Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Like many girls from my generation, I did my time in Australian banking institutions.

One of the advantages of working in a bank is that they give you uniforms.

One of the disadvantages of working in a bank is that they give you uniforms.

The picture below will explain those two conflicting sentences.

(I know that my ex-work mates will be pleased to see their identities have been protected.)

Uniforms can be handy. You awake each workday morning and you know exactly what you will be wearing. Unfortunately, you will also know that you will look pathetic.

Now, besides that alarmingly pink uniform, we also had the choice of another uniform which had the shape of a large navy blue pillowcase adorned with a white collar.

But then what could one expect, it was the 1970s and all fashion was ghastly back then.

I enlisted at the time when banks were introducing computers to help with balancing their books.

Now the computers back then were nothing like the lovely little PCs of the Naughties. These computers had memory banks which were huge white monstrosities that required an enormous amount of office floor area and a vigilant caretaker.

They could get so hot and they could be so temperamental that they had to be insulated to a ridiculous degree and kept in a huge glass cage to ensure they remained dust-free and also to ensure that they had a constant temperature similar to the Antarctic environment.

My bank employers had their computer centre in the city centre of Brisbane, Queensland. It was a pleasant enough workplace due to it being a new building with air-conditioning and also we had piped music or muzak to entertain us as we worked.

Each afternoon the daily transactions from the various bank branches about the state would be bundled up and sent to our computer centre.

The cheques and other bits of paper would be encoded by the complicated machines on the floor above my workplace and then I and my workmates would sit at our computer terminals and enter the details of these transactions into the aforementioned memory banks.

Later that night the computer would spit out a forest-worth of paper featuring lots of numbers and then a group of other employees (male only, I might add) would see to it that it all balanced.

Now I know you will already have noted two things about my job. Firstly that it involved shift work and secondly that it was mind-deadingly boring.

When we were hired and trained to work in the computer centre, we were told that we would not be able to transfer to other areas of the bank. So, when I decided that I simply could not bear the job any longer, I decided that my only escape would be to transfer to a different city.

So I moved to my bank’s Sydney computer centre for a while and at first it was okay because the surroundings were different and the people were different but eventually the overwhelming boredom of the job set in once again.

So I applied to work at another bank’s Sydney computer centre where, fortunately, I was granted a position where I was one of those people balancing the numbers instead of being the trained monkey at the computer terminal.

There was one drawback to my new position. My new bank had a uniform that was even more ghastly than the uniforms I had been wearing previously. This one was a grey-blue shapeless thing that buttoned up from neck to hem.

However I decided that I could overcome the humiliation of wearing this fashion atrocity due to the fact that this job was much more stimulating.

After one evening shift at my new job, a co-worker suggested that we all go for a drink. He suggested The Taxi Club. So six people from our shift went off for a mid-week adventure.

When we arrived by taxi at The Taxi Club we found that we were required to mount a large number of steps to arrive at a reasonably inviting room with a bar and tables. There didn’t seem to be many patrons there that evening but we didn’t care as we had our own party and all we really wanted was to imbibe in a number of alcoholic drinks.

When we three girls decided to “play Ladies” and retire to a table with our drinks, we found that we were quickly joined by a trio of transsexuals.

Our three co-worker blokes, being Australian males, steadfastly remained at the bar to ensure that they kept their distance and also to ensure that there were no annoying time-lapses between the getting of the next drink.

Back at our table, there was much conversation and we found our new friends were charming. We six girls talked about fashion, make-up, nail care and all those other girlie things.

When, after a few rum and Cokes, the time came for me to visit the toilet and one of my workmates announced she needed to go too, a couple of our new friends decided to join us.

So the four of us grabbed our handbags and headed to the Ladies Toilet.

It is a sociological fact that girls are very social beings and we simply can’t stop chatting just because we need to do a pee so it is essential that we travel together in a minimum of two when we go to the toilet.

At one point in the evening I approached the bar for another drink and one of my bloke co-workers asked that less than original question, “How do you know if they are blokes?”

He was noting that my new friends were quite attractive but he was also aware that they weren’t quite entirely female.

Being the worldly 19 year old from the deep North I simply gave him the less than original answer that all he needed to do was look at the hands. Blokes have larger hands.

Looking back, I picture us three young girls in our grey-blue bank uniforms sipping mixed drinks and chatting and laughing with those three glamorous transsexuals.

Their make-up was impeccable, their nails long and painted and they were wearing trendy colourful clothes. How dowdy must we three girls in bank uniforms have looked in comparison?

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Now we all have a legitimate, physiological and scientific excuse for those moments when we blurt out those inappropriate things.

Comments such as:

“Off to a fancy dress party, are you?”

“Good Lord! What have you done to your hair?”

“Are you pregnant or just putting on weight, dear?”

Now, as you watch the face of your targets crumple and their eyes tear up, you can point to your brain and say brightly, “Oh dear! Sorry about that. My frontal lobe isn’t quite working today.”

There is one little drawback I must warn you about.

If your targets know anything about the functioning of the brain or they have read the same article as I have just done, then they will know that you really DID mean what you said but couldn’t stop yourself from blurting it out.

However, I am sure that most people are quite unaware of the intricate functioning of the brain and they will immediately forget about their recently hurt feelings and begin to worry about you and your lazy frontal lobe.

I will give you a layperson’s view of the science behind this hypothesis but check this link if you wish to explore the research further.

The hypothesis is that, as the brain deteriorates, people become less able to inhibit themselves from saying inappropriate things. And the researcher states that there is evidence that this bluntness is due to the decline in frontal lobe functioning.

Normally, when you look into a pram and you see the world’s ugliest baby, your frontal lobe will inhibit you from stating this fact. You will be able to take a breath and tell the proud parents, “He is the image of his father, isn’t he?”

Because aging slows down our brain processing, bluntness is seen more in older people. Hence the research has been criticised as an attack on the over 65s.

It seems that there is no credence in our previous assumption that old people had earned the right to be blunt and that they are vessels of wisdom and we should just grin and bear it when they say something insulting to us. In fact, it is just that their frontal lobes are letting them down.

The researcher rightly defends his research and he dismisses the idea that it is age-ist. He points out that it is a health issue for the over 65s as their bluntness and their socially inappropriate questions can mean that these old people will lose their friends and thus they can suffer social consequences.

I am not over 65 but I intend to continue to use my frontal lobe to help me in times of inappropriate bluntness. If I am challenged by someone, I am simply going to say that I have had a blow to my head causing damage to my frontal lobe which will make me say socially inappropriate things from time to time.

Hopefully, sympathy for my plight will excuse my rudeness.

I will forge a doctor’s certificate confirming that my frontal lobe is dodgy if need be.