What Are You Actually Doing With the Television, Mate?
The Traditional End of Year Wrap Up Woop Woop
It costs a lot of money to hire a TV at a bigwig corporate event, so my small, self-possessed, proudly Australian owned software company decided to bring our own from the office in North Ryde. I was not involved in the decision. When an email came back asking if we were ‘really sure’, because we were ‘actually the only event sponsor’ that was DIYing it, we were buoyed. Thrilled. What a rush. Take that, The Man! Ha! I got swept up in it all too, even though I personally didn’t stand to save any money at all and would be on the hook for significant chunks of the manual labour. Rebellion and cost-cutting are both very exciting exercises, but in very different ways.
It wasn’t until we had come to a stop in an underground car park hundreds of metres away from the venue that my actual role in this mission, and my true position in the corporate hierarchy, became apparent. This was my first ever real job—a lowly, entry-level “coordinator” role. A glorified bellhop, really. ‘You can come and lend a hand,’ was actually an intricate corporate code that meant, ‘You look strong.’ I am not. I am especially weak in the forearms, actually.
This was not an insignificant television. Because we didn’t want to seem cheap, we’d been sure to bring with us the biggest TV in the office, upwards of 40 inches, plus a huge stand to hang it on. While my boss rushed off with a stack of more urgent boxes, I was told to bring ‘just’ the TV. Brother. There was a lift, a busy CBD street, peak hour quantities of pedestrians, a winding route, and a set of stairs between the car and the venue. Add to this the fact that the TV had been a two-man job back at the office, and you’ve got a recipe for something very quickly approaching an electrical fire on Elizabeth Street.
Fortunately, TV technology has come a long way. They’re flat screens now. They’re pretty thin and lighter than they look. They’re easy enough to move around a room. What they are, though, is cumbersome, conspicuous, and expensive. This gives them additional weight.
There was still some form of hotel quarantine happening in July 2021, and the route to the venue took me past the Sheraton Grand near Sydney’s Hyde Park. A masked police officer was stationed either side of the bus drop off zone to… I’m not sure exactly, to deter escape? Look busy? Add gravitas? I am entirely confident that if I had walked on by, though TV laden, with any kind of charisma, I would have been totally fine. Alas, I was stressed. Time-pressured. Shaking. I made nervous eye contact with one of the police officers, and evidently looked suspicious enough for her to take two very small but pointed steps in my general direction. I panicked. ‘Shit,’ I said. Another mistake. I rested the television on my knees (not easy), and said an over-the-top ‘Good morning!’ No reply.
One of my biggest flaws as a person is a crippling compulsion to diffuse the tension of perfectly normal and tension-free social interactions. I’m an over-explainer. An over analyzer. A catastrophic misinterpreter. As the police officer’s disinterested and yet somehow still stern gaze landed on me I felt overwhelmed by a need to say something funny and disarming and clever and self-effacing and upbeat and corny but not too corny. I plugged these parameters into the computer and then my brain made me say, without checking with me first, ‘I’ve just robbed a JB-Hi-Fi.’
Given the circumstances, I’m not ashamed of the wit here. It’s passable banter. The problem, though, was that I delivered it with absolutely zero charm, breathless and sweating from my bellhop duties, quaking beneath the weight of all the many burdens threatening to crush me. I almost grunted it and the officer did not smile.
Not for nothing, I don’t think I’d be a very good spy. With a simple raise of her eyebrows the police officer conjured fresh beads of sweat on my temples, and seemed to bring forth in me some totally senseless umming and ahhing. When, after a loaded pause, she asked me what I was ‘actually doing,’ and called me ‘mate’ in a way that made it sound like we weren’t mates at all, I told her the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in extremely granular detail so help me god.
It’s a well-phrased question that that police officer asked, and one I like to return to at the end of each calendar year. What did I actually do in 2022? Well for starters, I bought a pair of Crocs. Eat your heart out, Dad. I changed jobs twice and did not go to the dentist at all. I touched a stingray. I found $4.30 in accumulated change and spent every last cent of it on bread. All things considered, that’s not a bad annum at all.
For another year, I’d like to thank you all for being here. I feel like with every new corporate job I get, and with every passing annum, I’m getting further and further away from the person I thought I’d be when I started doing this thing Circa 2017, but All My Eggs continues to be my favourite place to be truly and unprofitably weird. I really appreciate you opening and reading these emails, and any engagement beyond that truly means a lot. I read every comment and cherish every reply. So, thank you. I really like writing stories, and it is honestly lovely not to be the only person that reads them.
Instead of my annual reshare of that Christmas radio story that you’re maybe all sick of (if you’re new this year though, please check it out), I thought I’d just list some of my personal favourite stories from this year down below. Substack’s delivery rates are quite poor, so it’s possible that you might have missed one or more of these. And you can check out the entire backcatalogue of Eggs at the homepage any time.
I’ll be back in mid-Jan of 2023, with a new story every three weeks. This is an actual resolution of mine, which means it will inevitably fail some time in March—I look forward to sending you an overly detailed and neurotic apology for this failure in the region of August.
Thank you again, and Merry Silly Season.
Some of my favourites from this year
Yeehaw Your Hire Car (IV). This is essentially just a travel journal from a road trip to the Grand Canyon I did in July. The US is a strange and surreal place. Here’s an excerpt:
There’s a security checkpoint on the way to the Hoover Dam. A man with a moustache that is scarier to me than the gun on his belt leans in lazily through the open window and asks, ‘Do you folks have any weapons?’ Our smug little Australian laugh does us no favours, but he takes our ‘No,’ as absolute truth and asks no follow ups and doesn’t even check the boot. What a relief he didn’t ask if we had any Kinder Surprises.
Cross Your Legs With Gravitas. This is a fiction piece about a therapist with some very obvious pen-based complexes of her own. It was once part of a bigger project but I ripped it out and made it fun (I hope)! Excerpt:
The doctor snatches her pen and starts burning it across the 80gsm 192-page hard shelled A4 notebook that is titled, ‘Wendy.’ Wendy watches. Wendy is wondering whether to be reassured or neurotic about all the writing. Either way, she has plenty of time to make some observations of her own. The doctor appears pre-middle-aged. The room is too busy and the couch is too hard. The eminent and accoladed Dr Catherine T. Forsyth does not yet look up and the only adjectives that Wendy can think of that accurately describe what the woman looks like are species of birds. Crow. Hawk. Falcon. Her lips are pursed. She does not appear to breathe. Her entire body weight seems to be concentrated on the pen in her hand. Ka-kaw, Wendy thinks, which she is not proud of.
I Just Don’t Think They Understand. A nice fun short nonfiction one. It was so extremely cold one morning in June when I was riding my bike home that I started to cry, and this one is essentially just the story of my commute. Excerpt here:
One tear becomes two. Two become four. At a certain point it’s no longer productive to count them. Obviously the solution is to get home as quickly as possible. That means riding faster. The faster I ride the more my eyes water. The more my eyes water, the greater my need to get home quickly, the faster I must ride. And around we go. Like a spoke on the wheel of eternity, this logic will not end.
An unlikely late inclusion on the list was the Sorry Everyone apology I sent out after a silly misfire of an old email. Excerpt:
Full disclosure, I usually schedule these emails to go out weeks or months in advance. As a general rule I need to read something approx. 100 times before I stop hating it, usually once it starts to feel like a general mush of meaningless letters and symbols—that is the creative stage where the real magic happens. Also it helps me find typos.