“If they come in to pick up the parcel, I want you to call the police”

This month marks four years working in the Post Office. I don’t know whether that deserves celebrating or despair, but the time spent on the post office counter has yielded some of the more bizarre experiences in my working life. Some of the stories are too good to simply rattle around in my brain, so the more interesting ones will be published here.

To start with, I’ve got a real thriller - one of the few moments I’ve ever worried about my safety at work.


A few months into the job I get a phone call that went something like this.

”Post office, Patrick speaking.” 

”Hi, do you have a parcel under [surname] there?” 

I go find the parcel on the shelf. It’s a small box about the size of two bricks. Experience tells me it’s got something pretty valuable in it. “Yep, it’s here.”

“If they come in to pick up the parcel, I want you to call the police.” 

Her direct tone leaves me speechless for a moment. She continues, filling the vacuum of silence.

”My husband had his wallet stolen a few weeks ago, and somebody has ordered all this stuff in his name. When they come in to pick it up, I want you to call the police.” 

This is well outside of anything I’ve been trained for. I transfer the call to my manager, who can deal with it. She makes a few phone calls and quietly hides the parcels in the back. 

I think nothing more about this situation for a few hours. The manager keeps making calls to figure out exactly what she should do with the parcels, and then he arrives.

The fraudster is about a foot taller than me, 50 kilos heavier and has a genial expression. He’s here to pick up the parcels, and hands me a drivers license with the guy’s name on it. A three year old could tell this license is fake. On the surface it all adds up, the photo, the name and address all match, but the card looks like it was printed on an inkjet printer. But most of all it’s flimsy - I could bend it in half with two fingers - whereas the licenses in my state are pretty thick.

"The parcel looks something like this," he says, reaching over the desk and pointing at a similar parcel on the shelf."

I mumble something about going to check in the back, then rush in to the manager to tell them he's here.

"Stall him!" she says.

I pretend to look for the parcels on shelves, going through practically all the parcels. Meanwhile my co-worker conveniently disappears into the back, leaving me alone to deal with the fraudster. I'm trying to keep all the other customers calm without giving anything away too.

After a few minutes of this fairly obvious act, the fraudster becomes restless. "If you can't find it, I can come back later if you want," he says.

"No it's ok, this happens all the time. We probably put it under the wrong name or something. Let me check in the back."

I go tell the manager what's happening. "Keep stalling him! The police are on their way."

Bloody hell, it's easier said than done. I do my best to reassure him that we'll find his parcel, while serving a few other customers to clear out the rapidly forming queue. He's getting more restless by the second. I'm frankly amazed he's still buying the act I've put together.

After what seems like hours, I see two police officers walking up the store. Never have I been more relieved to see a cop. They're sneaking up to the counter until one of their radios squawks, alerting the fraudster to their presence five metres away.

He turns around slightly and seeing the police in his peripheral vision, quietly starts to try leaving the shop. The cops have blocked both aisles, there's no escape. He's hauled out the shop by both officers, who return shortly to take the parcels, the license, the CCTV and our details.

 

 

On the Road to Coppertin

Here's a new short, 2-3 part D&D series based on a session friend hosted. Let's begin by introducing my character...

I am Grenville Grenville. No I didn’t stutter, that’s just my father’s cruel sense of humour. Us Grenvilles were a large, loud and proud clan, a pillar of society in Middleton. That was long ago, with the last of the Grand Grenvilles dying out when their croquet club caught fire with everyone inside.

A highborn brought low, my father was a bitter man. He felt as though the world owed him everything and when things didn’t break his way, he was driven to drink. Needless to say, I found it beneficial to stay out of sight. While other children played in the street, I hid in the shadows.

I always wanted to join the thieves guild, it seemed like a nice fit. Membership dues were prohibitive, so other application methods had to be discovered.

To impress them, I stole the family’s ceremonial great axe, wielded by Baron Hendersrick Grenville centuries earlier in the battle of Hargarforingus. Trying to sneak into the guild was a foolish choice, they spotted me before I got halfway up their walls. To make matters worse, they said the axe was a fake, my father had lost the real one in a poker game long ago. 

When word got out I became the laughing stock of town. My uncle was the worst, insisting my father disown me. The joke's on him now though, I made a example of him during initiation for the assassin's guild and got immediately welcomed in.


This job should be easy, provided I can find the damn place... A sheep rustler has been attacking farms in the Kettle Plains and he must have pissed off the wrong farmer. The bounty for this job would see me through to harvest time, if I can track the guy.

I've been traipsing through these woods for days looking for a way through. I’ll bet the questmaster gave me incorrect bearings again.

A figure is walking ahead of me. I sneak up behind him until he's within earshot. He seems to know where he's going and might be my ticket out of here, no sense neutralising him and looting the corpse, yet. I step on a well placed twig.

“Who goes there?” 

"Hello there, I'm a little lost. I've been walking in circles for days now, could you help me out of here?"

He lets go of his axe handle. "Oh good, you're not a threat. My name's Brynjar, what's yours?"

Ha! The day's not over yet. "It's Grenville. I'm headed towards the Kettle Plains, some days east of here. Do you know the way?"

"I'm headed to Chamomile Town, it's about a day's walk north east of there. You're welcome to follow me, I'll be setting up camp soon."

We walk for an hour until the sun starts to go down. The trees have thinned out a little and we spotted some remote farms on the journey. Brynjar pitches a tent and builds a fire, while I climb a nearby tree and settle into the crook of a branch.

Brynjar sleeps uneasily. Second only to killing, this is the best part of being an assassin. Everyone is so scared of you, as if you’re a loaded crossbow, ready to fire at any moment. That sense of unease has got me out of more binds than you could imagine.


The next morning I wash my face in a nearby spring before watching the sunrise. Brynjar saddles up his horse and we set off.

Brynjar dozes in the saddle, the product of last night’s unease. Fortunately the track only broadens as we descend back to civilisation and it’s easy enough for me to lead his horse. 

About mid morning we reach Chamomile Town. The guards are hassling everyone looking to enter the walls and we’re not immune. 

”What’s your business here?” They ask. 

”I’m just picking up provisions on my journey to Coppertin.” 

They seem convinced, but are a little more wary of Brynjar. His large axe blades can be seen over his shoulders, what an amateur. 

”You need to surrender those weapons before entering these gates.  Nobody is allowed weapons in this town,” the second, burlier guard says.

”Why?” 

 “Chief’s policy. Keeps the crime down.”

Looking a bit put out as if he won’t see them again, he hands the two axes over. “These had better be here when I leave.” 

“Yes, you can pick them up on your way out of town, they won’t go anywhere,” he says, then turns to me. “And you, your weapons too.”

I feel like putting up a fight, but there’s no point drawing attention to myself. Town guards are selected for muscles, not reason. I pull a rusty, notched dagger from my belt that I use for this sort of situation. “This had better be here when I get back too, I don’t want anything bad to happen to it.”

The guard takes it, looking at me like I’ve just told a bad joke. “Any other weapons?” 

”Nope.”  

The guards both nod, then stand aside to let us in the gate. Our weapons are carried to a gatehouse where they will be kept until we leave, or until a captain fancies the look of them. My razor sharp rapier and good dagger are bundled up in my pack - this is not the place to brandish weapons unless you’re spoiling for a fight. I could have told Brynjar that, but then again, he drew all the attention and I must have looked like a harmless waif to them.

 

Stay tuned! Part two will be here next week. Never miss another post by signing up to my email newsletter and get every blog post straight to your email!

Huge Layoffs at Cracked.com - Will its Youtube Channel Survive?

The online humour website Cracked has fired a large number of their senior writers, including every star from their Youtube series After Hours and Obsessive Pop Culture Disorder.

This comes after their parent company, Scripps, wrote down the value of the site by $35.7 million earlier this year after buying it in 2016 for $39 million.

The site itself is yet to release a statement on the layoffs, however the site's Executive Editor David Wong wrote in a forum post that the site will continue as normal with the help of existing freelancers and contributors.

There is a core group of editors still here to continue the operation and at this time we still have all contractors/freelancers doing the same stuff as they were doing before. But yes, sadly a lot of staff were let go, particularly a lot of those based on LA, including a lot of the faces you know from video.

The site will continue to publish, we still need article submissions, we still need the freelancers to keep doing their thing (more than ever, actually) but it will be a bit of a scramble in the near term as we figure out who is doing what.
— David Wong, Executive Editor Cracked.com

There is no information on the future of Cracked's Youtube channel, with several of their flagship shows now without their main characters.

After Hours, Some News, Obsessive Pop Culture Disorder and Escort mission are now without hosts. Several more untitled video formats will now require new hosts.

Some of the senior writers affected include Cody Johnston, Daniel O'Brien, Michael Swain, Katy Stoll, Katie Willert, Ian Fortey, John Cheese, Jacopo della Quercia and Josh Sargent.

This wave of layoffs comes after the site's co-founder and host of their podcast, Jack O'Brien, left the site in June this year.

More to come - subscribe to the weekly newsletter to be notified.

Keep on reading! After the break there's some analysis and a personal anecdote about the site.


From our last After Hours shoot. I love these three a whole lot.

A post shared by Katie Willert (@kawillert) on


So, what's next for Cracked? There's a bit to unpack here.

Firstly, there's three editorial sections of the company - The Site, Podcasting and Youtube.

We've seen what's next for the site earlier - it's business as usual according to the site's Executive Editor, David Wong. He is still with the company and appears fiercely committed to its future.

Its Podcasting division has undergone a restructure and expansion after Co-Founder Jack O'Brien's departure. Once a weekly podcast hosted by the Co-Founder, the site now features half a dozen series on various topics, including a revamped weekly podcast hosted by Alex Schmidt. Apart from a few hosts lost to the layoffs, this division looks mostly safe.

Finally, there's Cracked.com's Youtube channel. It has notched up an impressive two million subscribers and more than 700 million views, so it's a pretty valuable part of the company.

There is no statement on the channel's future, but a regular viewer would notice the programming has become more generic in the past year. Fewer series are being made and there is a revolving door of presenters. The channel's long-running series, its major drawcard for fans, now find themselves without their actors/presenters.

Will they be replaced with new people, like the ill-fated attempt to launch a new After Hours spinoff with new actors?

Will they dump the hit shows and focus on what's left of the channel?

Will they bring the writers back just for the shows?

It's doubtful the shows will get unceremoniously dumped and just as unlikely that the same people will host the shows. My best guess is that they will replace the cast and weather the fan backlash. After all, they persevered with Alex Schmidt's New Guy series, even after the strong negative reaction.

It's a sad day for "America's Only Humour Website Since 1958". This is a site I grew up reading, poring over its articles and learning countless pop culture tidbits from its listicles.

Lately I have only watched their Youtube series, which have become cult hits on the site, and it's extremely sad to see them be thrown out the window like this.

I hope the powers that be at Cracked let these shows have some form of closure - or at least a quiet death - but I'm not holding my breath.

 

 

 

The Disaster Artist - a story about the ‘greatest unintentional comedian’ and his cult hit

Greg Sestero doesn’t mince his words when he talks about The Room.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be good before it was made.” 

The Disaster Artist takes us into the world of Tommy Wiseau and what it was like on the set of his magnum opus drama-turned-comedy.

We’re seeing this movie about a book about the production of a movie at an advance screening put on by Cinema Nova in Carlton, a theatre that shows Wiseau’s cult classic to loyal fans every month.

Before the movie plays we’re treated to a Q&A with Greg Sestero, co-star of The Room and author of The Disaster Artist. He gives a new dimension to the the movie answering a raft of questions that range from the humdrum to the downright bizarre.

“Meeting Tommy the way I did ... for whatever fucked up reason, it’s fate,” he says in response to questions about whether he would change things in hindsight.

He refers to Tommy as the “greatest unintentional comedian,” after attempting to make a hard hitting drama and somehow creating a cult comedy classic in the process. 

When questions are opened up to the audience, people ask Sestero everything from Wiseau’s ancestry and whether not he is a vampire, to his hygiene habits. Apparently Tommy “smelt pretty bad there for a while, it was pretty rough, but he’s got great hygiene.”   

The movie itself opens with two down on their luck guys wanting to make it in showbiz.

James Franco plays Tommy Wiseau, the titular Disaster Artist. He nails the performance, right down to the iconic ‘New Orleans’ accent, sounding like a guy walking around with a mouth full of novacaine. His character is borderline surreal - Sestero explains in the Q&A that some test screenings couldn’t believe this guy is a real person.

The biggest liability in making this comedy is Tommy himself, whose blessing was bestowed on Greg on one condition - a 40 second cameo beside James Franco - never mind they’re the same character.

While making The Disaster Artist, they recreated 25 minutes of The Room in painstaking detail. While a number of these scenes are in the film, not all of them made the cut. But all is not lost - they will be found in the DVD release.

The film pays tribute to - but never explains - The Room’s murky financing. It’s budget is estimated at $6 million, the origins of which have baffled fans for more than a decade.  

Overall this film is a fun look at how one of the most bizarre films in Hollywood was made. It captures the essence of the mysterious Tommy Wiseau, who approves of this film “ninety-nine point nine per cent,” and does a stellar job in his cameo.

The Disaster Artist opens at Cinema Nova November 30. Special Screenings of The Room are on every month.