99 Problems but a bitch ain’t one

12 Feb

It’s a Saturday night and I was at the open air cinema for the first time at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. I was more than impressed. The screen and sound quality were amazing. The weather was balmy with a welcoming breeze and the back drop was breath-taking. The view was the winner and a close second was the performance of Hugh Jackman as Jean Vajean in Les Miserables.

Tickets were $70 (for two), champagne $9, a small cocktail $13, 2 vodkas $18 and a 2 boxes of fish & chips $32. I have become accustomed to the exorbitant prices that I have to pay in Sydney and I didn’t let it phase me.

As I was listening to the ‘Thénardiers’ singing ‘Master of the House’ ,watching them fleece everyone that walked into their Inn, I couldn’t help but glance at the city and then back to the movie. It suddenly hit me that the city of  Sydney is my Madame and Monsier Theandier. Every time we have an interaction I walk away with nothing in my pockets and wondering just how the hell that had happened.

I have learned that if you have the audacity to go anywhere in Sydney you should expect to pay for the privilege. As mentioned before, the movie was fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed the outdoor cinema experience. The stroll back to the car was filled with chatter about who we thought performed the best and how Sacha Barren Cohen was surprisingly good as Monsieur Thénardiers. My pocket was significantly lighter which also made the journey back to the car a little easier. But typical of this city as soon as you let your guard down you are jolted back into reality with a firm slap to face, just like a car ride with Chris Brown.


As I walked by one of parked cars I noticed a parking ticket on one of the windows. I knew right away that I had forgotten to get a parking ticket. A combination of being excited for the movie and absent-mindedly assuming that parking after 6pm would be ticket free, I just jumped out of the car and set off for the cinema.

My partner who is from Canada said,

 ‘We might be lucky’.

‘No chance’, I replied.

‘You never know your luck in a big city’ she said.

Even though I appreciated her optimism, I know Sydney and her vampire like ways. She will lure you in under the illusion of beauty, send out her minions to do her work and then suck the blood out of you.

Now you would think the scum bags that run Sydney City would be encouraging people to go out on a Saturday night, spend money and pump some well needed finance back into the economy. But no! As you’re shelling out for over priced food and under whelming service they are getting ready to pick your back pocket. Sydney City Council know that the open air cinema is on and you can guarantee that they specifically target the movie’s start and finish times. So they send out their vermin and go about fining all the movie goers that were remiss in paying for a parking ticket. Then the akubra wearing, neon vested Hyenas scurry away to feast on another carcass.

Now I am not that one-eyed that I won’t admit fault. There should be a penalty for not getting a ticket.  But as my partner grabbed the fine from my window she looked down in complete astonishment.

‘WHAT!  $99!

Parking fine1

If you have a look at the regulation code it is ‘SBW’. Must Karma for all the grief I have been giving Sonny Bill Williams.

I couldn’t believe it. Are you f-ing kidding me. I wasn’t in a ‘no stopping’, ‘no parking’ or on a ‘clearance way’. A speeding fine in NSW (for 10 and under) is $105 and speeding fine in Western Australia is $75. So, for what is a far less dangerous and minor offence I am paying the same, if not more for my crime. Not only is the high price offensive so is the actual figure. $99?? Am I supposed to thank god it wasn’t $100? The utter contempt! Just charge me $100 you tip rat, who do you think you are fooling?

In Vancouver the parking fine is a discounted $35 if you pay within 21 days, $70 if pay with 42 days or $105 any time after the 42 day period. At least the city of Vancouver allow for fallibility and have some respect for their inhabitants.


This was the final straw. I have decided that even though Sydney is my birth place and I believe the most beautiful city in the world, it is just not worth it. Every time I go out I can’t relax. There seems to be a speed/red light cameras, tolls, parking costs, parking police, cover charges, over charges, hidden charges, taxes and fines. You are in a constant state of worry and you haven’t even done anything wrong. I feel like a character in a George Orwell novel.

You can’t escape the ridiculous cost of living even something as simple as going to the beach ends up hurting. Just when I thought I couldn’t get screwed over anymore, I went to Balmoral beach.


For two hours it costs $26 dollars to park and  that was on a Sunday! I used to love Sydney because if I wanted a cheap, fun, active day I would go to the beach and enjoy the unique blend of the urban and natural environment.

But not now.

The reason given by the Mosman council for the high parking prices was to discourage non locals from swimming at the beach. Well I live in Lane Cove and that is the closest beach for me.

But instead of enjoying the natural beauty of Sydney I will end up paying the $5 entry to The Lane Cove Aquatic Center. Here I will enjoy concrete walls and swimming around in fecal matter, urine and if I am lucky some semen. Once again my birth place has made it financially impossible to enjoy what it has to offer.

Still angry from my previous Saturday I received a call from friends that were visiting Melbourne. I wanted to show them how stunning Sydney was so we decided to go to Opera Bar. We arrive and the view is amazing, the sun in shining and I settle into a Schmiddy. I resist my urge to rant on past topics and choose to silently lament the ‘death of the Schooner’.

My round comes and I order 4 more beers.

‘That’s $38 thanks’

I pull out $40 bucks and pay. I put my hand out for the change, the waiter avoids my hand and slides it across on a plate. I look at the $2 sitting on the ‘guilt plate’. I feel like picking it up and throwing it in Sydney Harbour. Fuck you very much.

In disbelief I tell everyone it’s $9.50 for a Schmiddy. We had spent $80 on eight beers.

‘How the hell can people afford this’? I ask.

My friend Tony replies,

‘we can’t’.

Then came story after story, about how people in Sydney were living in constant credit card debt. It became apparent that if I wanted to enjoy Sydney in any capacity, even simply going to the beach, I would have to live on borrowed money. Or I could take the alternative; stay at home and live debt free.

A little broken and upset I went to get the car from the Wilson Car Park. I paid $36 for 2 hours which seemed more than fair (insert sarcastic tone) and we drove home.

It seemed like a better option to drink at home. $80 for two rounds or a case of beer for $50. Fifty dollars seems ridiculous for a case but it is all relative. But that is what you end up doing in Sydney you start to excuse the high price of some goods and services because at the end of the day, at least it’s not the highest.

But as we replaced the beautiful Sydney Harbour View for the shocking ‘peach coloured’ walls of my living room, I couldn’t help but laugh. Out of the $50 dollars it cost for the case of the beer, the government tax is $19. Over a 1/3 of the case is tax. So even in my own living room I can’t escape the band of thieves. No matter how you choose to enjoy life and create experiences in Sydney and for that matter Australia there will always be some one ready to charge you for the privilege.

But as I slid into inebriation a familiar song kept playing in my head as I thought of Sydney and my Australia.

“Master of the house, doling out the charm
Ready with a handshake and an open palm
Tells a saucy tale, makes a little stir
Customers appreciate a bon-viveur
Glad to do a friend a favor
Doesn’t cost me to be nice
But nothing gets you nothing
Everything has got a little price!”

“Master of the house, keeper of the zoo
Ready to relieve ’em of a sou or two
Watering the wine, making up the weight
Pickin’ up their knick-knacks when they can’t see straight
Everybody loves a landlord
Everybody’s bosom friend
I do whatever pleases
Jesus! Won’t I bleed ’em in the end!”

3 Responses to “99 Problems but a bitch ain’t one”

  1. Kieran C February 12, 2013 at 6:39 am #

    Yes but what did you do with the dollar you saved on the parking fine?

  2. joepemberton1 February 13, 2013 at 4:37 am #

    Another solid rant Johnny! I can’t help but agree. I thought you might like to ease your own pain by enjoying mine. These are my motor vehicle expenses since January 1st, excluding the ridiculous parking fees and fuel costs:

    – $500 rego
    – $950 green slip
    – $600 red light fine from last October with enforcement order (hadn’t changed address with RTA)
    – $200 rego cancellation (apparently for a parking ticket from last august – can’t remember getting this)
    – $600 servicing
    – $1000 for car repayment and full comprehensive insurance (monthly.

    I felt so grateful this morning, when I was driving along Parramatta Rd, between potholes and sitting in a traffic jam, that I have paid almost 4 grand for the privilege of moving around the city I live in.

    These are becoming increasingly salivating options:


  3. Laura S February 16, 2013 at 6:20 am #

    Sounds like it’s time for you and your partner to move to Vancouver! (and I actually gasped a few times reading your story… I actually completely cannot believe those prices…)

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