Proctor : September 2018
51 PROCTOR | September 2018 Reflections on a rite of passage – just down the road In a former life I ran the legal section of the building regulator in Queensland, which eventually became a lot of fun but was a little scary at the start. Partly this was because at the time I possessed the overall management skills of a golden retriever, but mostly because a mass exodus of staff had preceded my promotion (I would like to believe the two events were unrelated). Thankfully I soon got new staff and was able to build an awesome team, at least as measured by success in the courtroom, quality of advice and – above all – fantastic Christmas lunches, some of which may still be going on. Until the new staff came on board, however, I was somewhat busy in the same sense that Donald Trump is somewhat enamoured of himself. This meant that I spent a lot of time at work, including late at night and on the weekends, so that I was able, with hard work and determination, to produce some of the least comprehensible documents in history. This is because, although it may seem like working longer hours helps you, eventually you get tired, rundown and start to hallucinate. As a result, some of my statements of reasons back then occasionally made reference to people who might – if you get all technical about it – not actually have been involved in the building disputes in question, such as Spiderman and Wolverine. It did mean that I got to be on a first-name basis with many of the cleaning staff, including a young fellow from Thailand, who had not at that time grasped the role that ‘scale’ plays in maps and once confidently announced to me that he was planning to drive down to Adelaide and back on Saturday. Indeed it is always fun when people from other countries realise just how big Australia is, because it allows you to tell war stories of massive, Leyland Brothers-style trips that you have never, technically, driven yourself. We can get away with it because tourists tend to think that all Australians are basically Crocodile Dundee without the hat, whereas most of us can get lost walking home from the bus stop, especially if there happens to be a pub along the way. Millennials glued to smartphones are especially vulnerable, and even when attempting relatively simple trips such as going from the kitchen to the bedroom are statistically more likely to end up in Adelaide than my friend the cleaner. Still, it is part of our national heritage, this view that anywhere is within driving distance, including the Oort Cloud. It is that delusion which once prompted two friends and me to drive to Sydney to visit some other friends. This was in the days before the internet or affordable air travel, and so a trip to Sydney was a serious undertaking which required planning and preparation, and we planned each step meticulously as long as ‘meticulously’ means ‘by adopting a vague set of assumptions’. That is to say, we applied the same amount of planning that young men in their early 20s apply to everything, in that we made sure we were wearing pants when we left the house. Like all savvy and experienced travellers, we developed a detailed travel plan to ensure that we had no problems, which – in order to assist any readers who would like to visit Sydney – I reproduce here in full: 1. Get in car. 2. Drive to Sydney. We were confident we could get there because we had been to Stanthorpe before and had seen signs for Sydney, most of which pointed vaguely south, and we knew from extensive study of scholarly works, such as every State of Origin game ever played, that Sydney was in the south, and also that it was evil. In any event we headed off to Stanthorpe and turned vaguely south, safe in the knowledge that if we missed the turn for Sydney, Melbourne was also a lovely place to visit. It was a particularly pleasant trip for me because my friends and I had differing views on the purpose of the speed limit. I held the view that it was there to indicate the maximum speed you could travel, and they held the view that it was merely a suggestion which nobody followed, similar to the way politicians view expense accounts. This meant that they would not allow me to take a turn at driving, so I was able to relax in the back seat. I would also have admired the scenery, but I couldn’t see it because light only travels so fast. (Note to the people who wrote in to tell me that parsecs were a unit of distance not time, and who even now have stopped reading to bash out a furious email to tell me that it is not possible to travel faster than light: I know. I knew that parsecs were units of distance as well, probably long before you were born and certainly before the word was misused in Star Wars, where you first heard about it. It is just that sometimes, for humorous effect or out of sheer laziness, I say things which are not completely true, which some people call lies. Besides, I invented parsecs.) In any event, we made it to Sydney and had a great time with our friends, and returned safely via the Hunter Valley, where not driving turned out to be a real bonus as far as I was concerned. In doing so, we completed something of a rite of passage for Brisbane youths – a road trip to Sydney, the city that once – sometimes even twice – per century gets to borrow the State of Origin shield, and where units almost big enough for two people to lie down in (as long as they lie on their sides) can be had for as little as the price of the NBN. Also, I don’t mean to brag, but we did the trip in way less than 12 parsecs... Suburban cowboy by Shane Budden © Shane Budden 2018. Shane Budden is a Queensland Law Society ethics solicitor.