There’s a lot in the paper about the upcoming 2018 Schoolies Week, which actually isn’t a week, it’s more like Schoolies Month, but the mere thought of there being a ‘Schoolies Month’ would send most parents and every local council in the tourist areas running for the hills while clutching at a bottle of Valium.
For any non-Aussies reading this, you may not know what I’m talking about. I first heard about Schoolies Week when my kids were at Primary School, but at that point in time, it was simply a vague event in the possible future, so far away that I could patronisingly chuckle at the stress and terror of the parents of the students who were about to embark on their Schoolies adventure. Then as my kids began to approach the second half of their Secondary School career, I started to experience the full onslaught of the worry, anxiety and outright panic about my children’s upcoming debut into drunken debauchery, as I heard them begin to discuss with their friends, ‘Where are we going for Schoolies?’
‘Schoolies’ happens when the Year 12’s finish their exams. Finally released from all school restraints, intoxicated with their new-found liberty, our fresh-faced young adults take off with their friends and head into unknown territory for a week. Alone, without the supervision of any ‘responsible’ adults (i.e. parents or teachers), intent on experiencing the full gamut of life that’s available to them now they’ve left school and achieved adulthood, they head off into uncharted waters (especially if they’re going to Rottnest Island), where an entirely new dimension of experiences awaiting them.
Experiences like getting so drunk that you can’t remember a) where you are or b) how you got there, closely followed by confusion about the people you’ve woken up with, i.e. who are they? After that it’s time to embark on a little investigative detective work because there’s a vile smell. This detective work is much trickier than you vaguely remember that it ought to be; your brain just doesn’t seem to want to work. At all. Like, really not at all. This isn’t Calculus, for heaven’s sake, you’re just trying to work out what the smell is. Regrettably, your brain won’t surface from the murky depths in which it’s wallowing.
After a bit of a struggle, with you trying to wrestle your brain and get it to wake the eff up, for Christs’ sake, you then realise why your brain was so reluctant to move: it’s damaged! Holy cow! Some serious head injury must have happened during the evening because the simple act of lifting your head causes extreme agony to the point where you get dots in front of your eyes! You didn’t know that could actually happen except for at the moment of impact when something actually hit you. You spend a few moments reflecting on this new-found piece of information and hazily wonder whether you’ve just discovered a new scientific breakthrough.
Then you try to open your eyes. What the hell happened? Is Armageddon here or something? The sun is so much brighter than it normally is. Did some star go Supernova or something? And the sound! The noise coming from the air conditioning unit is like standing in front of the speakers at an AC/DC concert! What is wrong with the thing? Someone needs to see to the damned device.
There’s another period of time spent while you lie there feeling disgruntled about the appalling smell (as well as the ear-splitting noise and the blinding light), wishing that you could cobble together enough brain power and energy to get out of bed (or up off the floor), close the curtains and switch off the air con to give your poor, damaged brain a little respite, but most of all, you want to tell whoever it is that’s stinking the place out to get their act together and go and clean themselves up, because it’s disgusting and extremely selfish to just lie there, smelling as badly as they do and imposing that stench on everyone else. You’re assuming it’s a person, you’re hoping that it’s not the floor or a piece of furniture that’s smelling because even in the state of damage that your brain is currently in, you know that it’s much easier to clean a person and get the smell out of them, than it is to clean a floor or a piece of furniture. Pray to god, it’s not a piece of furniture that’s smelling.
Raising your head, taking care to move your head as slowly and gently as you can, you gingerly look around to see if you can locate the source of that awful smell. That tiny movement of your head sparks a foggy memory and you can put a name to the smell: it’s the stench of vomit! Some moron has puked somewhere. And the main reason you’ve identified the smell is because that tiny head movement has brought you close to barfing yourself! Swallowing the urge to throw up, and moving as carefully as you possibly can, you look around for the selfish moron who’s spewed and hasn’t bothered cleaning it up. You mentally sneer at your pathetic roommate: obviously, they can’t take their drink, the lightweight. Your eyes drift over your own body and your brain slowly begins to light up in a horrible foggy realisation that you’re the lightweight who’s vomited all over themselves and who’s stinking the place out.
Giddy with excitement at the prospect of having this kind of experience first hand, our school leavers head for territory that has already proven itself, places that are already legend from previous Schoolies Weeks. Bali, Rottnest Island, Byron Bay and the Gold Coast feature highly on this list and the newly-hatched educational alumni head to those destinations in their droves. Once in these iconic locations, they do what young adults in the Western world have done since time immemorial: they get hammered on whatever substance they can lay their hands on, cause chaos in the local neighbourhoods, trash their hotel rooms like the rock stars they said they were going to be in their Year Book, get into fights and generally seem to do their best to get themselves banned from every bar / nightclub / restaurant / café / event / shop / taxi / uber / public transport / hotel / motel / B&B / AirBnB and every other facility in the area, with the main focus being on behaving in a way that is guaranteed to make anyone over the age of 45 say things like “what’s the world coming to?” and “humanity is never going to survive this generation” or even “we would never have been allowed to do things like that in our day, we wouldn’t have got away with it. We’d have been beaten to within an inch of our lives.”
When it boils right down to it, Australians are a very pragmatic breed who set great store by the adage ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’. They know Schoolies Week is going to happen, so they manage it as best they can. It’s basically three or four weeks of inebriated teenagers wandering round and, for the most part, having a good time (hangovers notwithstanding, but when you’re at that stage in your life, a hangover is hopefully a pretty new experience, and is treated with the utmost pleasure, as in “Oh mate, I was so hungover, I puked my guts up” or “I was so out of it, I don’t remember a thing after the 8th tequila we had in the fourth bar we went in” or “I felt so bad that I didn’t get out of bed till 5p.m., then I just got dressed and went back out to the pub to get a hair of the dog”. That kind of thing).
Schoolies Week doesn’t started for two weeks, but last Saturday night in Broadbeach it was as though Schoolies was already underway: gangs of inebriated men and gaggles of intoxicated women were staggering round, having a great time, being really loud, dressed up in all sorts of matching outfits so they could still recognise their mates even though they were off their faces after drinking for 6 or 7 hours straight. It was packed, it was loud, it was just like Schoolies Week…
Except the people wandering round in a noisy state of inebriation, laughing, giggling, falling over, yelling, losing their friends, forgetting where they were staying, wanting to hug everyone, sitting in the gutter because they were too “tired” to move, dancing down the street on bare feet because their shoes were hurting them, and dressed in feather boas and silly hats, were the parents of the kids that are about to descend on the Gold Coast for Schoolies.
The Gold Coast is currently hosting the Pan Pacific Master Games and thousands of “athletes” (I use the term loosely) have descended on the area and, free of kids and other familial responsibilities and obligations, are intent on having a good time, getting as drunk as possible, dancing the night away at the dinners and events that are an integral part of this kind of thing, vomiting in the Uber and possibly competing in one or two events if absolutely necessary. And if they’re not too hung over and are feeling up to it. So long as someone else drives and maybe brings a puke bag with them just in case.
Kind of like a Schoolies Week Class of ‘79 Reunion. These guys did Schoolies many, many years ago and they’ve been practising ever since. They out every bit of that partying expertise into practise on Saturday night. And they’re still going.