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keep smiling

form one’s features into a pleased, kind, or amused expression, typically with the corners of the mouth turned up and the front teeth exposed.

How hard can that be?

The Ballina CBA has two bank clerks standing outside the door barring entry to all. ‘A technical problem inside,’ one said to me, ‘we should be back open tomorrow.’

This means I won’t have the cash I need for today. I smile.


A quick glance through the glass doors, no commotion in there.

Then straight to the airport for the flight to Sydney: a doctor’s appointment, his waiting room, needles and pain.

Three of the Ballina airport parking machines don’t work, they are 200 feet apart and it’s 39 windless degrees already. The fourth machine nearly eats my credit card. A woman walks past and smiles at me. I smile back.

The man at the Jetstar desk waits for me to check in, if I don’t smile at him I won’t get a seat close to the door, which means a ten minute wait amongst the sweaty throngs of a thousand nations after landing as they stand up and mill about in the confined fuselage of a crowded plane with its air conditioning turned off.

I smile. And get row 4.

Another smile for the same fellow when he mans the gate at the exit lounge, another for the pilot who stands so casually at the foot of the steps to the aircraft, looking for suspicious characters, one more for the delicate lovely at the top of the steps who checks the boarding pass. Two more for the sedate old couple I had to disturb to get into the window seat.

Then the trolley comes down the aisle, stops and another lovely blesses me with a grin as wide as Sydney Heads and asks if I would like wine and/or biscuits. I smile back.

No, thank you.

Two more smiles as I exit the plane, one each for the working girls standing at the top of the exit steps, then one for the bus driver who takes me at breakneck speed to the terminal, another when I leave his bus. He drives like a malcontent eager to be away from a malfeasance.

His shirt is wet with perspiration, there is an odour.

Then the taxi to Burwood after a smile for the very precise little man whose function is to control the airport taxi supply to the arrivals in need of them. The driver thus engaged has an attractive, foreign turn to his phrases and constantly seeks my eyes in the rear-view mirror as he speaks. Every time he catches my eye, he smiles. I smile back, constantly.

He gets a tip, and another smile.

How many so far? And the day hardly started.

The doctor’s receptionist is busy on the phone, she looks up and smiles, ditto me back. I wait. She hangs up, gives me a form to fill in and asks me to move away from the counter to complete it. She smiles.

I say, ‘no, I’d rather fill it in right here.’

I smile back.

The doctor is Greek, expansively so, and his assistant tempers his wit with her own sotto voce rejoinders. Smiles turn to laughter. Twenty needles today, ergo; no pain tomorrow.

On the way out of the surgery I help a woman with the door, she’s pushing a legless old man in a wheelchair. She smiles, I smile, the old gentleman looks pre-occupied and stares ahead.

The man wearing green thongs, green shorts and green T-shirt who was here when I arrived has just been told by the receptionist that the lady he’s waiting for is being attended to in the surgery next door.

‘They closed thirty minutes ago.’ she added.

Club Burwood stands on the corner of Burwood and Shaftsbury Road … a busy, cosmopolitan thoroughfare of the not-so-wealthy of this city.


The downstairs seat in the corner with windows all around is where I can sit and watch another variety of another thousand nations pass by. Two women come in and sit at an adjoining table, they speak to each in a foreign language and one is gesturing at the tables further inside, I suspect she wants to hit up the poker machines. Her companion smiles at me and shrugs. I smile back. They get up and move further inside where the Chinese grandfathers sit in the booths, their newpapers open on the tables, drinking coffee, nattering.

Later on there is another smile for another taxi, one for the Mascot airport departure check-in lovely, then one for the perspiring, overweight man in a serge uniform doing the bag-check, another for the martinet tasked with the explosive wand before finding a seat in a tapas bar with a view of the Super Bowl.

Smiles all round. Everyone watches this game in every airport the whole world wide.

So it goes.

The lady sitting beside me on the return trip was reading a novel by Peter Corris, it looked a small book, well used.


When we landed, she put the book into her bag, took out a packet of Panadol Forte, crushed up six in the palm of her hand, put them into her mouth and washed them down with her bottled water.

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