Why I Love Australia… I’d blame it on the Bundaberg, but that’d be a lie (2010).
On the Clock
“Mate!” Charlie bellows under his breath, “I got a question for you, but need an answer right away.” His attempt at whispering piques the interest at least two of our co-workers in the adjoining cubicles. “Ben dropped out, so we have a spare AC/DC ticket for tonight. You in?” Charlie asks.
AC/CD? Yes! I’m beyond stoked at the prospect but my brain pulls the reigns. “Man, my wife’s parents are flying here from the States in the morning, it’s their first time to Australia. It might be a tough ask, but I’ll check with Jenny.”
Charlie picks up my office phone and tosses the receiver over into my fumbling hands. “Well, get on with it!”
Business in the Front
Off course Jenny’s cool with it—my wife is awesome! The problem will be getting home to her post-concert. We live an hour south of Brisbane and the trains won’t be running after the show. Charlie doesn’t let this little snag hold up the plan. “You’re crashing at my place. Now it’s almost settled.”
“Ha! I guess I’m out of excuses. Wait? Almost settled?”
“You can get that mullet you always wanted.”
I’d been growing my hair out for over a year. He’s right, I’ve been fascinated about giving it a try but still balk. “C’mon man, mullets aren’t really conducive to the corporation’s dress code.”
“Screw it, mate. If you cop it from the boss, just saw the rest off. There’s a salon across the street,” Charlie urges as Marksy, the sleepy engineer across from us, shakes his head at the unfolding ridiculousness. That’s all the convincing I need.
“Alright, screw it!” I laugh, buckling to the peer pressure.
Charlie pumps his fist and delivers a parting shot to my shoulder, “Yes! You’re a champion, Klamn!”
Party in the Back
“So, you’re sure about this…a mullet?” Jane, the twentysomething stylist asks. This posh salon doesn’t usually see the likes of me or my silly request.
“Never been so unsure in my life, but let’s do it anyways. One ‘Billy Ray Cyrus’ please!”
“Billy Ray?” her brain whirls trying to connect my 90’s reference, “Oh yeah! Like Miley’s dad, right?”
“Precisely!” I chuckle back.
Twenty minutes later and forty bucks poorer (yikes!), I walk outside. There’s a cool breeze behind my ears and the familiar soft sheltering on the back of my neck.
The drink of choice at Charlie’s is Australia’s own Bundaberg Rum and cola – a concoction known as a “Black Rat.” There’s a crew of eight of us going to the concert – each of them poking fun at my new, but somewhat fitting, haircut.
A fellow engineer, Limpus, ponders, “You said the oldies are coming tomorrow to visit?”
“Not my folks, Jenny’s parents are flying into Brisbane in the morning. She is going to scoop them up at the airport. Mine are coming next week.”
“Klamn is off the lease! But what’ll her old man say about this little bit of business?” Limpus asks, flicking my (partial) flowing locks.
Oh no! What are they gonna think? “Shit, I haven’t even told my wife about this. What have I done?!” The crew all belt out laughing with Limpus cradling his belly at my stunned epiphany.
I scramble for the phone and call the salon. The same blond stylist picks up and I cut her off three words into the greeting. “Sorry Jane! What time do you open tomorrow?”
“No worries, 11 a.m. Hey! Is this Billy Ray?” She recognizes my Canadian accent.
“Miley’s dad, yes! Can you–?”
“Yes, I’ll book you in, Mr. Cyrus. Just the back, I assume?”
“You’re a life saver! One night and one night only.”
Oi! Oi! Oi!
Brisbane’s steady and reliable public transit chariots us to the stadium.
There, Black Rats continue to crawl into our system, so we’re frothing when AC/DC hits the stage.
The Aussie rock band booms their biggest hits as we dance and scream along.
With dangerous levels of Bundaberg rum in my veins, I start hoisting people in the air. All my co-workers get a turn.
No one is safe from the mullet rampage.
The Rats consume us well into the night, even some unnecessary 3am stiff-pours back at Charlie’s. Those are always the “best idea ever!” (…at the time).
“So how was the big night?” Jane asks and blankets the vinyl apron around me in the chair the next morning.
“So good,” I squeak, voice smooth as sandpaper, “Sorry, it must sound like I’ve downed a few gravel milkshakes.”
“Ha! No worries. You make it in to work today, or you chuckin’ a sickie?”
“Sick day. Along with four other mates from work.”
“The boss is gonna be ‘sus (suspect). But he’ll be ‘right (alright), aye?” I smile and nod. Compared to North America, the USA in particular, Australia has a much more laid back approach to sick days. “Well there you are, Billy Ray, fresh as a daisy!” And bless her heart, Jane doesn’t charge me anything for the five minute adjustment.
On the train down to Gold Coast, I giggle to myself like I pulled off some sort of heist. Jenny and her folks arrive minutes after me. Jenny exclaims, “Wow! Nice haircut!”
Her mom Carolyn dances over and gives me a big hug. Phil, my father-in-law and a former carpenter, swallows up my hand in his giant paw. After the handshake, I whisper to Jenny, “I had a mullet last night.”
“Of course you did, I saw the pictures on Facebook. But eww,” she pushes me away, “you’re sweating Bundy rum!”
Damn it, the whole office – boss included — is gonna know.
Get Out There!
This is why I love Australia – Bundaberg Rum, AC/DC, chatty hairdressers and laid back Aussies who are great partiers to boot. Not to mention a laissez-faire work place. In the end, the boss just had a laugh, “boys will be boys”. With the evidence for all the Facebook world to see, maybe he just figured my stupid haircut was punishment in itself.