Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Discrimination Nation

For our entire first year in Melbourne, The Boyfriend and I had been house-sharing. Privacy was non-existent and when I was in one of my notorious bad moods - which came upon me suddenly and violently, much to the chagrin of anyone within a twenty mile radius - I had no where to vent. I felt very claustrophobic. 

At one point, I even reminisced about our time with Fat Shite and Sour Puss, entertaining the theory that maybe they hadn't been so bad and that I simply struggled with space sharing. Such was my temporary insanity - I knew I had to get out before before being besieged by similarly ludicrous thoughts.

Fat Shite was, and always will be, a thundering imbecile in all hypothetical universes.

In saying that, The Boyfriend and I began the arduous process of procuring a little house of our own. 

The sponsorship was in the bag - we had four years to work in Australia. The Boyfriend was contracted with the company who granted him the visa, and I was free to try my hand at whatever I pleased as a de facto. We would be able to apply for permanency after two years on the visa, and everything seemed to be slowly coming together. We could enter in to a twelve month lease - a notion heretofore shelved as a mere passing fancy.

I insisted we live by the beach. I wanted sand, sea, and sun; and I wanted it on my doorstep. The Boyfriend brought to my attention other, more affordable, more logistically sensible locations and I snorted derisively, arching my eyebrows to point towards bayside.

Every weekend was spent at viewings. We traipsed through glorious newly-builts, shabby weatherboards and pokey apartments. We applied for every single one that piqued our interest and received tens of rejections promptly afterwards. 

Perplexed, we couldn't understand why getting a house was proving such a challenge. We had full-time guaranteed work and glowing references. We had narrowed our search to pet-friendly accommodations. We offered six weeks deposits instead of the traditional four. We were doing everything right, and still getting knock back after knock back.

I was in work one day. Mr. Delhi was eating his breakfast and I was making coffees for some customers. The Boyfriend and I had put in another house application, and were anxiously waiting to hear back from the real estate agent. 

 The house was a pig-sty; our last resort. It leaned slightly to the right. It was painted a dirty yellow. There was broken windows in the porch, and a shed at the back that the landlord solely claimed for his apparent collection of rusty bicycles. We applied purely out of panic. 

As I steamed the milk, I felt my phone go off in my pocket. 

Ten minutes later, I was smoking a cigarette and cursing everyone who walked by. We'd been rejected, yet again. The landlord wanted someone local.

I've talked to a lot of Irish people who have moved to Australia and the majority have had some complaint or quibble when it came to securing a place to live. Young Europeans have a reputation of being careless backpackers down under, and landlords are reluctant to entrust their property to a couple without roots or ties to the locality. They want long-term renters. It was a desire I can understand now, but couldn't fathom at the time. Homelessmess for The Boyfriend, Alfie and I loomed ever closer.

The Boyfriend's youngest sister and her friend - let's call them Shinaynay and Awnyayyay - were on their way to Melbourne. The Boyfriend's entire family were certain the girls wouldn't make it, such was their lack of faith in Shinaynay's navigational prowess. They arrived, drooping and wide-eyed from the journey. The Boyfriend showed them to their makeshift bedroom in the back porch. It had been erected from plywood and impatience in just under two hours - and it showed.

We planned to get stinking drunk that weekend to gloss over our misery. Beanie Face joined us in our debauchery, along with his brothers - of which they are too many for me to bother naming or completely recall. 

We went to the local station and were awaiting our train towards the city, when we were approached by two burly, gun-toting policemen. 

"Get your feet off that bench," one grunted at The Boyfriend, who had been sitting on the back of the bench, feet firmly planted where one would normally place ones arse. 

The Boyfriend did as much, but the policeman remained steadfast. "There's signs everywhere saying you can't put your feet on the benches," he scolded, hand on his weapon. 

We all looked around for these signs. There were none, and The Boyfriend remarked on their absence. And I don't mean he made a brassy comment highlighting the cop's bullshit. He actually said "Sorry, I didn't see any."

Then, in an act worthy of the badge, the policeman demanded to see all of our passports. He questioned our visa validity. He asked us where we were living, and when we would be "going back home." We were asked to repeat ourselves frequently, such was his inability to distinguish legible sentences through our seemingly incomprehensible accent. 

I was sure we were all going to get shot in defence of a bench. The ludicruity of it all was almost enough to make me laugh aloud. Almost.

Our train rocked up just in time. We bailed on, and left the chuckling policemen at their post, forty kilometres from the city, at a suburban railway station. 

I was seething. The minute we disembarked, I strode right into the closest bar, ordered reams of tequila shots, smoked three cigarettes at a time. I pointed fingers at unknowing strangers, admonishing them for their assumptions, lecturing them on their convict history, dribbling inebriated insults and tarring them all with the same proverbial brush.

Australia is known for being a bit racist, Ireland is known for being a bit drunk. 

That night, both stereotypes were immeasurably justified, by one ridiculous policeman and one equally idiotic Yours Truly. 

Discrimination breeds discrimination - and that's a lesson I'll be forever grateful for learning. 

No comments:

Post a Comment