Pacing along the evening street, the bars filled with merry laughter and chatter, it’s a glorious time of year. Shared plates are served with crisp chilled wine. Pickled olives, pâté and creamy camembert tantalise and satisfy savoury palettes. Lovely company, fine food and drink, exchanging hugs, kisses and gifts: unmistakably christmas in spirit. A spirit that is so pervasive in it’s effulgence, that it’s easy to take for granted. Magical, generous, fulsome, expansive, optimistic: adjectives that come easily. I was going to include, forward-looking, but we’re not quite there yet. That comes the day after the turkey leftovers are glad-wrapped, heads are nursed back from foggy hangovers to welcome sobriety, and the euphoria-inducing experience of tearing decorative wrapping and pretty ribbon from packages and boxes containing toys, gadgets, tools, clothes, fragrances, chocolate and so many other gendered objects of desire, subsides.
I’ve just arrived home after a long day at the office. But rather than settle down for the evening, I’m hurriedly getting ready to catch up with old friends at a house party in the Eastern suburbs. As I slip into loafers reserved for summer evening wear, I reflect on the fact that in a few days time I’m going to be on annual leave for a decent number of weeks. A proper break, where I can truly forget my work persona and all the demands I and others place on him. I’m not going to be that guy for a while, and it feels, OK.
My Uber driver is fast approaching. The fresh EU ruling that Uber is a taxi service (with all the constraints that implies) pops up as a news notification on my iPhone. Interesting timing. Amusing even. Should I make this seemingly glib development a topic of conversation I ponder, as I jump in the back seat (I never ride in the front)? But both the driver and I politely steer clear of news and current affairs. He asks me about my day. I tell him it was busy. He looks at me through the reflection in his rear mirror and shrugs as if to say everyone in Sydney is busy. Even the unemployed and homeless are busy! He doesn’t say so much as imply it with an air of indifference and diffidence. I’m probably more socially outgoing than he is, but we’re both naturally introverted. So the quiet of silence overtakes our conversation fairly early into the journey.
We’re speeding along Edgecliff road now headed for Dover Heights. I feel comfortable enough to lower the automatic window without petitioning the driver. The warm summer night rushes into the back seat of his shiny SUV. It’s an unmistakably Sydney summer. A wind, so insistently warm, that it borders on the oppressive side of hot, making my cheeks glow crimson red.
As much as I’m looking forward to sipping on top shelf alcohol and letting my proverbial hair down (I’m actually bald) I’m bloody tired. Stuffed, as the Aussie saying goes! As we fly up a stretch of hill, I turn my head in slow motion and stare at the road disappearing behind me.
My mind wonders in sympathy with the sway of the car and I momentarily reflect back on what I actually achieved this year. What was it all about anyway? All that work. All the conversations, deliberations, attempts at reaching agreement but not always getting there because of this and that. Anyone who cares about something has a vision, and that vision, because of its sincerity, is always right, in a sense. The art of negotiation is to make potentially adversarial discourse feel like convivial banter; and ensuring that people who are paid more than you to be right, end up feeling like they haven’t been compromised. What happens though, in the heat of battle (the great battle of ideas, that is), if you take leave of your assigned field position in hot pursuit of a fight that’s not yours to have (or win)? Well, depending on your career aspirations and priorities, one can only hope and assume you’ve made a calculated move!
This train of intense thought is rudely interrupted by a pothole in the road!
How long have we been driving for? I think we’re almost there. In the distance I can see the desirable outlines of well dressed men and women silhouetted against the south facing windows. The sea breeze dramatically whooshes across the gothic cliff tops as we meander up the steep driveway of the architecturally impressive townhouse, ready to receive me in it’s bohemian-chic bosom. I bid the driver farewell without exchanging a penny between us. PayPal automatically takes care of all that messy stuff. He slips away into the night, off to chase his next fare.
I rap at the fire-red door. Sarah, attentive as always, flings it open and disarms me with her big sensuous smile and rapturous embrace. Darling! It’s been too long! she cries, as she thrusts a glass of fine champagne (not sparkling wine) in the hand nearest my heart. Before I can even affect a spirited hello, she pulls me into the crowd and all sense of time and space dissolves into the agglomeration of bodies. It’s going to be an amazing night and I have no idea where I’ll end up nor with whom!