The Commute

12 September 2016

To say it’s a different experience this time round would be a monumental understatement. I’m currently performing in this year’s comedy festival show with my husband of almost ten years. We now have two not-so-low-maintenance children, which meant creating a highly complex night-time babysitting roster on an excel spreadsheet the size of our kitchen wall. Add into the mix a full-time writing job and the 45 minute commute (each way) from Seaford to Carlton’s Trades Hall six nights a week for three and a half weeks, and the comedy festival is a proving to be a much more challenging and chaotic joyride…if it’s possible to have a joyride in a late 90’s model Subaru station wagon.

Yes, there has been quite a bit of driving in our lives of late, particularly since my husband and I made the decision to leave our inner-city bayside suburb for an outer bayside suburb two years ago. We may have relocated but our social and work engagements have not, which means that there are some days where one, or four of us, can easily spend upwards of three hours in the car. In fact, our kids are so used to the 45-minute drive into “town” that they can barely contain their amazement when a trip in the car to the local shopping centre maxes out at a five-minute journey. My husband and I have a strong (and probably completely groundless) opposition to having DVD players in the car, so our screen-deprived children are reduced to ye olde methods of passing the time, like singing, reading, playing eye spy and tormenting other. And us. This occasionally backfires on us when we are stuck in peak hour traffic with two over-tired and over-it kids who are literally clawing at the back windows for some kind of stimulation that doesn’t involve guessing the identity of random parts of the car’s interior.

Luckily, I’m capable and confident behind the wheel. As a twenty-something out-of-work actor I worked for eighteen months as a courtesy car driver, a job in which I mostly ferried rich folks around after they’d dropped their LX7 off at Brighton Mazda for an oil change. I also did an advanced driving course when I was about 19…I should probably mention that the reason I did the advanced driving course in the first place is because I was ordered to do so by a court of law after I drove my boyfriend’s panel van onto the wrong side of the road in Williamstown and wiped out six parked cars. Yeah, OK, so that whole “capable and confident” thing didn’t exactly happen overnight.

So, yes, the driving back and forth for our comedy festival run was always a daunting prospect and one that we tried to approach with as practical and realistic an attitude as we could muster.
As it turned out, I am blessed with a mother-in-law who I hereby ordain as the Patron Saint of Grannys. She announced a few weeks ago that she would give up her three-bedroom apartment for ten nights during the festival madness and move in with a friend, so that the four of us could take over her abode and make the whole experience a little easier all round. And what a revelation it has been! After making the 45-50 minute drive each way into “town” numerous times a week, the ease and wonder of walking out the front door of the Southbank complex and taking a leisurely stroll through the city to our show venue has been so painless that it has almost brought me to tears on a few occasions.
Don’t get me wrong, we love and adore our house in the beachy suburb of Seaford, but there’s no denying that the driving necessary for my husband and I to make a living and pay the mortgage has been, for the most part, a major pain in the arse. I say “for the most part” because in the two years we have been living there I have had more story ideas than ever before – and these brainwaves nearly all seem to take place in the car.

There’s something about getting behind the wheel, turning up the music and heading down the highway, away from the chaotic nature of life on your feet, that jolts my brain into some kind of awakening where ideas and the imagination are given permission to run rampant. I would say that at least 90% of everything I’ve conceived and written over the past couple of years has come to me whilst driving, including tv scripts, blogs and the show I am currently doing in the festival. So, you know, every cloud and all that.

But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the idea of moving back into the heart of the heaving city of Melbourne isn’t a completely tempting and appealing one. Think I might need to go for a 45-minute drive to clear my head and figure this one out once and for all…


First posted in 2012

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