Sunday, July 20, 2008

True story ...

I fear this "travel blog" might start becoming a "work blog", what with the work:travel ratio tipping in favour of wiping stainless steel benches over and over and away from flitting about the Glasshouse Mountains oohing and aahing at the rainbows and chasing bush turkeys.

I'm a bit remiss about just writing in the goings-on down at the cafe, simply because they're not terrifically interesting. A good writer should be able to make things interesting, but hey - I'm saving the A-game for my Phd thanks very much.
Not a lot goes on. The staff are all very nice and the one who I thought was a bit tedious has left.

The bosses are interesting though. Hospitality bosses don't have a good reputation, by and large. I've had some arseholes. Other people have had worse. I've even heard of worse ones on the island. These ones are a married couple and, from what I can gather, have been in businesses of some sort for most of their lives. The other night it was the tedious one's last night and he was rushing me to get out of there. The next morning, both bosses were in and had the typical "This place is disgusting" reaction which all hospitality managers must necessarily have when they come in and find that the night staff, eager to leave, have left a surface or two unpolished by the recycled chux we all have to share. When I arrived at two, there was a long list of things that were left undone. My heart sank, just a little, because although I knew it wasn't (entirely) me, the tedious one had left and so all was going to have to answer for it. Instead of a telling off, a lecture or a lashing, one of them waited for a quiet period and then quietly walked me through all the things that I'd missed (we, actually - the tedious one was still the night manager and it's still their ultimate responsibility to make sure no one leaves a turd in the dishwasher). So, in spite of the shit pay, shit benefits and vague feeling that I'm wasting my life, it's not such a bad place to work.

Despite all this, I've got to recount a story that probably says more about this place than complimenting their managerial style.
There we all are, fairly quiet night, but both bosses are there, along with me and a couple of other staff. The talk turns to busking and homeless people and giving them money. One boss tells a story about how they were recently in Chicago and noticed a large homeless problem there.
"The people we were staying with told this extraordinary thing about the beggars on the streets," she said, wiping the coffee machine.
"Yeah?" I'm interested. I like stories.
"Oh yeah," male boss says. "Listen to this."
"They said not to give the beggars money, especially at night, because most of them actually have day jobs as brokers and traders," she says.
"Oh yeah," agrees male boss. "They do it for extra cash apparently, they get a couple of hundred a night!"
"Pf," I say. "Rubbish. That's an absolute urban legend. That could never ever ever be true."
"It is!" they both insist. "Our friend gave one bum ten dollars!"
"Think about it," I say. "If it were so lucrative, why wouldn't everyone do it? And a couple of hundred dollars a night? I don't make that in an entire shift!"
"I don't know," says male boss. "I was watching these two guy in particular and they were just too clean cut to be living on the streets ..."
"Come on," I say. "You're a businessman, think about how much they would make an hour, standing out in the cold freezing weather with a cardboard sign and a cup when they could be at home, resting up in their comfortable stockbrokers' houses relaxing for another day of trading. How much would they need to make it worthwhile?"
"Apparently it's true!" they both say.
I didn't push it any further. I went home and tried to find any evidence on the net, any stories anecdotes or lies about people with well paid white collar jobs for whom it is worthwhile to dress up as someone who's destitute and spend a good eight hours of rest and recuperation time begging for spare change. I found nothing. Not even snopes could help me. Snopes does, however, often provide a rationale for the reason these kinds of stories gain currency. They tap into the suspicion that it is possible to get something for nothing, a large reward for little or no effort. And I think for two people who have spent a large portion or their lives working very very hard for what probably doesn't ever seem like quite enough money, the idea that there are people out there who can make just a little more through cunning, minor deception and a clever idea is probably very appealing.

I'm not sure what this story was about. I just couldn't believe that two people who seemed fairly intelligent and resourceful could believe that kind of bullshit out of hand.

I'm now sitting, watching the rain and waiting for the repairman to come and fix my computer between 11 and 12. It's 11:35am. Mele's in the bath and I need to go to the toilet. Must .... wait ....


  1. Ah, your scepticism warms my heart.

    It's hard to convince someone they're wrong by telling them why. Asking questions is the best way to go. Statements make them defensive, questions make them think.

  2. Nah, ignore the 327th male. Asking them questions will make them realise that you're smarter than them and then you'll get the worst jobs on offer. Descaling the dishwasher, recycling the tealeaves etc.

    Stay silent and mentally add it to your 'for future writing ideas' list. That strategy got me through a few jobs!

  3. I can't find any evidence that definitively proves that statement to be urban legend, however it is a completely absurd statement...

    I spent a short while homeless, it was horrible. I was also clean shaven and for the most part dressed, well, like any other human being.

    Just because someone is homeless doesn't mean that they automatically give up on personal hygine... that's just an unhelpful and stereotypical view that all homeless people are drug addled wasters that would prefer to sleep in their own excrement than get a job...

    ...and at 200 a day, schools career advisors would be pushing kids into it.

  4. Kath - Sorry, I'm with 327. The job can't get much worse through showing the bosses up for being narrow-minded. The point is that they would still think I was wrong anyway. Even when I asked him if he would do it as a money-maker, he said no, but still believed that these slick Chicago bums were really businessmen by day.

    327 - I wasn't really about convincing them they were wrong, I don't think my purpose here is to bring truth and light to Bribie Island, merely to report on the various hilarious places it's missing from.

    Adam Y - The best reporting on the matter I could find was
    . It's a fairly level-headed discussion about exactly how much money panhandlers make and what a virtual
    it is.

    Points go to me for using (arguably) the English language's longest word in context.

  5. I take it dictionaries are your favoured bedtime reading material?

  6. Oh, and I tend to think a bit like Kath says. Play dumb and they don't ask too much of you. The only drawback is that if you play dumb for too long you start to believe in yourself.

  7. p.S. The beggars in Norwood (who have since been moved on by police and security people) never seemed to make much. They'd come in to Coles with a fistful of 5 cent pieces to buy a pack of cigarettes. or to exchange for coins to go in the coke vending machine. Occasionally they would buy a pie or a bottle of fizzy drink.

  8. I think Hamish and Andy did a skit to this effect on their mockumentary show - about people who wash car-windows at traffic lights and live in mansions in South Yarra.

    I think people are terrified by the idea that they are being taken advantage of, and even the vague threat of once giving money to some one who wasn't genuinely in need would be enough to justify a lifetime of refusing assistance to others.

    But then, I'm cynical that way.

  9. To my knowledge the rich beggars is not a chicago trend but i have heard about it in Seattle. Where they finish work and grubby themselves up, throw on a trash can and beg till 12 or so in the night. here is a link to a story, it doest say that they have other jobs but its all i could come up with in the 2mins searching i done.

  10. Hi Anon,

    Look, far be it from me to discourage active participation and conflict, but that story is the one that keeps coming up in all my searches for beggars who are more well-off than they appear to be as well.
    The major difference between the myth and that story is that for these beggars, begging is all they do. It IS their job. They don't get home from a long day at the office, dirty themselves up and THEN go out and earn free wads of others' money for doing nothing, they are at it ten hours a day.
    The fact that you didn't pick up that difference sort of proves my point about the strength of the myth. It plays right into our suspicion that because these people aren't doing anything for their money, that they don't deserve it. And if they don't deserve it, then we don't need to feel guilty for not giving it to them and helping them, because they don't need it.
    Threads of the same suspicion run through 'dole-bludger' rhetoric as well. Forgive me for narrowing it down so sharply, but the myth basically justifies selfishness and undermines humanitarianism.


An explanation of The Joy Division Litmus Test

Although it may now be lost in the mysts of thyme, the poll below is still relevant to this blog. In the winter of 2008, Mele and I went to live in Queensland. In order to survive, I bluffed my way into a job at a Coffee Club.
It was quite a reasonable place to work: the hours were regular, the staff were quite nice, it wasn't particularly taxing on my brain.
There were a few downsides: In the six weeks or so that I worked there, there was about a 90% staff turnover (contributed to by my leaving). This wasn't seen as a result of the low pay, the laughability of staff prices or the practice of not distributing tips to staff, rather it was blamed on the lack of work ethic among Bribie Island's youth.
However, one of the stranger aspects of the cultural isolation that touched our lives during our time "up there" was the fact that nobody at my work had heard of the band Joy Division.
The full explanation is available here.
But please, interact a little further and vote in my ongoing poll. The results are slowly mounting up, proving one thing: people read this blog are more well-informed about Joy Division than anyone who works at the Coffee Club on Bribie Island.

Have you heard of the band Joy Division?

Chinese food, not Chinese Internet!

Champions of Guess The Header

  • What is Guess The Header about? Let’s ask regular “Writing” reader, Shippy: "Anyway, after Franzy's stunning September, and having a crack at 'Guess The Header' for the first time - without truly knowing what I was doing mind you - I think I finally understand what 'GTH' is all about. At first I thought you needed to actually know what it was. Don't get me wrong — if you know what it is, it may help you. I now realise that it's more Franzy's way of invoking thought around an image or, more often than not, part of an image. If you dissect slightly the GTH explanatory sentence at the bottom of his blog you come up with this: “The photo is always taken by me and always connects in some way to the topic of the blog entry it heads up.” When the header is put up, the blog below it will in some obscure way have something to do with it. “Interesting comments are judged and scored arbitrarily and the process is open to corruption and bribery with all correspondence being entered into after the fact and on into eternity, ad infinitum amen.” Franzy judges it, but it's not always the GTH that describes the place perfectly that gets it. “The frequent commenters, the wits, the wags and the outright smartarses who, each entry, engage to both guess the origin and relevance of the strip of photo at the top (or “head”) of each new blog and also who leave what I deem the most interesting comment.” It generally helps if you're a complete smartarse and can twist things to mean whatever you feel they should mean - exactly the way Franzy would like things to be twisted." - Shippy Blogger and GTH point scorer.
  • Nai - 1
  • Lion Kinsman - 2
  • Will - 2
  • Brocky - 2
  • Andy Pants - 2
  • The 327th Male - 3
  • Mad Cat Lady - 3
  • Miles McClagen - 4
  • Myninjacockle - 4
  • Asheligh - 5
  • Neil - 5
  • Third Cat - 5
  • Adam Y - 6
  • Squib - 6
  • Mele - 6
  • Moifey - 7
  • Jono - 8
  • The Other, other Sam - 14
  • Kath Lockett - 15
  • Shippy - 19
  • River - 32