Round The Bays

“The Journey
The Destination:
A Better Lifestyle For You.
A Brighter Future For
Our Children”

From the Round The Bays Fun Run Information pamphlet.

It was a dreaded sunny day so I decided to participate in the 28th annual Round The Bays fun run. Gathering my brother for some company, I headed off to the city centre for 8.3 kilometres of fun.

Driving around the downtown area at 9.00 am searching for a car park, it seemed that if 80,000 people were going to be in the area that it might possibly be a good idea to have one of the many city council-owned car parks in the area open. In the end I parked in the Sky City car park. On ya.

It was a bit of a rush to get to the start line, but the walk along Quay Street was accompanied by commentary from pseudo-funnyman Willy De Witt.

Finally 9.30 rolled around and Mr De Witt counted down and said “Go!” then a big booming cannon went off. Three minutes later I was able to find room to walk a few steps and finally started my journey around the bays.

By that stage the commentary included the dulcet tones of Miss/Mrs/Ms Helen Clark, prime minister of this fair nation. She stood atop an extended platform, resplendent in a white, green and pink tracksuit.

There were many people from various companies wearing their customised shirts. URLs and nonsensical slogans abounded (“Speed matters. Now more than ever.”).

I had the opportunity to go along as part of a corporate team, but I didn’t. What’s in it for me? I’d still have paid the same entry fee, I would have got a rude-arse singlet and been able to take part in a post-run corporate shin-dig. Not much incentive there. I will walk with a number on my shirt, but not with a name.

On more than one occasion I found myself stuck behind a group of people from various firms who constantly whinged about all sorts of things. One group of women agreed that they were “about a quarter of the way through” when they were actually about three quarters.

It’s not really a true Round The Bays due to the fact that a number of bays at the beginning are not gone around, but are gone through. The race started on the land formerly known as Mechanics Bay, then went over the land bridge that cuts off most of Judges Bay from the sea, then past Hobson Bay. I would have liked to have seen the course go around Hobson Bay. That would have sorted out the corporate whingers doin’ it for The Children from the hardcore athletes.

Back on the course, the next bay was Okahu bay. This was marked by the crunch of plastic cups after a water stop and a line of people waiting to go to the toilet. That’s just silly. Go to the toilet before or after, but don’t go during. But then, people were stopping and buying fast food and others were smoking afterwards, so it’s not really all that surprising.

Around past Bastion Point, and on to Mission Bay, where the first hose ho stood spraying the runners and walkers with her garden hose. Some hose hos were good, in that they sprayed only about half the road, but one old bastard had his hose going across most of the width of the road, meaning that an impromptu wet t-shirt extravaganza took place.

Then there were the mothers with prams. Those three-wheel off-road prams, that, like those 4 Wheel Drive vehicles that never make if off sealed road, will never make it off pavement. Mothers pushing babies or small children in these prams were the most violent and unpleasant thing about the entire event. My heels were whacked on many occasions by the front wheel of one of these prams. The worst bit was when there’d be a large group of pram-wielding mothers all in a row. When faced with them, passing became a tactical manoeuvre. I’d like to see a separate race for the mothers with prams.

Next was Kohimarama Beach, and even more hose hos, then finally around the corner and there was a large banner proclaiming “FINISH”. Somewhere the Venga Boys played. I tally-ho’d off to the finish line, handed my slip to the time keeper and made it in 99 minutes.

If I sucked and didn’t believe in giving free publicity to any company (like the only good publicity is paid publicity), I’d refrain from mentioning the sponsor, but as I don’t suck I shall.

At the finish line I received a nice cold carton of Milo (the ready made stuff, not the powder) and a Kit Kat bar, courtesy of Nestle. I sat down in the sun and nursed my aching feet (my shoes were too small) and got a bit of life back in my arse.

Then off to a service station for a cold non-milk-based beverage, then on to the bus back to the city. The walk from the bus depot back to my car was the hardest, as the two blisters on my feet seemed to be hurting even more.

But I got home, had a shower, then enjoyed a celebratory lunch with my brother.

And you know what the best part was? It was for the children (pronounced “choowdrin”), apparently.

Almost two months later my “Certificate of Merit” showed up. The best part of it is that it shows that I was placed 502nd in the women’s under-25 age group. This slightly alarms me as I am not under 25.

APEC: Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the police.

The APEC summit. Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation. An excuse for a bunch of world leaders to come to Auckland, hang out, and talk about stuff.

I was there, right in the eye of the storm.

Monday 6 September 1999

On the way to work I counted all the manhole cover seals. Most of them were little black squares with numbers on them, designed to tear if they are removed. Smaller manholes and maintenance lids had smaller white stickers.

I was walking home along Vincent Street which is where the Auckland Central Police Station and one of the hotels at APEC people will be staying at is located. I was disturbed to see the normal skanky worn out grass verge suddenly become lush, green grass in a mysterious grid pattern.

Upon closer examination I discovered that the normal skanky grass verge with its bald patches was being covered over with pre-grown grass squares.

It’s so all those APECkers will think “My, what lovely green grass verges New Zealand has. Minister Chiang, let’s remove the trade tarrifs!”

Tuesday 7 September 1999

Walking home past the Carlton Hotel I saw a metal detector in the hotel lobby – the kind where you put your bags on a conveyer belt. The best bit is that from the street I, or any other passing pedestrian, could see the screen that shows the x-rayed bag. What if you were looking and saw a gun or something on it?

Apparently the city of Hamilton is promoting itself as the place for Aucklanders to go during APEC to escape all the madness. Go to Hamilton because nothing major is happening there.

This is a big contrast from the “Hamilton: Where it’s happening” bullshit I had to endure when I was livin’ there.

Wednesday 8 September 1999

I had lunch at Food Alley, which is across the road from the pink hotel on Albert Street where the Americans are staying, but I can never remember its name. While I was there a few guys with APEC name tags came in. Should Bill Clinton want a curry, he could sent one of his fellows across the road to get one.

There are lots of cars with APEC stickers on them around the central city. Some of them are nice new Fords, but others are miscellaneous older vehicles. Some of the stickers say “PROTOCOL”. I don’t really know what that is, exactly, but it sounds really cool.

Thursday 9 September 1999

Walking to work past the Carlton hotel I saw a policeman step out into the road and stop two lanes of on-coming traffic. A car parked by the side of the road then did a u-turn. I thought it was really funny and laughed and the cop looked at me, like maybe I was laughing at him. I am obviously in the wrong line of work. No one stops traffic when I do a u-turn.

When I left for lunch there was a motorcycle cop standing on the corner of Victoria and Albert Streets. An hour later when I came back he was still there. He was just standing there, looking around. His bike was parked a bit down the road on the footpath.

A fire engine pulled up outside Whitcoulls just as I was going in it. When I came out about 10 minutes later there was a cop being interviewed by a TV1 camera crew and a few other APEC-accredited press standing near with notebooks and tape recorders. No apparent fire engine-worthy ruckus could be seen.

According to the Herald the next morning, someone had let off a smoke bomb in the Science Fiction section of Whitcoulls, but there was nothing to be alarmed about.

I saw a movie after work and as I was walking home I saw an old man standing on Mayoral Drive across the road from the Carlton Hotel holding a sign. There were two candles burning and a wooden cross on a stand. The sign said “While you dine, others die”. He appeared to be wearing religious robes of some sort – possibly Catholic. He said he’d been there for a few hours, and wasn’t about to go home yet. He also said he didn’t care if Jenny Shipley didn’t see him. He was happy just standing there.

Further up the road were two cops guarding the perimeter of the Aotea Centre. One was from Taupo, the other from Mount Maunganui. They were both nice fellows. We talked and they said they spend eight hours a day standing around. They did rotate around the perimeter. There were designated spots, marked with letters of the alphabet. They were on the G spot. Hur hur hur.

We talked about violent protesters, about how the secret service and all the foreign diplomatic security people have diplomatic protection, so if you shout “Ha ha, Mr Clinton, I have got a bomb in my pants!!!” they will shoot you.

Friday 10 September 1999

This morning I stopped off at Starbucks and got a grande low-fat hazelnut latte. It was free cos they were giving out free vouchers on opening day. I drank it as I walked to work. I went down Greys Ave and there’s a hotel down there with APECkers in it. There were heaps of Ford Transits parked on the footpath and some cops standing outside. I was approached by a policewoman. The first thought that went through my mind was that she might have thought the coffee was some sort of terrorist device, but she wanted to know where I’d got the coffee from. So I gave her directions to get to Starbucks and she thanked me.

There are a lot of white and orange barriers waiting at the side of various roads for the numerous road blocks. Some of them are provided by a company by the name of “Barricading Solutions”. “Hi, I have a problem, I somehow need to stop cars from driving down certain roads? I can’t think how to do it!” “As a solution, how about putting up some barricades!” “Yes! What a great idea!”

Saturday 11 September 1999

The first day of big road closures in the central city, so I had a walk around town. There was a protest of a few people chanting “APEC go home!”. New Zealand is part of the P in APEC, so, er, to what home to the New Zealand delegates, go to?

Outside the Civic theatre there was a huge mural. A collection of photos of New Zealanders taken by Amnesty International. They photos were cut around the sentence “APEC leaders must put human rights first”. One of the photos was of a girl I went to school with. I hadn’t seen her for seven years. Spooky. It must be, like, fate or something.

I didn’t venture any further down Queen Street, but if I had I very well may have seen Madeline Albright doing some shopping. My flatmate saw her and her posse. He said there were also secret security guys trying to disguise themselves as people hangin’ on the street, but they gave it away by looking around all the time.

Sunday 12 September 1999

I was a bit tired of all the action in the central city so I ventured out West to Waitakere City and enjoyed the novelty of open streets and not seeing a cop on every corner. However the lure of the city was a-callin’ so later in the day I went for a walk in town.

The usual city streets were closed off and police were standing guard in their regular places, so for a bit of excitement I ventured further down Queen Street where it was closed off.

Outside the City Life hotel a group of police were standing around. When they saw me and some other people approaching, they quickly formed a line and requested that we cross to the other side of the road.

From the other side I could see that some important looking Asian people were coming out of the hotel and getting into cars. A late night McDonald’s run, no doubt.

I then walked up Albert Street. As I approached the Stamford Plaza (the big pink hotel where the American President and his posse are staying) a policeman and a secret service guy stepped out. The secret service guy was wearing a black overcoat and was really short. He looked more like and actor playing a secret service guy than a real one. The police officer asked me to cross the road.

I briefly considered saying “Why should I? It is a free country, bloody fascist oink oink piggy boys” but my survival instinct took over and I said “Fair enough” and crossed over.

Then just regular normal blocked off streets and police on corners. I went through a brief period of thinking that a helicopter was following me, but my ego trip soon ended when I realised that it had just been circling over the area and it then took off in the opposite direction.

Monday 13 September 1999

There were pretty much the same road closures as yesterday, but it was meant to be hugely inconvenient due to the fact that people were working. It was sweet for me. I walked to work as I always do. I had a lot less traffic lights to wait at and the only thing inconvenient was the rain which was only really annoying because my skanky shoe started leaking.

Walking past the casino I saw two buses with “Washington Press Corp” signs on the side. Given that the chance of me seeing Bill is pretty rare, I will instead bask in the glory of seeing the transportation of the the people who follow his career.

A few shops were closed because the shopkeepers couldn’t be bothered going to work. Bloody slack arses. I made it to work, walking through the rain with a leaky shoe. This country has no intestinal fortitude.

I was impressed when the police on point duty stopped traffic and signalled for pedestrians to cross.

Apparently police on point duty have been abused by angry drivers. Most of them are from out of Auckland, so they’re going to go home muttering “bloody Dorklanders”.

The promised battle royale between protesters and police yesterday didn’t happen. So it seems that instead of getting out with placards and chanting down Queen Street, the de rigeur form of protest is road rage.

People who haven’t planned ahead or even bothered to take road closures into their travel plans are getting angry and yelling at the police officers. Like the police woke up this morning and said “Hmmm, what can we do today? I know, let’s inconvenience motorists to the point of anger and frustration!”

I think the road-ragers are most angry because it’s not easy to run a stop signal when there’s a person standing in the way.

14 September 1999

A dreaded sunny day, and everything is more or less back to normal.

The streets are again filled with happy shoppers. Shopkeepers are complaining that no one bought anything on Monday, except the Auckland museum gift shop, who sold lots of stuff to Mr President.

The streets are open again and single-driver cars make their way to work. A few APEC-stickered cars are among them.

Aotea square is open home again to the usual assortment of folks who like to hang out there. A couple of park benches nearby are again home to two men.

And it’s all over. My excuse for collecting amusing anecdotes is conveniently gone, but it was lots of fun, and I’m saving up to go to wherever the next APEC will be held next year.

Hotpants and Boredom

“Hey Robyn, we need people to work at the show next weekend. You’ll get a day off in lieu. Are you interested?”

“OK, sure. Sounds like fun!”

Yeah, it sounded like a fun thing to do. There was an trade show exhibiting things that men are supposed to be into. Cars, stereos and other things that do things. The company I work for had a stand with its new thing that does stuff and needed people to make it seem REALLY EXCITING. So I volunteered.

The first sign that things were about to go horribly wrong was the t-shirts. Some had been printed up for the show, unfortunately they were fitted mens t-shirts and were very very snug-fitting. I tried on an XL-sized one and was shocked and terrified by what I saw. It fit, it just fit too well. The phrase “ample-bosomed” came to mind.

The alternative was a black XXL-sized Beefy-T, which I was instructed to wear with black jeans. It looked like a metaller maternity wear. All that was needed was “Metallica… and justice for all” to be printed on the back of the t-shirt. I would have probably looked more glamourous in a pink muu-muu.

I arrived at the show and discovered the following. Because I was female, it was deemed that I knew nothing about anything even vaguely technical and therefore would be spending the day handing out bags with a trial CD in them.

So I stood there with a bundle of bags, looking like a metaller chick saying “Would you like a bag?” to anyone who walked past. Unfortunately the girls in mini skirts on another stand were getting more attention and the predominantly male attendees were ignoring me.

The guy who was in charge of the stand decided that I wasn’t working hard enough and came over to show me “how it’s done.” He thrust a bag towards a startled man and said “Here! It’s free!” the man continued to be startled and walked on. He would have had more luck if he was in hot pants. After a few more attempts he finally got someone to take one and told me to do the same. Right-o.

Then disaster struck. We were running out of bags! I seized this opportunity to grab some CDs, bags and free trial stickers and ran up to the exhibitors lounge to make them up.

The exhibitors lounge was an enclosed area on a sort of mezzanine level that overlooked the exhibition hall. From there a most disturbing thing could be heard. There was a stand somewhere that was playing a Fleetwood Mac greatest hits CD over and over again. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow when I’d be at home!

I sat at a table stickering CDs then putting the CDs into bags. Behind me were two models dressed in hot pants and tank tops who were working for a tyre shop’s stand.

They appeared to have only met the day before, and I sat listening to one of them say stuff like, “When I was 17 I got pregnant and I really wanted to keep the baby, and my boyfriend did too, but we decided to adopt it so we did. I’ve been trying now to have a baby with my partner, but we haven’t had much luck. I think I might stick with modelling for a few more years…”

I brought a couple of boxes of filled bags down and was afforded half an hour for a lunch break. I wandered around looking at the other stands. Cars. Stereos. Boats. Televisions. Motorbikes. Disposable razors. Oh, it was all there.

Then it was back to the bags. This time a man and a woman who hadn’t seen each other for a few years were catching up.

“I’m operating a franchise for motorcycle parts and maintenance. It’ll take a few years to break even, but as we are operating a quality operation, we’ll be there in no time.”

“I’m a rep for a company that sells high-quality audio and video cabling. You know, people don’t realise that the quality of the cables can really make the difference.”

“I know what you man. I was at another stand here and the bloke there offered me a 10% exhibitors discount, but I said, “Mate, I don’t expect a discount.” I wouldn’t give him one, and I don’t expect him to give me one. Guys come in and say “Can I get 10% off for cash?” No, you bloody well can not. What they don’t realise is that they are paying for quality and if I give them a discount, the quality suffers.”

“I know what you mean. People think we are wholesale, but we’re not. We’re retail and because of that we can’t give discounts.”

“That’s bloody right!”

Then a guy from the stand that was playing the Fleetwood Mac album continuously came in. Someone asked him about it and he explained that they had brought a large selection of CDs to the show, but whenever they played the Fleetwood Mac CD, it attracted lots of people.

I stickered more. I bagged more.

The husband and wife owners of the tyre shop were taking a break and talking with the models. “We were originally going to have you girls in mini-skirts, but we thought, if you’re going to actually be doing things with tyres, you’d be better off in hot pants.” The models agreed.

Finally, finally, it all came to an end, and I got to go home.

I had learned a number of valuable lessons:

1. Do not participate in anything that requires you to dress like a pregnant metaller.

2. If you are unable to muster up enthusiasm towards complete strangers about things you feel ambivalent about, go upstairs.

3. Avoid companies that employ people dressed in hot pants.

4. Playing Fleetwood Mac continuously is not a sign of a healthy mind.

5. If you’re feeling really dorky dressed like a metaller, and people are ignoring you in favour of girls in hot pants, being yelled at by the man in charge is does not do wonders for self-confidence.

6. But going around getting free stuff is cool.

I shall chalk it up to experience.