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September 21, 2015
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Rat Race

Alarm clock and noise blaring pre-dawn for a wake-up call. Get up, face the day. Move, shower, dress, feed the dog and don’t forget yourself.

Pack bags, lunch, snack, who the fuck is messaging me now? Keys, car, toast in mouth and back out the drive.

To weave in, out, indicators flash, or not, braking hard, slipping in and out this lane then next, fuck I’m caught in the wrong one and have to wear it now.

Kids, schools, 40k zones, can’t park here, can park there but good luck getting a fucking spot, don’t run over the lollipop man the kids will be scarred for life, gotta get to work, we all gotta get to work, who the fuck is that now reverse parking and holding me up?

Holding me up for the rush, the morning rush, the peak hour, the peak hours, who said it only went for an hour? Trams, trains, pedestrians, more 40k zones and the radio is on with the headlines, the issues of the day, pollies lying, pollies declaring how bad we had it with the last government but really nothing’s fucking changed.

And we are meant to care about it all, keep up with the news, the policies, vote one way or another and laugh when Clive Palmer fucks up again. Do we not care that he is getting paid to represent us all? To make key decisions about our future and our kids’ future and it’s a fucking sideshow, a headline, a quotable quote, a soundbite, click bait, ratings.

And some religious zealot calls the talkback and has a go at the host for his disrespect towards God and you think to yourself this is what’s wrong with the fucking world and get a little hot under the collar.

And while you are listening and waiting at the crossing for the train to cross tracks that were built in some century long ago so the tracks can’t handle modern trains and it has to cross the track at 5k an hour so it doesn’t topple over, onto all the cars waiting for it to pass, while you sit there waiting and listening to the zealot you pick up your phone and check your email, fuck, 50 new mails since last night and have I got time to log onto Facebook while I am here?

Boom gates lift and you’re off at snails pace for more dodging and weaving and playing the game til you finally make it to work.

Log on, email, coffee, “Morning, how are you?”, meeting in 10, fuck forgot about that one.

Ticking off the tasks, one after the other, book this in, call them, tweet that, “Did you hear?”, “You up for lunch?”, “You seen the paper today?” email after email, text from mum, text from brother, sister, cousin, aunt, whoever, they never stop, ping, that one’s a Facebook message, email after email after email it’s amazing any work actually gets done.  Throwing down some lunch at your desk, sustenance, because you got to 2pm and your stomach was growling and then you remembered you forgot to fucking eat.

Maybe you’ll read the paper, any paper, while you eat lunch. Take the time to read and consider, stay informed, flip the pages, feel the texture of paper beneath your fingers, but you log onto Facebook instead where you post, share, look, comment, like, scroll, message and are numbed, dulled and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of it all, all that stuff, all those words, pictures, emoticons, status updates and the blurring of lines between work, personal, political, positive personas, memorial posts, motivational quotes and the just plain stupid and fucked up.

Before you know it, it’s time to go, gotta be IN THE CAR by 5pm to make it in time to pick up the kids, if I am not IN THE CAR by 5pm I will be late and I will be fined for being late to pick up my kids. I might get fined on the way for speeding, if I get the chance to speed in the traffic, around the trams, pedestrians and traffic lights, I might get fined for running a red light, for changing lanes without indicating, for not stopping for the tram, for breaking the rules, I might get fined for breaking the rules and then to top it all of I will be late and then I will get fined for being late to pick up my kids.

So I am in the car by 5pm and negotiating the way home, with all the other cars, headlights, rain, hail, whatever Melbourne can throw at me while I turn the radio off and play my own music up loud so I can sing and forget about the day but it doesn’t take long until thoughts turn to the next shift, what’s going to be the best way to tackle the making of dinner with homework, showers bedtime and fuck I forgot I gotta get milk and bread from the supermarket cos we are all out and we need it for breakfast, for the next morning, I am worried already about the next morning.

And the kids hate it, “not the shop again?” because they are tired and cranky having been at school all day and then after care until 6pm and they start to fight, but at least you made it before you got fined, and they punch and slap each other in the back seat and you lose it, you fucking lose it and you scream at them, smack the steering wheel and scream at them to shut up because “THIS ISN’T HELPING!”

We bought in, to the lifestyle, with credit cards and 3 years interest free, 1 percent finance and equity loans

Then some fucker tries to do a U-ie in front of you and you slam on the brake, smash the horn and yell “You fucking idiot”, “Where the fuck did you get your licence?”, but he doesn’t hear because you are in your car and he is in his car but your kids hear you and they ask “What happened mum?” and the rage, the rage is boiling inside, threatening to spill over but you take a deep breath and know it’s just not worth it. It’s not worth it.

You drag your kids through the supermarket to get the bread and milk, clunking away in your work heels and power suit and feel judged, you feel judged for not being home yet cooking your kids dinner and it’s after 6 and they look tired and hungry and you’ve done this, you’ve done this to them so you could work and have a career and that’s why you feel judged, but you know it’s not really because you had to have a career but because you have to service the mortgage, you have to pay for petrol, for football and dancing fees, to put fucking food on the table and one wage just aint gonna cut it any more.

The older generation, they don’t get this, they don’t understand, they had a choice, they could survive on one wage, but not us, not this generation, we have lifestyles to maintain. We bought in, to the lifestyle, with credit cards and 3 years interest free, 1 percent finance and equity loans for a our plush new furniture, house renos and SUVs.

So when you get home, the telly goes on, to stop the arguments, the telly goes on for peace and quiet because it’s easier to get through the end of this shift, to have your kids dumbed down in front of the screen because then they are quiet and then you can get on with providing more of that sustenance, dinner, food in their belly because time is ticking away and they have to be in bed soon, the experts say kids need at least 10 hours sleep a night, that doesn’t leave much time.

So you let them watch, the hopes and dreams of people they don’t know being manufactured by other people they don’t know on shows that they call reality, Master Chef, Australian Idol, The Voice, the kids love it and you let them watch, suck it all in. Sucked in.

And finally they are in bed and you get a chance to chill, a moment to yourself, where you can watch some telly or log back on to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr, Pinterest and look at what everyone else is doing with their lives, with their time and maybe you will come up with something witty for your status update so you too can get likes and comments and feel connected, feel valued, to feel that all this is fucking worth it somehow.

Then you crash into bed, check the clock and make sure it’s set so you can get up in the morning and do the whole lot again the next day.

Welcome to the rat race.

 

Karina Grift
Karina Grift
I am an artist and writer living in Melbourne, Australia. Professionally I am a freelance journalist, editor and media consultant. I paint and write for sanity and the challenge.

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