As some of you know, I live and work in Brisbane, Australia. The city and indeed 75% of the entire state – that’s a size bigger than Texas and a heap of other ‘big’ states combined – are flooded in one of the biggest disasters in the nation’s history.

Thankfully the suburb I live in is too boring to get any of it.

Anyway, I thought about doing Flood Week this week instead of Old Videogame Jokes but I wasn’t sure that anyone outside of Australia would be interested – it wasn’t until later in the week that I realised the story was big news internationally – damnit, I missed my chance to ride the wave of topical humour! So here’s a flood update.

I got three days off from work. That was OK. Driving into work on Tuesday to be told to turn around and come home was a bit stupid, but oh well I tried. After Tuesday afternoon it became pretty obvious that some serious shit was going down, and everyone should just stay away from the city and secure your homes. Thankfully my place is in a town so ass-backwards it’s a miracle we have colour TV here and I’m seen as some kind of Fire God because I know how to operate a cigarette lighter.

So, we spent three days at home watching the news and seeing regional towns we sort of knew about go under, then cities we knew about but were still a while away go under, then all of a sudden it was familiar suburbs going under, and then finally the capitol city itself. It was, as my grandmother always said, off the God damn hook.

Friday we returned to work, and that was OK too. To be honest I didn’t really notice much of a change driving through the city, since I was lucky enough not to have any of the roads I travel on be shut. Not many people at work got too wet, which was nice to hear. During lunch I usually work on the comic but I decided instead to walk over to the Storey Bridge and check out the Brisbane River.

Holy cow. TV doesn’t convey the kinetic energy of a gigantic river flowing at a mammoth speed right underneath you. It’s something in the air that is almost like an electric tingling…and all the raw power of the river vibrating against the bridge. Plus it just looks slightly off kilter, like the entire view of the city is one of those “spot the difference” pictures. The river’s too wide, that pontoon’s missing, all the boats are gone, and everything is brown.

Today we decided to volunteer to help clean up. It seemed only fair – these only so much you can take of watching it all from the high and dry before you know you’ve got to do something. The council were hoping for 6,000 volunteers and instead got over twice that. Way to go, Brisbane 🙂

We got in a bus, which took us to a school, which led us to a queue, which led us to registration, which led to a long path, which led us to another bus. which packed us in and sent us off to a random direction. It was a good crowd, full of the excited energy of people just itching to do something, anything to help. The crowd were friendly, jovial even.

And then we entered Graceville.

Everyone went quiet as quickly you turn off a light switch. By turning a corner, the views of a clean motorway transformed into scenes of suburban devastation. House after house after street after street of sodden wreckage. People just hollowing out their houses completely, knowing everything inside was wrecked beyond repair. In front of of every house there was a six foot pile of what used to be their furniture, clothes and equipment.

Of course the real tragedy is the televisions people had to throw out. So many perfectly good high def LCD screens gone to waste. And oh God, the computers! Those poor computers that were thrown out! You idiots, you could have at least taken out the RAM or something first!

I hope everyone’s Commodore 64s are OK.

So anyway, we got let off and the bus driver went away. Uh. When will the bus be back? What were we meant to do? Where were we meant to go? Why did I leave my iPhone in the car? We didn’t have anyone to tell us the answers to any of those questions, which seemed really wrong to me. The 50 of us from the bus just kind of aimlessly wandered around towards the river until we found some places that could use some help. I ended up helping a kindergarten sort through their toys and furniture, which on the face of it seems a bit silly but you got to figure that every bit helps. The sight of over a hundred people on the one street corner cleaning parks, houses and the slippery road just makes you feel like you’re cumulatively doing something. (Imagine this street corner with enough people to fill a street parade, and you got my view of the day. Oh, and cover it with brown. Edit: Here’s an aerial photo of the corner taken yesterday.)

But man, we could have really used some focus or someone to tell us all what to do next. It felt good to be there, but also like we were kind of going to waste. Plus being effectively stranded with no clear way to get home kinda sucked too.

Anyway, after a few hours of DIGGING, oh Lord digging is my life, we decided to head back to the bus stop and hope there was a bus coming for us. After a slightly concerning half hour a bus turned up to collect volunteers and take them back to where we originally got on, but they wouldn’t let us on because we weren’t part of their group. What group? We weren’t told about any groups! Then the bus driver asked us where our group co-ordinator was, and we’re like what the hell is a group co-ordinator? So the bus driver drove off and left us there. That sucked. That sucked big time.

The next bus driver came along and asked us if we were part of their group. We said yes, of course we are, what kind of silly question is that, we’re all about the group and by the time she figured out we weren’t we had already firmly entrenched ourselves in the bus. Sucker! My big worry is the people that were going to get stranded completely at the end of the day because of a lack of proper organization and communication. Hope that didn’t happen. The wife spoke to someone on the return trip who was in a bus that got so stuck in traffic that everyone got dropped off in the middle of nowhere and got told to find their own way back home and to come back tomorrow. What the hell?

We got back to the school and the second shift volunteers were lining around the block ready to get stuck into it.They gave us all applause as we got off and headed wearily back home covered in mud. That was nice.

Overall, it was a good day of helping hampered by some silly administration issues. Considering they had over twice as many people as expected, I really cant complain too much.

Oh, I lost a shovel today, but I figure whoever finds it the needs it a hell of a lot more than I do