go on over to Nigel’s to hear about an idea for a project he has, which he refuses to tell me on the phone. We discuss it over a beer for half an hour and then, just as I’m leaving, my mobile rings, it’s Jesse (on Liamh’s phone), excited, he’s got a job interview, his first ever, next Tuesday . . .
We have a favourite meal, collaborative, Shepherd’s Pie, so that’s what we cook for dinner; serving it just as the test at Eden Park begins. Jesse doesn’t watch sport but Liamh does . . . a tough, tense game that the Kiwis lose only because of a couple of simple errors at crucial moments; they probably should have been awarded a penalty try but the English ref . . .
I go to bed after the game and read a chapter or two of Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar, the Argentine, a modernist novel published in 1963 and set, at least in its initial pages, in Paris. It’s an infuriating book but I keep reading it nevertheless. In two parts. The first part is a sequential narrative that you can read chronologically, chapters 1 – 58; part two is made up of notes, reflections, quotations, out-takes and the other way of reading the book is to jump, at the end of each chapter, to the one designated by a number at the bottom right of the page – hopscotch, right? And so forth, tracing a path through an infinite maze.
I’m using the second method and, like I say, it’s driving me crazy but I keep reading anyway. It’s the 1950s, jazz, hungover surrealism, rain, sex . . . I drift asleep and dream of a studio where arcane rituals are taking place, the shaving of male bodies, the collection of fluids, there are two black horses, tethered, foaming at the mouth, rearing towards the door while, elsewhere, a group of travelling players is leaving for an undefined destination and I must stay behind to represent their interests here (but where is here?).