We staggered out of the surf, frozen near-solid, clutching our boards under stiff arms. As we walked cross the wet sand flats of the low tide a group of three people passed down the beach in front of us, heading the other way. What we had initially taken for boards turned out to be flattened cardboard from boxes they were clutching under their arms. They also appeared to be carrying items implying an intention to party, like bottles of booze. So, not surfers then.
When we made it back to the car park the conversation turned to the enigmatic beach walkers. One of our mates had talked to them. It turned out they were heading down to have a fire on the beach, hence the cardboard. When he told them that wasn't allowed on this particular stretch of beach, owing to its high visitation and useage, and the issues associated with, for instance, kids walking barefoot over abandoned smouldering coals and getting third degree burns, as has happened in the past, they shrugged it off, told him to stick it and laughed at him. Our mate was fuming, and when we got to him he was pacing up and down in the carpark erratically and violently, frothing around the mouth with smoke trailing out of his ears. He takes these things to heart.
We discussed the issue.
We found their lack of community spirit lamentable.
It turned out their perfidy wasn't limited to the admittedly minor misdemeanor of not listening to us. They could be forgiven for that, after all.
More to the point was the fact that they appeared to be breaking some potentially serious regulations aimed at trying to curb the spread of the disease that is currently crippling the world, and is mowing down people in overseas countries like there's no tomorrow, which, unfortunately, for over 5,000 people every twenty-four hours there isn't going to be. Every day another quarter of a million of new people get infected with this virus, and a lot of them will die from it. It's not funny, and it's not something that should be taken lightly.
Here in Australia we had managed to keep the disease at arm's length reasonably well for the first four months, and we had thought we had escaped the worst of it and had started to relax restrictions and regulations aimed at minimising the impact, while many other countries in other parts of the world continued to be devastated. Until, in our idiocy and over-confidence, a group of infected people, returning from overseas, partied and had sex with the very security guards who had been assigned the task of ensuring they stayed in quarantine. That one's never going to go away. So much for social distancing. Of all the various sex poses and positions that can be thought up with a bit of imagination, yoga-based flexibility training, and an illustrated guide to the Kamasutra, the one known as The Social Distancing Possie has yet to be invented. We will wear a mask and root each other's brains out while staying 1.5 metres away from each other. Good luck with that.
As a result our number of fatalities over the last four weeks has been more than double that of the first four months, and the previously so-nearly-controlled viral disease is now spreading almost like wildfire, causing increased disruption to society and life in general.
Therefore borders between states that had previously started to be opened up again have now been slammed shut, and more severely so than they had before. Here in our area we live in a border region, a difficult situation. A lot of people live on one side of the border and work on the other side, myself one of them. Now, two days earlier, the border had finally been closed hermetically to anyone not living in a few very well-defined border postcodes. When the news came out we found that our shire had been excluded from the border bubble inside of which residents were allowed to move to-and-fro either side as they needed or saw fit. Effectively it meant that our shire had now become the new border.
The Final Frontier.
The establishment of the new frontier carried a few implications. For one it meant that I now would no longer be able to go to work, not being legally allowed to cross the border.
That was fine with me. You can't get a better excuse not to go to work.
'Hey boss, sorry, can't come to work for the next three months.'
'What? Why's that?'
'The border's closed.'
Happy Holidays. Bring it on.
Even more significantly, it also meant that now, theoretically at least, people from the Land Of Mines were no longer able to come down here and flood our break and steal our waves. The pervasive presence of Minelanders has for many years been a thorn in our sides. They tend to turn up without a word of greeting, paddle straight to the inside, drop in and snake indiscriminately and without distinction, and are wont to celebrate the political corruption rife in their state loudly and obnoxiously. They are often found floating facedown in the whitewash with legropes wrapped around their necks on days when the surf is pumping particularly pleasantly. No one knows why. We weren't there, we didn't do it, and anyway no one saw us.
A closer inspection of the rego plate of their car revealed that the offending cardboard carriers and would-be fire-starters came from the other side of the border, from the Land Of Mines. They had, therefore, no business being in our carpark, or on our beach, fire or not. More to the point, they were violating regulations that had been put into place to save people's lives, ultimately.
We congregated in a huddle to discuss appropriate sanctions.
'Let's let down one of their tyres,' suggested one bloke, possessed of a fun-loving and forgiving nature.
'Fuck that, lets slash all four of them,' growled another, greatly given to taking matters of civic responsibility and ethics seriously. The smoke was still rising up out of his ears, although he had stopped pacing up and down like the last known surviving Tassie Tiger in his cage in Hobart Zoo. He was the one the miscreants had told to go stick it.
'We could smash in their windows?' offered a third one hopefully. He is renowned for carrying a large supply of spare legropes in his ute, and, moreover, has developed a technique for sharpening them to the lethal slicing quality of a cheese wire. No one knows why.
We contemplated these propositions.
The wind blew through the carpark, cooling down overheating tempers.
The red mist of prospective wanton vandalism slowly lifted.
Several of the brethren shuffled their feet, looked at the ground, and mumbled various things under their breath, amounting mostly to a vague but quite pointed desire to stay out of jail. The fire died in the ears of The Man Of Civics with a wet hissing sound. They got into their cars and retreated to the safety of the land of Non-Accomplicity.
'Her-hum,' I said to the one remaining member of the congregation of Enraged Good Neighbours. 'I've got a better idea. Watch this.'
I went to my car, ripped down the A4 sheet that had my cross-border permit on it, and turned it over.
'We'll put this on their windscreen, with a little message of goodwill,' I said. Cheese Wire Man, last one standing, raised his eyebrows cautiously.
'Look, it's even got sticky tape for sticking it to their windscreen, it's perfect,' I added.
'Yeah ... but I've got a handy-sized brick in the back of my ute,' Cheese Wire Man insisted. 'How 'bout we just ...'
'No, this is more better, look,' I dug a pen out from somewhere, '... here's a little love note to them.'
I wrote on it in my best kindergarten crayon-handwriting:
FUCK OFF BACK TO MINELAND
'Whaddaya reckon?' I said.
Cheese Wire Man brightened up. 'Yes,' he exclaimed, 'great idea. And I'll take a picture of their rego plate and send it to the coppers. That'll fuck 'em. They'll get caught at the border and will have to go into quarantine for two weeks.' He cackled evilly and rubbed his hands together with what can only be described as "glee".
Reluctantly letting go of his preference for mindless but very satisfying violence he busied himself around the back of the car, getting pics of their rego. Meanwhile I went to the windscreen, lifted up my artwork with the message of peace, love and goodwill to all people NOT from Mineland, and stopped dead in my tracks.
'Uh ..., ' I said. 'Guess what.'
"What?' said Cheese Wire Man, longingly looking from his keys in his hand to the side of the offending car, and daydreaming of screeching noises and exorbitant spray-painter bills.
'We've got a minor problem here ...' My voice trailed off.
'Why's that?' he asked.
'Well, you know how this is my old border permit?'
'It's got my name and address on the back of it.'
Eventually we found another, though unfortunately much smaller and less impressive looking scrap of paper, and used that for our message of Brotherhood Of Nations, which we stuck under their windscreen wiper. We went on our merry way in the secure knowledge that the pics of their rego would ensure Justice Would Be Done.
Or would it.
Because Cheese Wire Man rang the noble constabulary of The People's Republic Of The Final Frontier with the pictures of the pandemic-flaunting trespassers hot in his hand, or, at least, on his phone. He was told, indifferently, that this breach of quarantine protocol was not their problem, since, as the coppers pointed out reasonably, the closure of the border was an initiative of The People Of Mineland and not of The People Of The Final Frontier, and so therefore was none of their business and not their concern. The border was, they pointed out, only closed in one direction, and any breaches of laws, rules and regulations pertaining to it were the jurisdiction of those who had decided to close it, i.e. the Minelanders.
Cheese Wire Man was appalled at this lack of commitment to The Greater Good Of Both Nations.
However, not easily discouraged by brainless bureaucracy, gormless gits and abominable administrations, he took the hint and contacted the representatives of the law enforcement of The Land Of Mines.
Only to be told, to his utter astonishment, disbelief and devastation, that the police force and border control people of Mineland were unable to act on the information provided, nor did the Mighty Law make allowance for it, on account of the fact that the quarantine-breaking offenders were not actually in Mineland at the moment. Unless an offence was committed within their jurisdiction, i.e. inside of the borders of Mineland, they were unable to do anything about it. How that particular bit of logic applied to the offence of trying to cross the border illegally was anyone's guess.
Cheese Wire Man argued persuasively, exhaustively and heatedly that the whole point of the matter, the very crux of the issue, the heart of the problem, was the exact fact that the offenders were notwhere they were supposed to be, i.e. they were in a declared hotspot and would, as such, be liable to being exposed to infection and of transporting it back to communities who thought themselves safe behind their closed borders.
His arguments fell on deaf ears. They hung up. Thanks for coming.
So that really begs the question: what chance do we have of controlling the eruption of this disease, if one state refuses to talk to another and to cooperate in even the most basic of aspects?
Good luck with that.
Meanwhile people are dying by the dozens.
And with arrangements like the ones we now have in place we will not continue to be able to blame these root-rat security guards for ever. Sooner or later we'll have to look to our governments, and ask some serious hard questions.