TBS Anonymous

TBS Anon: Reflections on my evening smuggling Krispy Kremes

As a citizen of the Northern Territory, there are opportunities to make money on the side. I took to smuggling doughnuts. Don’t judge me.

 

 

 

I sat keeping the contraband close enough to me not to lose it, but far enough so I could pass it off as rubbish to whoever passed me by. But who would, I wondered, as my watch judged me with its small numbers, its smug face illuminated by the only working light in the section of the park colloquially known as “shank alley”. I was risking becoming a crime statistic, and I was doing this for someone I had never met, doing it to make a minor markup on bootlegged doughnuts.

Let me start over.

As a citizen of the Top End, you tend to trade off a few things you’ve come to expect living elsewhere. It’s the price of time travel. While we’re allowed to participate in the high-brow revelry of fireworks, unlimited speed limits and can operate a vessel sans licence or indeed sobriety, we don’t have correct grammar, the freedom to swim in open water, and we certainly do not have a noted airport concourse doughnut franchise.

Another thing worth mentioning is that we’ve forgone the usual commercial trope in favour of dealing goods with each other online. Consider it the Mos Eisley of Australia, replete with sun-blasted backyard mechanics looking to rip you off, and unsavoury characters who drop consonants, and you if given the chance. It’s also a handy place to find your dog if they escape the yard. Unlike any other capital city I’ve been in, there’s an odd pooch altruism afoot, despite the fact that people up here purely keep dogs to keep people out of their property.

But, I digress. One of these online trading posts formed the nucleus of this pickle I found myself in.

Because no-one was born here, and indeed no-one stays here, air travel is a frequent undercurrent to the Darwin experience. This surge runs through the usual conduit of Internet discourse – i.e., which carrier personally insulted a passenger, and indeed anyone who would take the story as gospel – however, there’s another more layered community swimming under the surface.

Bootlegging.

The muling of goods for imperfect strangers is commonplace. Nothing of value, mind, just items we’d find useful in this sunburnt prison we live in. We can’t get it here, so we need to bring it in from the outside. Facebook is Darwin’s Red from Shawshank. Need Raquel Welch, a torque wrench or an exercise bench? HMU on Facey, lad.

It was here that I made my grandest mistake, and if this means this piece is a confession, so be it. I was about to add my name next to the icons of suspected Australian peddlers, and much like their first steps, it happened in a furious blur of shrugged shoulders, drunken apathy and morning regret. A simple answer to a post that asked: “Is ne1(sic) garn(sic) 2(sic) syds(sic) wanna(sic) pick us(sic) up sum(sic) Krispy Kremes?”

In the harsh sobriety of the morning after, I saw the breadth of my foolishness and wept. Eight strangers, eight orders, 96 doughnuts.

At that moment, I wished he was a cop. Cops don’t stab people over doughnuts. Not in this country, anyway.

Unfortunately, drunken plans made in Darwin are not made in jest. Two business days later, the money was in my PayPal account. It’s worth mentioning that before that night, I didn’t have a PayPal account. Thanks again, drunk me. I was goosed onto the plane by my handlers, who nicely kept in touch with a wave of poorly worded, poorly timed, nagging messages. It was my Pop’s 77th, but don’t ask me what we did, because I don’t remember. The trip was a nervous blur, with the phantom pyramid of Krispy Kreme hiding in the corner of every pleasant experience. Besides, I’d already spent the money. I was in for penny, in for eight pounds of sugared bread.

On departure day, and in classic peddler style, I felt nervous. Was I doing anything illegal? Is it ok to bring this much across the border? Was it just morally illegal? The Internet didn’t help me out, and I certainly was not going to ask customs if it was above board. The first set of judging eyes that met my pile was that of the steward. She had the cold assurance of some sort of predatory bird, senses honed by a thousand trips south for the winter. She hissed “Is that your carry-on, sir?” I nodded, making sure that I didn’t halt my momentum to address her. If they were going to tackle me, they’d have to catch me. Fortunately, the authoritative hand on my shoulder never came, and after apologising profusely to the person who my haul forcibly relocated, I pulled out of Sydney. I was careful to not ask anything of the flight staff, or drag more attention to myself. In retrospect, they could barely see me over the leaning tower of diabetes.

I slipped through customs with the same method as I entered the plane, ignoring the ribaldry of the guard who asked, perhaps rightfully, “geez, you got enough have ya?”, finding the safe confines of my car in the long-term parking lot. The fee was exorbitant, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to go home and lock the door.

But I couldn’t. According to what I had agreed upon, I had a long night ahead of me. Thanks to the flight I caught (another Darwin thing, where everyone catches the cheap “red-eye” flights) citizens view 3am as a perfectly reasonable time to do business. What followed was a surreal patchwork of suspicious glares, half-thank yous and barking dogs.

And the trip to shank alley, which is where we came in.

In the harsh sobriety of the morning after, I saw the breadth of my foolishness and wept. Eight strangers, eight orders, 96 doughnuts.

I met my contact, who nicely didn’t tell me his name and informed me that we’d be “waiting for his partner”, if I had the goods. Which is an odd thing. I was delivering confectionery, yes, but courtesy of the jet lag, my nervousness and the fact that in their minds, I was going to rip them off, there was an extreme air of seriousness about it. If things went wrong, one could easily justify the nickname of the park I was sitting in, knifed by the dumpy man who lived in a series of nervous movements. His body was alight with the possibility of reckless action, even if he was just sitting there, waiting. But waiting for what? My mind span, and he noticed my large pile of Krispy Kreme boxes. With the singular English of an addict, he stated: “that’s a lot of boxes.”

At that moment, I wished he was a cop. Cops don’t stab people over doughnuts. Not in this country, anyway. The seconds ground by, bereft of small talk, devoid of eye contact. We just sat there. How long had it been? I daren’t look at my watch. Not worth provoking him. Eventually, I brought myself to my feet, moves deliberate, jaw flapping in automated dribble oktheresyourstuffI’llseeyoulaterI’vegotworkinthemorningI’vegotyourmoney, while moving toward my car, periodically peeking over my shoulder to check that he wasn’t pursuing. Due to my nervous incremental glances, he was kept in a sort of silent movie rotation. He looked in the box. He looked at me. He started walking toward me. He’s still walking toward me. He’s—

In classic horror movie trope, I looked out the front windscreen, fingers running a nervous concerto around the darkened interior. I couldn’t see this sugar junkie, but I assumed the jump scare was a second away. I ground the keys, the gearbox responded in complaint, I was already in gear, escape was merely a climb up the rev counter. Without checking my blindspot, without adjusting my seatbelt, I wrestled my faded Camry into the lariest moment of it’s tortured life and sped into the night.

Weeks passed. I lived in fear of a knocked door, or squark of a text message. But nothing.

Until last Tuesday.

I saw the same people offering the same trap. Some foolhardy yutz agreed to their awful deal. Did I help them?

No. I was free of my duty (free).

Did I place an order? Maybe.

 

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