Whilst waiting in the customs queue at Melbourne Airport, there was a sign informing us that Channel 7 were currently filming for their Airport-based reality TV show. I was a bit concerned that this might mean the customs staff were going to be even more officious than usual, knowing that they are being filmed. After all, they’d want to be seen doing their jobs properly.
I also thought that having a film crew present would mean that some of the staff might decide to act up their role a bit, wishing to be seen in a certain way by the viewers. Surely, having your actions filmed is going to affect your behaviour on some level, with people acting in a way that best suits the person they want to be seen as being. You might decide that you want to be likeable and come across as a kind person, always willing to help. Or maybe you’d like to be viewed as the joker, ready with a witty line that will find you favour with the people watching. Or you might elect to be seen as the hard-nosed, no nonsense, no bull shit guy, who provides the show with an element of drama and intensity. Hopefully we wouldn’t get thi latter character. Not because we had anything to hide, but simply because we’d both hardly had any sleep over the last thirty hours, and didn’t fancy concluding our day with a confrontational encounter by someone who is hamming up their hostility for some saddo on a sofa.
Might my international career hang in the balance of an amateur actor, attempting to find favour with a film crew and a TV audience? Might I be refused into Australia purely to create the pivotal plot of a humdrum drama? It would have been distressing enough to be refused entry to the country, without having the added ignominy of the whole thing being broadcast on TV.
Perhaps I needed to see this as an opportunity. Maybe if I was compelling as a character then this could launch me into the hearts and minds of the Australian public. I might have to sell-out a bit and exploit my blindness to engender sympathy with the audience. That should help to create a compelling story and gain me a considerable bit of air time. I would have to be alert and at my best, even though I was massively tired and drained, and my mind was rather foggy – I’m probably suffering from deep brain thrombosis. Haha, now that’s a good line for the TV. I’m going to be a hit in Australia. The audience are going to love me, and channel 7 are going to be so impressed that they give me my own TV show.
“Have you got any grain on you madam?” said the lady at customs to the person in front of me at the customs desk. OK, so they’re going to ask me about grain, I thought. Maybe I should prepare a witty one liner, a clever comedic comeback to reel the viewers in. She’d say, “have you got any grain on you sir?” And I could say, “sorry, no, besides I thought it was against the rules for you to smoke on duty.” Would that work? Does that even make sense? I’m too jet-lagged to know. I think it works, and if I said it nonchalantly and really quickly, then the audience would be impressed by my ability to think of jokes quickly. So that’s the deep brain thrombosis line, and now the grain comeback. I can keep listening to the conversation in front of me, which might give me some more ideas for jokes.
The lady in front of me was a bit confused by the question, I don’t think English was her first language, and she might have also been a bit deaf. The film crew would be loving this, having got a disability angle. They had no idea that there was even better to come. They were about to meet their best character yet, the English blind man. Perhaps the film crew would engineer a situation in which me and this deaf lady were detained in a room together, perhaps due to a grain-based complication. The deaf lady didn’t seem to understand the question, and I had made a jocular comment which hadn’t been taken well by the woman at customs. The scene in which the non-English speaking deaf woman and the English blind man try and communicate in detention would be one of the most popular moments of Australian TV in 2016, going viral worldwide.
I don’t know whether the scene with the customs officer and deaf lady will make it onto the Channel 7 show, but just in case you are planning on watching it and don’t want any spoilers, skip straight to the next paragraph. After a bit of confusion, where the deaf lady didn’t seem to understand the question, the customs person named various examples of what she meant by the term grain, and the lady then seemed to understand. “No, no grain,” she replied, and she was allowed to proceed. Presumably if they do show this scene on the TV, they will create a bit of a cliffhanger around it, in which the grain story’s big conclusion will follow the commercial break. It would be a shame to squander such a moment by not building adequate suspense. Although sadly they had missed the opportunity to do the deaf-blind communication scene.
Then it was my turn to be interrogated. This was my moment to shine. It was time to introduce the Australian TV audience to David Eagle, the quick-witted English blind man.
“Good morning,” said the customs lady.
“Good morning,” I replied. Not the most memorable or amazing first line, I admit, but wait until she asks me about grain, and I’d be ready to deliver comedy gold.
I handed her my passport. She scanned it and then mere seconds later, she said, “that’s all fine, you can go through.” Apparently, because we’d filled out a number of forms before travelling, all the information they needed was on their screen. So that was it. No questions about grain. My fleeting hopes of fame and fortune were gone. Unless … There might still be an opportunity to salvage a spot on the TV. I could try and shoehorn in my deep brain thrombosis line.
“Well, I must say, that’s a relief because my brain …”
“Good morning sir,” she said to Sean behind me, completely riding roughshod over my attempts to get the deep brain thrombosis joke out. It was useless, she had talked over the start of the joke and ruined it. And so I walked away, having been granted admition into Australia, but denied my place on Australian TV.
We arrived at the hotel at 11pm Australian time, 12 noon British time. Sean went straight to bed. I sat on the toilet seat and recorded that day’s Dollop in the bathroom. The hotel had WIFI, but you had to pay for it. I was planning on going to go to sleep straight after uploading the Dollop, and then we’d be leaving the hotel first thing in the morning, meaning that I’d have to pay for twenty-four hours of WIFI in order to use it for just ten minutes. But it had to be done. I imagined all your frantic and forlorn faces as the realisation dawned that there was no 69th Dollop. So I connected to the network. Upon connecting, a message popped up, offering a very generous free five minutes of Internet, presumably to suck you in to buying. Five minutes was going to be a challenge. I had to publish the written version, log into the server to upload the audio version, mention the Dollop’s release on Facebook and Twitter, and then edit and upload the RSS feed for podcast providers. It was a race against time, but I won it, with hardly a second to spare.
So now we’re in Australia. Tomorrow we do our first gig. Given the time lag, I already have quite a bit to tell you about things that have happened today, which I will write about in tomorrow’s Dollop. In the meantime, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave a comment, which I will read and reply to when I get more than five minutes of WIFI access.