October 11, 2000
Another Continent Heard From


Jubilant co-workers were lining up, three-deep, outside my office yesterday afternoon. Most of them wanted to know when we'd be popping the cork on the champagne.

"First of all, " I told them, "it'll be sparkling apple cider, not champagne." My days of stashing a half-empty bottle of André Extra Dry in my bottom desk drawer are long past.

(Lots of Frowny Faces, all around. Lots of "party pooper," muttered sotto voce.)

"And second of all," I continued undaunted, "NOBODY celebrates until that airplane leaves the ground tomorrow night." And I cast a meaningful glance towards Franz' dark and empty office, across the hall from mine.

I can't help it. I'm superstitious about these things.

If I am learning anything in my old age -- and I'd damn well better be learning something, considering that these trick-or-treat bags under my eyes are now turning into 40-fudking-lb. POTATO SACKS -- it is this:

  • You don't spend your paycheck until the money is in the bank.
  • You don't send the housewarming gift until the first month's rent has been paid.
  • You don't plan the wedding until the [size nine/cubic zirconium is ok] ring is on your finger.
  • And you don't start the P*A*R*T*Y until the boss is 35,000 feet in the air.

Assorted pals, acquaintances and dismayed *FootNotes* readers from Down Under are beginning to react to the news that I'm foisting Franz on them for the next three weeks. Random sampling from my cyber mailbox:

From Anna:


That is so scary ...

(hiding, for the next month)"

From Lilu:

"Sheist! You're sending him to my country? hahahahahaha!

... more than likely he'll come back whining about how cruel and awful Australians can be. You see, we're usually pretty laid back, until someone crosses us, or bugs us, or just generally acts stupid. (add to the fact that he's American then we'll see....)

I just hope he doesn't run into my ex - he has a little thing about taking Americans under his wing and teaching them the ropes... like how to NOT look at those big fat aborigine men with clubs on Sydney harbour bridge, whose sole mission in life is to keep kangaroos off the bridge so they won't upset traffic.... **L** They're always so surprised to find out that these men don't actually exist......

And from the ever-helpful Peter Cave:

"Australia is unfortunate in having many species of venomous creatures, both on land and in the sea, including:
  • 38 terrestrial snakes and 23 sea snakes.
  • Poisonous insects and arachnids include 22 spiders, 4 ants, the honey bee, 3 wasps, 2 beetles(!), 6 scorpions, 2 caterpillars, centipedes, millipedes, mosquitoes, sandflies, thrips and other insects.
  • The platypus and echidna both have venomous defence systems.
  • Venemous creatures in the coastal waters include 2 blue-ringed octopi, 7 jellyfish, cone shells, 2 stonefish, 21 other fishes including the flathead, the Port Jackson shark, 11 rays, starfish including the crown of thorns, corals, anemonies, urchins, stinging sponges, marine worms, leeches, frogs and toads.
  • As far as snakes go, Australia is home to the ten most lethal in the world, and of the world's top 25 venomous snakes, Australia has 21. The diamond-backed rattlesnake is ranked number 25 in the world, with the Indian cobra and black mamba 12th and 13th respectively!
  • In the seas and rivers there are huge man eating sharks and crocodiles and a fully grown kangaroo can disembowel a human being with one slash of its razor sharp toenail."

Monday -- the aforementioned *Day in Totem Pole Hell* -- was Franz' last full day in the office before his vacation. 

(Please don't make me write about Monday. Monday = bad. Just thinking about Monday causes everything in my entire body to clench ... andnotinagoodway.)

Yesterday -- Tuesday -- he blew through the office for about an hour and a half: just long enough to turn his briefcase upside down and dump the contents onto the middle of my desk (yes, he really does that) ... and to make sure he had a current list of home phone numbers and addresses for everybody in the company (I *accidentally* transposed the last two numbers of my home phone number, as usual) ... and to stick little scribbled Post-It notes all over everything in his office, including one on his dwarf schleffera (Water me twice a week!) ...

... and to walk around the office giving every female Totem Pole Employee a courtly kiss on the hand/every male Totem Pole Employee a splitting headache (or was that the other way around?) ...

... and then he was gone. *Poof.* Just like that.

No more Franz.

That was the point at which my co-workers began to emerge from cubicles and offices, like timid Munchkins emerging from their big Technicolor mushrooms, gathering expectantly in front of my door with champagne glasses in hand. "Trust me," I said, when I saw their little crestfallen faces. "It will feel more like a celebration if we wait until he's really gone."  As much as I would have loved to declare this office Party Central, right then and there, I didn't want to jinx it by jumping the gun.  I stilldon't. According to my watch, we still have another two hours and seventeen minutes until that Qantas 747 lifts off from the runway, and Franz and the lovely Mrs. Franz are cracking open that first bag of airline peanuts.

Anything can go wrong between now and then.

The Aussie airline pilots could go on strike. Bad weather could postpone the flight. (Rain -- while a great sleep inducer/nerve-soother/aphrodisiac -- plays havoc with flight schedules.) They could hit a goose in mid-air. They could run out of gas.

They could run out of peanuts.

I'm monitoring the Qantas website this afternoon (departures/arrivals page) with the feverish, obsessive attention I used to reserve for the Baby Boomer Chat Room. The instant that I see Flight #4479 has lifted off ... the party begins.

Everywhere except AUSTRALIA, anyway.

throw a rock