Now that Christmas, New Years Eve and other such wearisome pastimes are well and truly behind us, it’s time to kick back, relax, and try as hard as possible to forget about the dread inevitability of another holiday season lurking just around the corner, readying itself to jump out and cosh you between the eyes with a weighted stocking in roughly twelve months time. And as you finally get ‘round to throwing away the grot of Christmas past – empty bottles, gifts that you hated, the body of the puppy that turned out not to be for life (or not my life, anyway) – one’s mind can’t help but turn to certain other detritus, the removal of which would make not only next Yuletide but life in general ever so much more palatable.
I am talking, of course, about elderly relatives. No trash would seem in more dire need of disposal. Wouldn’t Xmas be infinitely more appealing, more bearable without the wet and clammy kisses from Great Aunt Maude? Minus the endlessly repetitive conversations with Pops, as he forgets your name, the date, where his teeth are, and basic bowel control every five minutes? Lacking Cousin Ethel’s comments about the filthy Japs next door eating nothing but cat? Or without Uncle Roger’s traditional festive grope? Isn’t it about time that, instead of suffering dutifully through yet another tiresome family engagement and wondering that your DNA could be shared by so vile a crew of ambulatory prunes, you simply gave Grandmère a tot of sherry, led her gently down to the end of the garden, and with all due tenderness and respect, clipped her? Rather a 12 gauge with love therein, than being told once again you look like your dad, except girlier…
Oddly enough, the answer to all the above questions is ‘no’, although not for reasons moral, legal or even hygienic (the latter is a factor, mind: turns out old ladies smell even worse on the inside). But before you cry foul, and question ol’ Jon’s hitherto unflinching dedication to violent solutions, let me explain by means of a rather non-sequitous digression.
Recently, for reasons beyond comprehension but which may have had something to do with the friendly bottle of vodka I’d just shared lunch with, my aimless feet led me towards a pokies venue. By and large I am not a gambling man (gambling generally requiring money, and money having a loathsome habit of not belonging to me) but being in a frivolous sort of mood, I sat down at one of the glittering neon beasts and fed it a couple of shekels. And was promptly bewildered.
Have you ever tried playing the pokies? I am, appearance and inarticulacy to the contrary, a reasonably intelligent chap: I once read an actual book, and if prodded hard enough can recite pi to three places. My huge and pulsating brain can not, however, fathom how to operate a pokie machine. There are whirring rows of symbols and digits, and labyrinthine patterns to follow, and options to maximize your betting potential; there are buttons which, when pressed, make the machine scream and light up orgasmically, and buttons which, when pressed, don’t do anything; there are gaudy pictures of pirates, and geishas and fat men with cigars who occasionally prompt you to pick a card, any card; there is constant loud music piped straight out of an elevator somewhere in the depths of hell. Nothing follows any logical rules. There are no instructions. It is terrifying, and then it all stops and you are two dollars poorer and on the brink of an epileptic seizure.
It is a proven, scientific fact that no sane, able-minded, balanced individual can comprehend the Byzantine laws that govern the playing of pokies. As I gazed around me that afternoon, though, I saw that the room was jam-packed with the grey husks of a nursing home holiday field trip, who were not only managing to work the damn machines, but were regularly winning, and enjoying themselves to boot. That day, my curiosity and cupidity were both piqued. Spurred on by intimations of impending wealth I have since learned that leading gerontologists have recently discovered that one’s ability to recall (for instance) whether or not underpants are worn on the outside operates in inverse proportion to an instinctive understanding of when to double down, and which particular sequence of blinking lights is most likely to precipitate a spill of twenty cent coins into your lap. The body may be a drooling wreck, and the IQ reduced to that of the average bowl of custard, but in every wrinkly lurks a potential gold mine.
Ladies and gentlemen, I implore you: resist your urges, however natural, and do not send your elderly relatives to be made into glue. The power of the grey dollar is yours to harness – and I do mean literally. I have invented a comfortable by unyielding yoke with which to strap Granny or Gramps down in the local RSL or golf club pokie room, and will gladly sell the blueprints to regular Sterne readers at a generous discount (comes with free optional funnel, tube and bucket attachment: time is money, and toilet breaks are dollars down the drain). At an investment of $10 each and a Vegemite sandwich per day, I currently have Aunty Maude and Uncle Roger turning over, on average, a 75% profit. Don’t miss your chance to benefit from the wisdom of your elders! Their generation has seen two world wars, watched man land on the moon, witnessed new horizons of possibility come into view, and played their part in making all we take for granted a reality: they have earned our respect; now, let them earn us some pocket money too. Somebody’s got to keep us in Gucci handbags, after all.