This morning I'm at the Electoral Enrolment Commission. I'm there to find people's addresses.
Most places - banks, electricity companies, Reader's Digest magazine, the Victoria's Secret catalogue, they leave it up to you to change your address, because that's your responsibility. They're not going to put time and money into chasing up your tardiness. Well, that's not how we operate. We track you down. We will find you by any means necessary. We will hunt you down mercilessly, and once in our sights will fire at you an arrow marked "our records show that your current residential address is not up to date". A trip to the EEC is the last step in this process, before we set the hounds onto your trail with the scent of the last piece of mail we received from you. We're not chasing debt. We just want to make sure you receive our correspondence. Here's what happens.
We'll send a mail out to our members and a portion of the letters will come back marked "return to sender/not at this address". I'll go through the profiles of these members on the database and mark their addresses as "unknown". Then I'll send out a round of e-mails. Individual e-mails to each member, because if you send one e-mail to multiple recipients there's a high chance that a spam filter will intercept it before it reaches the intended target. About half the e-mails will result in a positive response. If you don't reply to the e-mail I'll then call your mobile, followed by your home number and work number. If unsuccessful I'll send a letter to your work. If you don't respond I'll repeat the process in a week. By this stage we're looking at about 85% of previously unknown residential addresses updated successfully. But there's still that evasive 15% that manages to slip through our dragnet, so we're not done with you yet.
This is why I'm soaking wet and standing outside the Electoral Enrolment Commission on Lonsdale Street at ten to nine, smoking a cigarette and looking at my reflection in the glass door, attempting to re-style my hair into what it was before I walked outside this morning, which thankfully isn't too difficult considering my style is 'just got out of bed'. 'Just got out of the shower' will do.
The Department of Immigration is right next door and there's a long line of immigrants hailing from all parts nervously clutching folders and their young children's hands. Some will be given the right to stay and some will have to return to their poverty filled traps once their current Visas expire. Some will stay illegally, they'll work a shitty job for half the minimum wage and live in dirty cramped conditions that still immeasurably exceed anything they'd otherwise face in their countries of origin. That guy there, maybe he's going to be victim to a racially motivated beating, burned by the bubbling surface of a cultural melting pot on a stove left on the highest setting for too long. Every single one of these desperate souls has a story to tell, but I don't bother asking, its none of my business and I don't feel like talking to them and they don't feel like talking to me. I wish them all the best.
There's one other person standing outside the EEC, he's a funny looking dude with a worn face and medium length faded blonde hair with regrowth revealing it was bleached months ago and is long overdue for a touch up. Or maybe his style is "ratty". He's wearing baggy tan coloured draw string pants and an over sized black and white vertically striped jersey with the number 45 on the back. I recognise it as Michael Jordan's jersey from when he stopped playing basketball and failed miserably at playing baseball. Its a metaphor for this guy, except for the Michael Jordon and baseball and basketball parts. I momentarily catch my reflection again and am reassured by how much more stylish I appear than this fellow, then immediately curse myself for being such a wanker. Deep down though, I'm happy to be of a higher socio-economical background than he is. I secretly revel in being one up on the only other guy waiting to get into the EEC at 9am on a rainy Tuesday morning.
The EEC have three computers set up where you can search for anyone's name, anyone in the entire country, and if they're enrolled to vote you can find their home address. Given that its some sort of offence to be over eighteen and not enrolled to vote, the list contains pretty much everyone. You can't access this database online, you can only use it right here in the EEC building, but anyone can use it. It is much more comprehensive than the white pages and there is no hiding under maiden names. You can request to not be publicly listed but you have to do so in writing or person, and who the fuck thinks of doing that? Hell, I didn't even know this database existed until I got this job. How many people have abused this system and to what means? I make a mental note to get myself taken off the list while I'm here, but by the time I leave I've already forgotten to do this.
I finish my cigarette and the place is open. I'm waiting here for Greg, the middle aged creep/membership co-ordinater who's supposed to be meeting me here with the list of members whose addresses we're trying to track down so we can continue to send them important correspondence. I take a seat across from Michael Jordan who is already seated at a computer. From his bag he takes a large red hard cover book titled "AFL Legends", he opens it and starts searching the EEC name and address database. He's got a Seven Eleven branded bottle of chocolate milk on the desk next to the book and he's writing something onto a piece of scrap paper. There's no one at the front desk, no Greg to be seen so I start reading a bit more of "Brave New World". Mustapha Mond makes a good case for the existence of an eternally happy society at the expense of truth and art and scientific progress. Things seem to be working quite well for them without the influence of passion and emotion but The Savage won't have a bar of it. Hermholtz is looking forward to being banished to an island of free thinkers and poor Bernard Marx was put into a Soma gas induced sleep by the police at the start of the chapter because he wouldn't stop wailing.
Its 10:30 and Greg still hasn't arrived. The rain outside is falling horizontal and the people on the street are shielding their faces with plastic binders. I call work but he's not there either. He may be sitting in his car on the side of a road somewhere reading the newspaper. Every morning Kath gets in at about 9:30 and she tells me there's Greg again downstairs, sitting in the car park in his car, head buried in "The Herald Sun". He never acknowledges her, he just sits there head down and comes into the office about an hour later. Michael Jordan is still at the EEC computer with his book, turning the occasional page, scribbling down more football player's addresses. He's well into the chocolate milk and I may have to appear as a witness to something in a court of law yet. At best he's a rabid autograph hound, at worst an obsessive psychotic murderer.
A plump lady with short grey hair has appeared at the counter so I decide to fill out a form to change my electoral enrolment address. An ageing government bureaucrat who's been working for the public service for decades, she has a warm smile and started down this path because she not only wanted a stable job but felt a genuine need to contribute to the greater good of society, that's her view anyway not mine. Well that's the vibe I get from her. She didn't actually tell me that. In any case its a nice change from the usual vultures and Vogons, she reminds me of my Aunt Beatrice if she'd been a bureaucrat instead of thinking she was a white wizard. Once this form is processed I'll probably get a fine for not voting in the last local council elections, but you can't run from these people forever. And the longer you spend running, the more of your own tax dollars are invested into finding you. I'll just tell them I was deep in the tropical jungles of Laos at the time.
Still no Greg so I take a walk. From Seven Eleven I buy a pouch of Champion Ruby tobacco. "Blue or yellow?" asks the girl. "Yellow", I tell her, but she's pretty intent on giving me blue. "No, yellow" I tell her again, and she glares at me as if I'm trying to fuck with her head and mutters something to herself and swaps it for the yellow pouch. I buy a coffee from a nearby cafe and light another cigarette, the rain has cleared into a fine falling mist. By ten to eleven I'm back at the EEC and Michael Jordan is still there, his scrap of paper now covered in biro scrawlings and his chocolate milk empty. It's been a productive morning for him, not so much for me. With Greg still nowhere to be seen I make the decision to cut my losses and head for the train station, shoes squelching in time as I tread the fresh morning pavement.