I'm a working class type living in an out-of-the-way, older part of a sprawling, predominantly working class suburb. The area is attractive to the less than affluent because land relatively close to the ocean is relatively cheap. Naturally, waterfront land is very expensive, and even land with ocean glimpses is beyond the means of most. Many of the older, run down but very valuable beach shacks are rented to lowlifes, ne'erdowells, white trash, whatever you want to call them, you must stay alert.
One day at the small local shopping centre, while waiting for a prescription to be filled, I noticed a scruffy looking type at the prescription counter drinking a small cup of pink liquid. When she had left I asked the pharmacist about the liquid; it turned out to be methadone, which the pharmacist said he dispenses to about 20 regulars.
What, 20 former heroin addicts in my neighbourhood? Jesus, if there are 20 former addicts in the area, how many current addicts are there? Wait a minute, this explains lots: the near-nightly burglar alarms; the dog barking in the middle of the night; trampled flowerbed plants; and the guy with his face pressed against a window in the middle of the night - he claimed to be on the way home from the pub and looking for a place to pee. Yep, keep the doors and windows locked and eyes and ears open. Stay alert.
If a visit to the local shops is exciting, the regional shopping centre can be an adventure. Hell, just getting there can be an adventure. The locals seem to have their own road rules, number one being to tailgate when possible. Rule number two is, damn the speed cameras, full speed ahead. Number three applies to yellow lights, which mean floor it. Number four applies to the horn, with variations for males and females: a female honkee simply responds with the "finger" and exaggerated mouthed swearing; male honkees respond as do females but with the option to tailgate the honker to his destination for a bit of one-on-one verbal abuse - the level of male response depending on how well that day's visit to Centrelink went.
Okay, we've made it to the parking lot, the challenge now is to find a spot between two cars that are parked between the lines. Oops, almost forgot, make sure the window is up when you pull into the parking lot; the little kiddies roaming about think it's hilarious to douse drivers with whatever liquid they have to hand. And, never, ever tempt the kiddies by leaving loose change in the car where it can be seen.
On Saturday, my shopping day, the shopping centre is always busy. It's a sea of paunchy skin, tattoos and piercings. Far too many women are wearing not nearly enough clothing. If they were toned and attractive it would be Okay but most of these women are showing me stuff I don't want to see. Is it my imagination or are most of these people overweight?
With tattoos, apparently the bigger the better. The elaborate large tattoo on the small of the back, half-peeking out above hip hugging jeans is very popular with females at the moment, as is the circular shoulder-blade tattoo. Other than the leg-tattoo, which seems to be popular mostly with naval personnel, most male tattoos are not so obvious. How do these people afford their tattoos?
Piercing are very in, with the mutiple upper-ear earring very popular with females. Tongue studs are also very popular with females of all ages, with a twelve year old once explaining to me, "they're for giving head, my mother has one". But, piercings aren't cheap, how can they afford them?
Then there are all of the scruffy young women pushing kiddies in prams. Hey wait a minute, I thought the birthrate was down. How can all of these young women afford all of these kids? Can they afford them?
It's much quieter in Woolies. That's because for unsupervised kids Woolies is a food and entertainment smorgasbord. Feeling peckish, rip open a pack of whatever strikes your fancy, fill up on $19.00 a kilo grapes or have a handful of sweets from the bulk food section. Bored?, amuse yourself by making that little popping sound that goes with a finger punching through the plastic wrap on a package of prepacked meat.
At the checkout - how can they afford that trolley load of junk? - the kids have returned to their mothers but are still unsupervised. They jump and fidget and make demands for sweets, more sweets. They try to attract the attention of nearby shoppers by climbing on the counters and fiddling with the till's keypad. The cashier and I make furtive but knowing eye contact, both of us giving a little smile: we'd both like to grab one of the little monsters and slap some sense into him but both of us know that sloppy, nasty mummy-skank would kill us if we so much as reprimand. It's strictly grin and bear it. (On my last visit to the shops I stood and watched silently as an unsupervised child stood on the counter pounding on the theft detector, which kept letting off an ear-piercing shriek. Mummy-skank and granny-skank stood there in silence throughout. Wouldn't want to harm the little bastard's – and I do mean that literally – self-esteem now would we?)
Okay, make sure the carton of smokes is at the bottom of the trolley where it can't be easly lifted by a passerby and head for the car. Another Saturday's shopping adventure is done.
Oh come on folks, we all know who's bankrolling this crew: us. Many of these people - alcoholics and drug addicts included - are getting a government benefit of some sort. They know exactly what they're entitled to and what thier rights are. They should know, they have plenty of spare time in which to figure things out.
Surely to keep handing these people money is counterproductive. They're going to raise a brood as unproductive as they are. Also, it just doesn't seem right to hand these people AU$470.70 a fortnight when our military could use that money for something constructive, like killing jihadis. Nope, it just ain't right.
I feel better now.