Stacks On!  In Your Face with a Business Case

Huzzah!  Christina Aguilera is coming to perform a one-off show in Melbourne later this year.  The breathless announcement came earlier this week and made clear that this event is not a result of mere happenstance but has come to be because of a fabulous Government initiative.  Hooray for everyone!  But as overwhelmed with excitement as I am to the point of being barely able to function, given the recent somewhat unpleasant business involving a major international sporting event being dumped with all the dignity of a soiled mattress, it’s incumbent on all of us to ask one, simple question – does the business case stack up?

I’ll be honest; there was a time when I thought a ‘business case’ was the thing you used to take your lunch to work.  When I got my first office job, my business case was one I’d acquired from a second-hand store.  It was old and falling apart.  At one point, the handle unravelled; meaning that when I carried it, errant staples dug into the palm of my hand.  Then the bottom fell out, along with my lunch.  It was at that point that I decided that this particular business case no longer stacked up and I replaced it with a satchel.

I’ve since become aware that a business case is a key determinant as to whether something should or shouldn’t happen.  Often, they’re associated with large-scale events but there’s no reason why they couldn’t also help inform everyday activities.  Just yesterday, I declined to unload the dishwasher because the business case didn’t stack up.  This was in stark contrast to the dishes themselves, which stacked up quite neatly.  Having weighed up the likely economic cost and benefit of emptying the dishwasher, I concluded that the most fiscally responsible course from here on out would be to eat with my hands.  It’s working a treat.

I’m beginning to see everything in a completely different light.  I’ve decided that before I next agree to put the bins out, I should refer the question to an inquiry and see what the experts have to say.  From there, I’ll probably form some kind of committee to reject the report before engaging a second set of more expensive experts to give me another report that recommends the development of a business case.  Granted, by the time it’s done, there may well be rubbish piled up to the roof, but if I do ultimately decide to take the bins out, it’ll be a decision that’s supported by the best information available.  There’ll be no question that it stacks up.

For those of you who think the very idea of a business case is as interesting as sewing a button or cleaning the lint from your uncle’s favourite jacket, I can only say that you are monstrously mistaken.  A business case is so much more that a set of figures and financial analysis.  A decent business case is like a wild stallion that is prone to being spooked and easily startled.  It’s for this reason that opposing sides to an argument can have conflicting views on whether a particular business case stacks up or stacks down.

But what recent weeks have demonstrated is that you no longer need two opposing sides to have conflicting views over a business case.  Rather, you need only one side and about fifteen months to undergo the metamorphosis from ‘stacked’ to ‘unstacked’.  This, it must be said, is groundbreaking. 

Previously, I was unaware that a business case could, in effect, go off like a carton of milk in the sun if given enough time.  Who was responsible for leaving the business case out of the fridge has, to date, not been satisfactorily answered and, I feel, whether or not an answer will or won’t be given may, of itself, be the subject of a business case.

Clearly, a business case can be a volatile thing, capable of turning at any moment, striking out at anyone unfortunate enough to be standing nearby.  What’s not clear is how something that, last year, stacked up, was a short time later found to be wanting; failing to stack up to the point of complete collapse.  Like fiscal Jenga, did someone pull out a vital block that caused the entire business case stack to collapse?  Who can say?

But if there’s anything that the calamitous experience of not hosting the Commonwealth Games has taught us, it’s that you should always have a Plan B.  I, for one, do not want a situation where Christina Aguilera is turned away at customs after arriving at Tullamarine Airport.  Luckily, I have the perfect solution.

As a teenager, I was in a band called 20/20 Vision. Once we played the Hastings Day Parade on a flatbed truck.  We stood on the back of that thing, trying to keep our balance as the generator powered our amps and guitars.  People loved it.  Mostly they loved the fact that we were moving and they only had to suffer through our original songs for a few seconds before we were gone, but they loved it all the same. 

If, God forbid, the business case should unexpectedly unstack itself before the big performance, my hope is that we can dig out the flatbed and the generator and send Christina Aguilera sailing down High Street Hastings on a Saturday morning.  Granted, she’s a fabulous artist who deserves more than a flatbed truck.  But I figure while it may not be ‘Beautiful’, at least it stacks up.

My World Cup Runneth Over

I’ve never really been that into sport.  I played, for a time, but found that I excelled more at falling over than keeping my balance.  It may well be a metaphor for life more generally.  I was bowled, knocked over, walloped, thumped, stumped, struck and skittled more times than I can mention.  Indeed, if these were the metrics of a champion, there’d be a statue of me outside the MCG.  Granted, it wouldn’t be made bronze; more likely marshmallow or some other spongy, pliable, sugar-fuelled substance, in keeping with its subject.  But match stats rarely celebrate players for the number of times they gripped their knees whilst trying to catch their breath instead of the ball.  More’s the pity.

Like any kid, I tried to support a football team but, for a host of reasons, lost interest.   I appreciate it’s heresy, but I failed to appreciate how important loyalty was.  When I was seven, I switch allegiance from Essendon to Carlton – an act my father described as possibly the greatest betrayal to ever occur outside of wartime.  There were football cards, of which I collected a grand total of about fifteen, including my personal favourite – Bruce Doull – or as he was known then, ‘The Flying Doormat’.  I didn’t understand what it meant then any more than I do now, but I like it all the same.

I even went to some football matches.  My father is a member of the MCC.  His ritual was to pack a small travel bag – the type that travel agents used to dispense whenever you booked a major trip – and included a thermos of sweet tea and a packet of chocolate biscuits.  Most commonly ‘Gaiety’.  Presumably, Tim Tams were considered too extreme and Iced Vovos too fiddly, so ‘Gaiety’ it was.  This was a strategic masterstroke because, my father reasoned, the food at the ground was prohibitively expensive.

But biscuits are one thing.  Full-blown insanity is another matter entirely.  My father didn’t simply spectate; he participated by way of advanced bellowing that might be regarded in some cultures as a declaration of war.  Conceptually, these outbursts are amusing.  Up close, they’re terrifying.  I was horrified.  The atmosphere was febrile and teetered on the precipice of chaos as fellow spectators weighed up whether to laugh it off or, alternatively, hide under their seats to avoid the spray of invective.

At a certain point, I stopped going to large sporting events.  That’s not to say that I didn’t take in my fair share of junior soccer, football and basketball games.  I’ve navigated draughty multi-purpose venues in a dazzling array of far-flung suburbs, all in the name of supporting a family member.  But as for large-scale sporting spectacles, it’s been some decades.  Until, of course, the world cup.

Meeting someone is something of a Venn-diagram experience.   You overlap where you have something in common; something that can be shared and built upon.  And as glorious as this common ground is, just as significant are those things where you differ. 

We bonded over music.  So much so that we even started writing and performing music together.  But Katrina’s other great passion is football.  By which, of course, I mean ‘soccer’.  As someone who had come here from Dublin, the Women’s World Cup tournament presented a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the Irish national team play in Australia.  And so it was that I found myself agreeing to go to Perth to see a football match between Ireland and Canada.  As you do.

It was raining and cold.  We arrived at the stadium to find that at least ninety percent of the spectators were there to support Ireland.  The stadium was a sea of green with a few, small flecks of red.  When it came time to sing the national anthems, it was somewhat even.  They played the Canadian anthem first and, from the results, I couldn’t even tell you whether or not it had words.  When time came for the Irish national anthem, things were a lot louder.  It was sung in Irish and had the stadium had a roof, it would surely have been lifted by the sound of thousands of voices singing at full volume.  That was just the beginning.

There was then the matter of football chants.  It’s a subject I know nearly nothing about.  It’s a subject on which Katrina could well be considered, if not an expert then, possibly, a world champion.  She wasted no time in starting several chants.  It soon became apparent that those at our end of the ground began to see Katrina as their leader as she led a full-throated rendition of ‘Olé, Olé, Olé’.  I asked for a translation and learned that, roughly speaking, this translates into English as ‘Olé, Olé, Olé’.

The chanting was one thing.  The heckling was another.  The Canadian team were very good, playing a strong brand of possession football.  It was easy to see why they were the reigning Olympic champions.  However, they did have an unfortunate habit of collapsing to the ground and writhing around in imaginary pain whenever Ireland had momentum.  This provoked calls from Katrina to ‘get them an ambulance’ and then, when the player inevitably returned to their feet having sufficiently disrupted the game, a cry of ‘it’s a miracle!’ 

Things have come full circle.  Once, I shrank with embarrassment when my father shouted at football matches.  Now, all these years later, I’m back where I started, but I no longer feel embarrassed.  Instead, I accept it.  All of it.  Now being forced out of my comfort zone (which is, admittedly, gigantic) is something to be grateful for.  And I am.  Ireland lost the match but won the singing.  And we were happy. 

Chiro-mania! Revealing the Bare Truth

Everything changed.  In an instant, I was cast into an abyss of doubt in which I began to question everything I’d done over the past twenty-five years.  Worst of all, this momentous revelation occurred through an interaction that, for anyone else, would be considered pedestrian to the point of dull but, for me, was a seismic shock to the system.  Maybe I should have seen it coming.  Perhaps I should have prepared myself and braced for the inevitable impact.  Or, then again, it might be fair enough.  After all, does anyone really expect their life to be upended because they visited the chiropractor?

Moving house means a lot of things.  It requires you put your life into cardboard boxes, to remove all trace of yourself from wherever it was you had – until that point – called home and to disconnect yourself from the routines and rituals you’d formed.  And, if you’re moving far enough away, it means changing all your service providers.  Dry cleaner, grocer and medical professionals – you’re forced to start from scratch.  And so it was that I went in search of a new chiropractor.

I’ve been seeing a chiropractor for a long time.  This is a result of having one leg that is slightly longer than the other, after I broke one falling out of a tree.  I wasn’t my best moment.  I took a rope, slung it over a branch and tried to swing like Tarzan only for the rope to slide off the end and for me to fall from the sky like a meteor.  That is, if a meteor wore gumboots.  The resulting break saw me miss six weeks of school and end up with an odd pair of legs.  And a lifetime of chiropractic appointments.

I had a guy.  I’d been seeing him since my twenties and, each visit, the routine was exactly the same.  I would wait in the appropriately titled ‘waiting room’, thumb through a vintage copy of ‘Time’ magazine to catch up on some not-so-current events and avoid making eye contact with the other patients.  Feel free to quiz me on the state of the Democratic caucus in 1997 or the cultural significance of ‘The Joy Luck Club’ – I am completely up to date with being totally out of date.  ‘Time’ it seems, is not timeless.

When my name was called, I’d enter the treatment room, get undressed and wait in socks and underwear for the chiropractor to arrive.  Then the adjustment would begin.  It was an intensely physical process that often sounded like someone was walking across a sea of cornflakes as my spine was whipped into shape.  Having to get undressed was not my favourite thing, but it’s something you get used to, given enough time.

But moving across town meant I couldn’t see my chiropractor anymore.  It was, as much as anything, about a need to move on from much more than regular chiropractic care.  It happens sometimes.  It was strangely sad to book one last appointment.  And then it was done.  Now I’ll never keep up with the current affairs of 1998.

As I always do, I left it too long.  I don’t know why, but there seemed to be a lot of things to do to settle in and finding a new chiropractor was a fair way down the list even though I’d been lifting, twisting and shifting all kinds of things as part of the big move.  Eventually, though, it was obvious I was going to need an adjustment.

I found somewhere within walking distance and booked and appointment.  As you do on a first visit, I filled in an extensive questionnaire and waited.  Time magazine, from this era or any other, was conspicuous for its absence.  When it came time for my appointment, the chiropractor showed great interest in my survey, noting that I’d had surgery on my arm a few years earlier.  I replied that she’d see the scar soon enough.  Then it came time for an adjustment.  The chiropractor asked me to remove my shoes and my raincoat.  And nothing else.

Talk about awkward!  That comment about seeing my scar would – at best – have seemed weird if not downright bizarre.  I remained coatless and shoeless but otherwise fully dressed the entire time.  Then it hit me – now that I think about it, I don’t recall my last chiropractor ever asking me to strip off at each appointment.  Perhaps I had just assumed that should be the case and he was simply too polite to correct me.

It now seems quite likely that I’ve been turning up and stripping off on a monthly basis needlessly.  Maybe (and I can’t be sure) it was required at the first appointment after which I simply assumed.  It was so long ago – back when the current events described in the Time magazines in the waiting room were, in fact, current, and not merely interesting from an historical perspective. 

This changes everything.  Not only do I feel humiliated beyond belief at having stripped down to my underwear for decades of chiropractic appointments, I’m starting to question whether I should have been disrobing on tram trips and visits to the supermarket too, to say nothing of work meetings.  I’ll say this much, if I’ve been wrong on this the entire time, it would explain an awful lot.

Having been adjusted by my new chiropractor, I feel a lot better.  About my back, at any rate.  And that, I feel, is some comfort.  Ultimately, a chiropractor’s preference in terms of near-nudity shouldn’t matter that much.  But it’s a sign, if it were needed, of just how much things have changed.