Hope, in its own right has a solicitous way of making some people feel like their store’s infinite, while others source it from a well of fear that their supply is running short – as if they have a predetermined amount. Yet, unremarkably both sides err on the same path of least resistance when encountering games of high gain and negligible loss such as slick picks and scratchies, inside-out candy wrap winners, bottle cap and paddle pop instant prizes and my favourite, newspaper coupon competitions.
In fact the only time I ever won anything (not of significance – anything whatsoever at all) was a newspaper prize draw for a laptop computer – back when laptops were like owning pieces of the moon or comets, and postage stamps were still a venerated form of currency. I must have entered over thirty times. And despite having a well trained sense of mathematical probability and short odds, I remember holding onto a faith, I knew not where from – that I was destined to win the laptop. And then when I received the letter of confirmation in the mail it was both a surprise and a letdown.
I felt this certainty and desperation many times since. I remember after winning the laptop computer and bristling with a tactile sense of fortune and hope, I questioned why more people weren’t dedicated to the full-time enterprise of entering competitions. I even recall seeing a Current Affairs segment which documented the supermarket shopping experiences of a discerning group of parents obsessed with consumer based competitions – who all claimed to have a unbeatable formula as they filled their trolley with 20 boxes of bran cereal and two cases of tinned beetroot and sweet corn, and made me feel sorry for their kids.
I then graduated university into the Howard Government’s strong cutbacks of the late nineties with a Bachelor of Arts and no job prospects, and I relished every newspaper coupon clipping. I even wrote a short film scrip called Condition 7 – a slapstick comedy of errors involving a hapless team of misfits trying to swindle their way to moderate riches by defrauding the universal condition of entry in a local competition, exempting employees from participating. Lending heavily on Danny Boyle’s breakout masterpiece Shallow Grave, each new fuckup forced the group to assimilate a new member in on the cut, until (like everything else in life) they’re faced with the reality unless a Hail Mary pass is lobbed at the sisters of fate, they will have done a shit load of leg work, at high risk for little gain.
I don’t know where the uncorroborated zeal and faith behind entering competitions went – maybe it went along with the feeling of being a child. I do know I’d had enough of Australia and my attention turned to a more immediate desire to leave it as soon as possible. So I abandon my infantile hope, got a job in a local video store and saved to afford a one-way ticket to Europe – where I stayed for the better of a decade.
Now fresh from an epic road trip around North America I’ve returned home with empty pockets and a wallet full of receipts and pennies, and once again the giddy and vacuous hope of entering competitions has gripped me. I’ve entered competitions to win $10, 000 home renovation package even though I don’t own a home; a trip to Guangzhou in China; a male grooming experience valued at $5, 000 which includes a tailored suit worth $3500; I even bought a $100 ticket to the MS lottery, which boasts a 1 in 60, 000 chance of winning a 1.5 million dollar house; and when I last watched Masterchef and became enraged by Australia Post’s new promotion to honour chefs in a limited stamp collection, I went online to confirm this travesty of vintage currency and found myself voting for influential Australian chefs from the last four decades to win some fucking dining experience somewhere on the other side of the country.
Like before I knew this unmitigated faith in an uncoventional career path based on divine assistance (which is most potent following a morning shower) wouldn’t last. And as I irrevocably descend into long afternoon doldrums I try to remember what was it that made me stop this folly last time?
Then I remember. It was back when I was an inviting man – a curious man and a fucking Carlton Dry competition appealed to my specific creative skill set.
Cast into the same penurious situation approximately two years ago, my telelvision gaze was piqued by a Carlton Dry television commercial advertising the Legends of Dry compe tition – write a three minute film script in which the winning entry will star Steven Segal playing yourself, assuming I suppose that the protagonist in a script about you is yourself.
The brief was deliberately vague.
The website added, ‘We want to make your greatest story,’ to alleviate any anxiety that you hadn’t wasted all those years and money drinking booze, mistakenly believing you were a fucking funny bastard, having a blast, living life without regrets and accumulating a store of stories to decimate another deluded pissartist with their own swag of tall tales at a bar top encounter.
I viewed a stream of rather laconic and predictable entries already published online at the Carlton Dry website. They covered standard scenarios of mistaken identities, boozy missions, evading security to escape into packed pubs, tit-&-ass and fishing combos, and entertaining Yanks with our wild, mythical animals.
I was seduced by the misguided thought that encourages most of us to do stuff, ‘I can fucking do better than that.’
I thought it was a bit shit Carlton Dry made you buy a slab of beer to enter since at the expense of their punters’ time they were already getting a palate of free marketing ideas. But I also acknowledged a convenient consequence to it all was I would have a slab of beer in the house.
I wasn’t persuaded by the main prize which included flights and accommodation for you and three mates to visit LA, each with $4000 spending money. I worked out long ago I wasn’t that guy who won stuff. But I was motivated by the $1000 daily prize, which is the equivalent to a million dollars to someone on the dole. And I admit the thought of having Steven Segal play me in short film sounded fucking cool.
So I bought my slab with the unique code stamped on the inside of the box and spent two days penning my greatest story ever told. It wasn’t great, I’ll admit – but it had a range of locations, motivations and emotions I felt could challenge Mr Segal, and with complexity and depth I thought would make it fun to develop and finally shoot.
But when I went online to enter I ran into Carlton Dry’s conditions of entry like it was Steven Segal’s fists in a Drug lord’s family mansion.
I mean what authentic Australian story doesn’t include all over the above? (However, I do happen to agree with the racism and discrimination). But it’s a beer commercial – if they did show people drinking irresponsibly we wouldn’t be exposed to all this advertising hypocrisy. We wouldn’t grow thirsty recounting all the hidden moments in a perfect day montage by Budweiser, or have Southern Comfort remind us of when we went Eurailing, got on the wrong train and still had the best fucking night ever, followed by condescending cul-de-sac soap operas and government approved adverts informing us despite making a fuck load of revenue for booze tax if you drink another beer you will DIE.
This is the sort of shit that is perfusing western democracies and really starting to nettle big drinkers – like we’re being served tap water when we fucking asked for another fucking beer. How can you bottle anesthetic from you troubles, and happiness, then tell people don’t drink it all at once and don’t have too much fun?
To put it in a different perspective look at ice cream manufactures. They’re starting to sell ice cream made out of breast milk for fucks sake. I know – it does sound wrongly right and devilishly tempting, like eating a monkey. But my point is everyone’s on the booze and cigarette train. Nobody’s out there policing the ice cream man. And where does it all lead – breakfast placentas?
You may say, ‘Well those are the rules and if you truly are creative, restriction will inspire and encourage,’ instead of what I did, which was tell my computer how much I fucking hated Carlton Dry. But then there is Condition of Entry Article 5.
To me absolute discretion should be inked in red because it suggests if we like your shit, fuck the other rules – kinda like diplomatic immunity, which is a more sinister maroon. So I carefully checked my story.
Yes, of course there’s fucking swearing. But I spose it can easily be replaced with fudge, fig, schweppes, golly gosh and fuck off swearing is funny.
Well my story does involve the possibility of a nob polish or hand job.
I don’t think either of the aforementioned were freebees. (But I also never found out). In any case prostitution is far from really bad illegal stuff. It resides in the murky realm of decriminalisation and in the whole scheme of the things a nob polish at the end of a night is possibly a pretty good result to some, like the good people at Carlton Dry
I don’t think travelling through guerrilla occupied areas is all that dangerous.
In my story I do discriminate against the ELN in favour of Columbia’s national military but that was the result of personal experience.
I considered the term, absolute discretion and continued with the entry process. Of course, apparently it helps Steven prepare for the roll if you let Carlton take over your Facebook account like it was a train under siege and tag every player in your story.
Eventually I cut and pasted my story from a Word document and hit Enter, while wondering if legally I have to declare a grand in prize money to Centrelink.
The page resets with an error field stating my entry is longer than 3, 500 character. What the fuck?
I click back to the Conditions of Entry, the page I had viewed the most since visiting the Carlton Dry website.
a. text only (limit 3,500 characters including spaces);
b. uploading an image and text (max size 2Mb) in the format specified on the Website (Image); OR
c. uploading a video (which can be done via Webcam if entrants wish) (max size 10Mb) up to 10 minutes long, text optional (Video),
d. depicting their ‘best story’ (Entry), and by fully completing and submitting the online entry form including their full name, date of birth, email address, postal address, contact phone number, Entry title and any other details as required by the Promoter.
I didn’t even know how many words you could shape with 3,500 spaceless characters. I blindly assumed Carlton Dry wanted a three minute script. That’s why it took forty-two dollars, a slab of beer, two days and four and half pages (which incidentally is about four times the maximum limit of spaceless characters in Carlton Dry’s Conditions of Entry.
I also couldn’t understand why Carlton Dry had such strong prejudices against written words since they were so clearly against racism and discrimination and were hosting a story competition. In contrast to the small shitty word limit for written entries, Carlton Dry allowed people to flap away for ten minutes on a webcam.
I did contemplate filming myself reading the script aloud to avoid slowly and painfully ripping all the funny, cool shit out of my script until I had whittled it down to an emaciated 3,500 spaceless characters. But I like words on pale backgrounds. The same way surfers like to surf and corporate people like hanging out in tall buildings.
So I spent the rest of the evening and next morning trenchantly hacking away at my hard work, spitefully thinking of the forty-two bucks I’d spent on a beer I don’t even particularly like – imagining it ferment in bottle into burning poison that was Carlton Dry.
It was emotional.
(I’m actually drinking a Carlton Dry right now while I write this)
In case you’re interested how many words are in 3,500 spaceless characters, I can’t remember. Because when I finally got to the godforsaken limit and clicked Enter, again an error field appeared stating my story was still too long. It took 607 words which equates to 3,401 spaceless characters, and ignorance to all that’s holy in grammar, especially spacing between a period and the start of a new sentence before Carlton Dry accepted my entry.
After all that the promoter used their absolute discretion to refuse my entry.
Fuck it – by now I needed a beer and it was with some intent I ended up at my local at the start of happy hour where they sold pints of Carlton Draught for $6.50.
‘What can I get you?’ asked the barmaid
‘Pint of Carlton Dry please… Ah Fuck!’
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