...a potent blend of Miss Manners and Batman

Monday, August 27, 2007

Voice of Society Man, Down Under

In 1989, there were three sightings of Voice of Society Man in Australia, and two involved cigarets.

I happened to be studying in Oz for the year, having followed a girlfriend there. She was doing a stint of Junior Year Abroad, and I was, too, except that I'd already graduated. Because I was ostensibly a student, I was allowed to work up to twenty hours a week. I would hie to the Student Union each week in search of the oddest jobs possible; no matter how little you're being paid, weird work is worth more than normal work because it has re-tell value. In the short time I was in Oz, I worked as a waiter, a busboy, and a housepainter, but all of those jobs paled in comparison to my 3 weekends demonstrating Barbie accessories in K-Marts thruout Sydney.

My training consisted of arriving 15 minutes early in order to learn how to crank the Barbie Knit Magic machine in order to produce perfect pink socks. I was given a badge and a selection of Barbie items and sent on my way. On my first day, I smelled cigaret smoke and followed the source. A very large Ozzie wearing overalls and boots was smoking in the aisle next to mine. I approached him, emboldened somewhat by my official badge, and the following dialog ensued:

Me: "Excuse me. There's no smoking in the store. Could you please put out your cigaret?"
Overalls: "What are you going to do about it?"
Me: "Nothing. Just wanted to let you know about the rule."

Voice of Society Man doesn't always meet his goals, but he does try to educate the public.

We took a long train ride from Perth to Sydney. The journey takes three days as the train travels on clackety wooden tracks thruout remote parts of the desolate countryside. On our first night, a drunken man of about 70 entered the car and began making unwanted conversation with various passengers. I asked him to put out his cigaret, and he got angry with me. He flicked his cigaret at me, and it bounced off my chest. I decided to get the conductor, but Boozy was blocking my path. He lunged at me and started hitting me. He had a pretty good punch, but before I could even consider hitting back, the others on the train went into action and held him down, and a minute later the conductor arrived and led him away. The train made an unscheduled stop a short while later, and the old man was taken into police custody there. I'm not sure how long he spent in jail, but I do know that he was in that small town for at least a week: that's how long it was until the next train.

I worked 13 weekends at a Greek restaurant owned by a woman named Voula. I didn't have much to do with her, but she seemed friendly and fair. Waiters in Oz don't get tips, so the salary has to make up for this. Voula explained that I'd get $50AU a night, which seemed fair at the time. One day I came across an article that mentioned how weekend waiters were paid time-and-a-half after midnight on Friday and double-time on Sundays. I looked over my work schedule and discovered that I was owed $650, which was more than enough to pay for a two-week trip I made to Indonesia. Voula tried to pay me off with $50. Thanks to the Australian version of the Better Business Bureau, I collected the full amount. I sent Voula a postcard from Bali to thank her for the deferred payment. Then I made sure to tell the rest of the people at the restaurant about how they'd been underpaid for a long time. Some of them were owed thousands of dollars.

I'd be happy if Voice of Society Man could always bat 2-for-3.

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About Me

My pesky alter ego who will set you right if you break one of the unwritten rules of getting along