Proctor : November 2017
51 PROCTOR | November 2017 Appeasing the modern-day child There’s something fishy about this birthday present If you are anything like me, your brain will spend a lot of time remembering unimportant things, like the lyrics to the Gilligan’s Island theme song, the names of the monsters under Calvin and Hobbes’ bed (Maurice and Winslow, in case you were wondering), and the origin of the Court of Exchequer. (NB: to anyone about to write a furious letter to the editor extolling the overwhelming importance of the Court of Exchequer, please note that I am of course kidding. I remember nothing about the origin of the Court of Exchequer, as the 5th edition of The English Legal System by Walker & Walker does not cover it until page seven – a good four pages after I stopped reading). The point is that important things, such as passwords, credit card numbers and the exact names, if you want to be technical about it, of your children, can often escape you. This has a downside – for example, if you are picking your kids up from after school care saying something like, “I’m here to pick up...I wanna say Susan? No? Jane, maybe?” will likely end in a sub-optimal conversation in a police station. The upside is that if you only remember the unimportant things, you might recall my last column, in which I was detailing my search for a birthday present for my son. The search was taking place in the light of an inherent conflict. My son feels that everything he owns, including his toothbrush, should be able to connect to – and buy things from – the internet (he does not feel that he should have to pay for these things). Whereas I long for the days when the internet was just a hyper-efficient joke delivery system, which I believe is the real reason it was developed. Bill Gates may claim, these days, that he developed the internet to help people and deliver world peace, but I suspect he did it just to be able to spread around the joke about the nun who walks into a pub carrying a frog, a rubber glove and a bicycle pump (note to tech-head nerds: before you blast me on Instagram for claiming that Bill Gates invented the internet, please note that was done for comedic effect; I know it was really Al Gore with help from Mike Nesmith’s mum). The point is, I did not want to get him anything that connected to the internet, so I threw open the floor for suggestions. My wife said that anything that wasn’t a drum kit was fine, which was precise but not overly helpful – and I would bet there are drum kits with Wi-Fi connections these days. My daughter suggested we get him a fish, so that he gets to have a pet like she does (technically our dog belongs to my daughter, because she wanted a dog and made five promises to seal the deal: that she would wash, walk, feed, play with him and clean up after him; to her credit she has made good on all but four of those promises). My problem with getting my son a fish is that I recall having fish as a kid, and my memory is that they require a startling amount of looking after for an animal that doesn’t come when you call it, does little but mope around the way you would mope around if you lived in a room the respective size of a toilet and – let’s be honest here – stretches credibility a fair bit by claiming to be a ‘pet’. I suspect you could have a more satisfying owner-pet relationship with mould. In addition, fish traditionally exhibit the same overall life expectancy as a doughnut in the vicinity of Clive Mensink. Partly, this is because they are sensitive to changes in temperature, acidity, alkalinity and government, but also because historically children have been remarkably poor judges as to what can be put into a fish tank without negatively impacting on the fish. The list of things that I can personally vouch for having a less than ideal effect on the prospects of a fish is as long as your arm, and indeed includes your arm – and so I have the feeling that if my son got a fish I might find myself explaining that Goggles the Goldfish probably didn’t want to play with a remote-controlled car, and has gone to fishy heaven with the other four fish that reacted badly to things they wouldn’t encounter in nature, such as porridge and crayons. Sotheideaofafishwasout,andIhadnolove for the idea of non-traditional pets from the reptile family, such as lizards or snakes. People do have lizards and snakes as pets, despite the fact that ‘reptile’ is a Latin word meaning, “something that will totally not ever be a pet no matter how long you have it, although it might eat you if you sleep too long”, (Latin, as you can see, was a very economical language). For those of you dying to know what we actually got him, we decided – after long and careful consideration of many fine non-internet-capable items – to get him an Xbox. That may sound like I caved in to persistent whining, but that is only because I did – although in my defence it was whining from my wife. She noted that the Xbox would keep him and his friends happy and occupied during his birthday party, noting also that she had to host it while I was at work sipping chardonnay in the rooftop spa at QLS. This is not an entirely accurate depiction of your typical QLS workday, but I sensed –call me a sensitive, caring husband if you must – that this was not the time to point that out. I realised my wife was masking her true feelings with sarcasm, and that she was really offering me a choice between an Xbox and a divorce. So my son has an Xbox, enjoyed his birthday party and hackers have yet another way to steal everything we own, but on the whole it was a good result. Oh, and there is no joke about a nun, a frog, a rubber glove and a bicycle pump; if you don’t believe me, Google it – but I wouldn’t do it from work if I were you. Suburban cowboy by Shane Budden © Shane Budden 2017. Shane Budden is a Queensland Law Society ethics solicitor.