Last Saturday was looking good. CJ and I were going to see “Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader” at the ANU Film Club (which shows free movies once you pay a certain amount). But due to issues with the distributor, it was moved to Sunday 10 April.
That left Saturday a pristine empty space in my diary, with only a day and a half to go.
It was too blank. I needed something. I emailed my writing group and declared a writing afternoon, begging for speedy replies.
One person replied almost at once – saying they couldn’t come.
That left CJ and I (boooooorrrrrriiiiinnnnnggg!) and Ben – who was tactfully SMSing me asking who else was coming. I assured him it was going to be GREAT and we would have AN ADVENTURE. I also assured him there would be no balloon people.
Why did I need to make such a promise? I’ll tell you.
The year was. . . oh, several years ago. I’d just left a job I hated with a fiery passion, but I didn’t want to leave with hard feelings so I invited the staff to a get-together at my place.
Problem One: I cordially disliked them, and they cordially disliked me.
Problem Two: The only one I liked at all was the boss, and she had a dinner to go to elsewhere. She felt awful.
Problem Three: In a moment of socially awkward panic on the phone to my ex-boss, I blurted out that I’d “accidentally” invited “a bunch” of other friends over, that there were too many, and that I had to uninvite the work people so they didn’t get “overwhelmed”. I suppose I thought it was a neat way to cancel the party (better than admitting it was an insane idea in the first place), and I passed it on to the other workers (I think one of them was actually planning to come – so nice save, me).
Problem Four: My boss lived very near me. She would drive past on her way home.
My solution: Rather than simply closing the curtains and hiding in a hole, I begged, bribed and cajoled every warm body I could find to gather in my living room (which faces the main road) and LOOK LIKE YOU’RE HAVING FUN. I acquired CJ, Ben, and my parents.
It wasn’t enough, so I did what every normal ex-employee would do to preserve her dignity: I made fake people out of old clothes and balloons, and arranged them in the window for my ex-boss to see as she drove past. I then made my friends and parents pretend to talk to them for three hours.
And I’m sure that if and when my boss drove past she thought, “Wow, what a happening party that is. And to think we all used to believe she was some kind of crazed loon with no social skills!”
And so you see why Ben and CJ both needed a certain amount of reassurance on the “balloon people” front.
Realising that the writing thing wasn’t going to happen, I hastily invited several other people, one of whom said, “Maybe – it depends how hungover I am tomorrow.”
I assured her and Ben that we were going to have AN ADVENTURE!!
CJ talked to me in that slow, careful way he has, asking if I had “any idea at all what I would do”. I assured him that I did.
And so it was that CJ, myself, Ben and Fay gathered at my house.
Having learnt from my year of awesomeness that there is always something free happening in a capital city on a Saturday, google and I had a quick chat. We came up with two school fetes within walking distance, and a Gluten Free Fair that was sure to have loads of free food. Things were – cautiously – looking up.
We walked (Fay and I in somewhat uncomfortable shoes – we don’t own comfortable shoes, because we view walking with such suspicion and disdain) to the first school. Other than some children investigating the garbage hopper (yes, really) no-one was there. The fete had long since closed.
I recalled that I had a half-used pack of balloons at home, but didn’t say so out loud. Fay and I were both grumpy and uncomfortable from the short work.
So we walked back to my place, packed into the car, and went to the Gluten Free Fair (none of us are gluten intolerant, but Fay and I both have gluten-intolerant Mums). Fay and I became overexcited in the carpark (sheer adrenalin, I suppose) and started yelling anti-gluten slogans to one another through a hedge.
The fair was at the Southern Cross Club in Woden, and we saw people walking out with brimming bags and boxes, looking glossy and well-fed.
We walked in, and the smell of fresh warm bread filled the air. There was a chocolate stand with FREE CHOCOLATE right in front of us. The cloud of doom hanging over us fled for the nearest exit, and we never saw it again.
We spent the next hour eating free samples and deciding which of the twenty gluten-free breads was the best (mainly by eating the nicest over and over again). Fay’s parents (who I also like) were there, and we chatted with them. I got super excited about my extremely extensive best-bread extravaganza and called my Mum, rashly promising to bring her samples of the best bread. When I mentioned my Mum to one lady, she gave me an entire loaf in its sealed package. We’d arrived at precisely the right time – everyone was making packing-up movements, and selling their wares at we-couldn’t-be-bothered-carrying-this-away prices.
For $20, we ended up with a full box of bread and noodles and pancake mixture and chocolate.
It was fantastic! I ate until I felt sick! But then we had to go. . . because there was one more school fete, and we knew it closed in a little over an hour.
So we packed into our horseless carriage and rode away for Part 2 of our genuinely (to everyone’s surprise) thrilling adventure.
Which I’ll write about tomorrow.