There's No Place Like Home
There’s nothing quite like coming home. No matter where you’ve been and how much you’ve enjoyed being away. There more than an element of truth in the saying, “home is where the heart is”.
It’s not just the familiarity of sights, sounds and smells. It’s not even catching up with old friends or re-uniting with family, as joyous as that might be. Returning home touches you viscerally. In the soul. It’s about re-affirmation.
In my case I’ve returned home after spending five terrific years in Melbourne. Certain things immediately hit you between the eyes. The weather (you just can’t avoid the comparison no matter how much you might try), the bedlam on the roads (both public and private transport), the glorious (and real) beaches.
I’ve always shared the belief that Sydney’s murky, anarchic history as a convict colony governed by corrupt officials like the Rum Corp has helped shape the city’s crazy, if loveable, workings. I had this more than reinforced when I applied for an Opal. I’d forgotten just how gloriously labyrinthine a Sydney bureaucracy can be.
I had a double whammy. I’m a Senior. That is, I’m over 60. I also have two school aged children.
I rang Opal about getting Senior/Pensioner card. I was told I needed a Senior’s card to prove my age. A new one. A Sydney one.
“Could I transfer my Senior’s card from Melbourne?”
“Even though they seem to be identical?”
“How do I get one?”
The extremely put out man on the end of the line then grudgingly explained how I could go online, print an application, scan evidence of my age and email it to the relevant authorities.
“But I’m in transit. I don’t have a printer or a scanner.”
I could see him rolling his eyes.
“What if I was 85 and didn’t own a printer and a scanner?”
“You would have to go to a library.”
I was obviously wasting his time. He had way more important things to do. Like check his text messages. I’m a persistent bugger so I persisted. I pointing out that libraries weren’t really as prominent in our lives as they once were. A lot of people don’t visit their local library and have no idea that there is one. I hasten to add that I love libraries but getting to one can be challenging. Especially if you’re really a Senior not just a plus 60 one.
I asked my increasingly grumpy “helpline” assistant if there was anywhere I could go, physically, to fill in a form. His response suggested I had asked him to fill it out for me.
I got nowhere. When I pointed out how easy it had been to get a Myki in Melbourne gave me the silent treatment. Until I could find a printer/scanner to prove my age I could walk. Or shuffle.
Having torn out a fistful of hair I breathed deeply and sat down to apply for a School Opal. The lack of printer/scanner was circumnavigated by the very helpful person at my daughter’s new school who volunteered to sign the form if I downloaded it in a PDF format and emailed it to her. I can’t tell you just how relieved I was. I was into my second 8 hour shift of searching for Opal.
I duly downloaded the form. There is no facility to download it in PDF form so I crossed my fingers that the “Web Archive” would work.
The seemingly simple process of filling in an online form soon threw up enough challenges to have me grinding what is left of my teeth.
The online form wouldn’t accept the school my daughter is attending. I clicked, I stabbed, I poked but no cigar. I took a deep breath and rang Opal. I was praying I didn’t get my mate again. Fortunately a pleasant woman answered the phone. I was reminded of another Sydney idiosyncrasy, on the whole women in public positions are a lot more accommodating than men. Or less corrupt.
My new friend patiently went through the form with me until we got to the “School” section. She tried my daughter’s school. No luck. She was nonplussed. I was relieved to find a find a sympathetic ear. We worked on this seemingly insurmountable obstacle for a while until she solved the problem. By spelling the school’s name incorrectly without the full stop that would normally be used she was able to bring up the school in the correct space even if though was incorrectly spelt.
I thanked my new friend and returned to the form.
Everything was looking good. I mightn’t have my Opal but more importantly my children would have theirs.
Then I came to the “Home Address” section. I duly typed in my address. My correct address. The one I had lived at for 30 years. I scrolled down and pressed,
Nothing. I scrolled up. A bit of red writing told me I had failed. At least that was consistent. In the old days we used to use a red pen to mark “fails” or incorrect answers.
I scrolled down to see where I had failed.
The address was wrong. Or more specifically,
“Sorry. The address you have entered was not valid. Please try again. Else please lodge a
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Not valid? I stared. I started hallucinating. Maybe I didn’t live there? Maybe I couldn’t spell my streets name, even though a two year old could spell it.
I tried again. Same result.
As I was about to hurl my laptop through the window my wife returned home from work. I started blubbering about my experience. She didn’t respond. She looked at me without a hint of sympathy.
It hit me. I was home. Back in Sydney.
Now I’ve got to find a library.