The Grass Is Not Greener

 

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The Grass Is Not Greener

Do we blame the parents?

It would be easy to blame the parents.

Perhaps the unsuspecting charity groups hold some of the responsibility?

Maybe our welfare dependant society is responsible?

Mr Jack Opee has described himself as disadvantaged and underprivileged for most of his life.

He is now incarcerated for his crimes against society. We have him lockup up at the tax payers expense.

There is no other place left for Jack, except to be institutionalised. He is too far gone to be able to respond to reprimands or corrections.

Jack Opee believes he is not to blame. Apparently he thinks anyone and everyone else is responsible for his current predicament, and, he is angry.

He can not see the irony that he is now ‘living the dream’. His dream - A free ride through life.

It’s not most people’s dream. Turns out, Jack’s not happy with it either.

For Jack Opee, this dream is just as unsatisfying as every other con he has pulled off.

He never really set out to cheat people and take advantage of their compassion, it just sort of evolved as his default.

It started in primary school, when he found out his friend Conny was gifted a ski trip from a diabetic not-for-profit support group.

 

Jack Opee grew up in an affluent eastern suburb of Sydney. His great grandparents immigrated from a coastal Mediterranean nation. He has an olive complexion, which has enabled him to blend in and look like almost any people group he wanted.

This is not a nice story, okay, so there will be no finger pointing or implicating any real persons, people groups or organisations. The point here is that Jack is from a good family with a healthy bank account and access to all the things that make Australia ‘The Lucky Country’. The Opee family have been here long enough to have lost the pioneering (or convict) spirit, ready for the good life with a small feeling of entitlement. Some people call it ‘Afluenza’.

The people group he first wanted to blend with were called ‘Diabetics’ and they were getting a free ride to the snow.

One afternoon after school, Jack was asking with earnest. ‘Mum, How do I become a Diabetic?’

‘Why would you want to be diabetic?’ Mrs Opee asked.

‘Cause Conny is going on a ski trip in the holidays, and she says it’s because she is Diabetic. It’s not fair! I want to go to the snow too. She says it’s only for diabetics, so I have to become a diabetic!’

‘Well son, it doesn’t work like that. You can’t just decide to be diabetic. It’s a medical condition. You don’t choose. And if you did get to choose, Conny would probably choose not to have it.’

‘Well I want it. I choose diabetic. I want to go skiing!’

Little Jack was one of those kids that needed to be told ‘No!’ a little more more often, but weren’t.

Mr Philip Opee and Mrs Frodine Opee loved their little Jack. He was their one and only angel. He could never do anything wrong. When other parents complained about him, they nodded and understood how jealous those other parents were. When other kids got hurt, they explained how Jack was just ‘misunderstood’. When other kids eventually lashed out and hurt Jack, The Opee parents went all mother bear protective and removed Jack from the terrifying bullying environment he was subject to. When teachers suggested Jack might have a behavioural or educational problem Phil and Fro found a way to discredit that teacher. It did not matter if it was school, sports team, scouts, church, sailing club, or any other authority, it was only Phil and Fro Opee who had the heart and generosity to know what Jack, and the rest of society needed.

So when Jack insisted he really needed this ski trip, Phil and Fro Opee did what they thought any self respecting loving parent would do for their angel. They did everything in their power to bring him that joy.

Bribe a doctor, falsify some documents, pay a healthy donation to the right charity. Before the holidays came, Jack was a certified diabetic with a fancy test kit, the extra lollies and soft drinks (for emergencies), the epidural pen, the works, all the correct medical instructions for the diabetic society nurse that would be accompanying them on the ski trip.

Jack had a wonderful time in the lead up to the camp. He revelled in the expectation. He even enjoyed most of the camp. But about half way through the camp he started to experience a strange sensation that would become habitual for him to suppress, deny, cover up, ignore, and move on. In fact it became his life’s pattern. Jack was unable, or more likely unwilling to acknowledge this feeling, but most other people would call it compassion, or empathy. It certainly wasn’t pity. It might have also been a little bit of guilt too.

It was the excessive care that was the first indication to Jack that having diabetes was not fun. Jack never got the freedom he wanted. Constantly asked ‘How are you going?’, ‘What is your blood sugar level?’, ‘Do you have your equipment?’, ‘Don’t go too far?’, ‘Do this. Don’t do that. Eat here. Stay with the group. Rest now. Sleep now. Go run some energy off. Bla. Bla Bla.’ There were far too many controls surrounding him on this trip, and he was sure to complain about it to his parents when he got home.

The evenings were bonding times where the kids would do the normal activities and team bonding games, but they would also have a ‘sharing time’ where they would talk about the problems each of them have in dealing with their condition relative to the ‘normal’ kids and the social restrictions they felt. They talked about depression, anxiety, worries about emergencies, not being able to play or participating sometimes in sport or missing important days because of trips to doctors, etc. Every one in the group sympathised and nodded their agreement. Not jack. Jack thought their conversation was lame, and boldly told them their emotions were driven from a made up phobia. ‘I have diabetics too’ he said ‘and I don’t have any of these problems you guys are obsessed about.’ And he though to himself Build a bridge, you bunch of lame ducks. The group didn’t know how to respond to statements like these. The adult leader suggested to the group that Jack might be acting out in order to cover up deeper emotional hurts, so they showed him even greater sympathy and reassured him he was in a safe place. The leader made a mental note to contact Jack’s school and get a social worker or counsellor to do some follow up work.

Another aspect that irritated Jack enormously was having to wait for the real diabetic kids who took time out to measure their levels, and basically deprive him of time on the snow. The last bothersome thing was that he had to watch some of them injecting themselves everyday. He hated that the most, because it looked painful. About half way through the trip, he started to think, being diabetic wasn’t as fun as he had imagined. So the first thing he said to his mother when she picked him up, was ‘I’m not diabetic any more. They cured me!’

Back at school, Conny was no longer his friend.

Conny was too innocent to even dream up the idea that Jack would lie about being diabetic.

She had suspected something was wrong at camp. He had changed after the first day, and didn’t seem to want to be friends at ski camp. Back at school he simply ignored her. She had no idea that watching her inject herself was the catalyst for isolation.

Two weeks later the school counsellor pulled Jack out of class for a chat.

Jack was curious but disinterested. He listened and didn’t talk much. Just very short answers to any questions. He fidgeted and made funny noises to amuse himself. He used these same noises to annoy his parents when they tried to reason with him. The counsellor mentioned something about testing for ADD or OCD, so he asked what these were, and later looked them up ‘Attention Deficit Disorder’ and ‘Obsessive Compulsive Disorder’ on his ipad.

Jack soon learnt that kids with ADD were given special attention and sometimes even their own education assistants. In practical terms, Jack saw ADD kids as having special privileges, not having to participate in everything that the others had to. This was his ticket to freedom. And all he had to do was excel at being difficult and unruly. Being OCD at the time seemed like too much hard work for Jack. He stored that research for later and every now and again he added a another piece so that when he did want to be OCD, he already knew what rules he had made up for himself to live by.

At the next session with the counsellor, he had learnt from numerous web videos how to act. Soon afterwards, if there was an activity he wanted to do, or not want to do, he performed, played up, struck out at random, and usually got his own way.

The expected freedom did come, but with it came restrictions too. His was taken out of some group activities, became even more socially isolated, and on special occasions missed some of the fun stuff, in order to supposedly learn more basic lessons. He went along with this, because he was lazy, and missed some key learning events. Before long, he was academically behind all the other students, but he didn’t care because he knew he was smart anyway.

The day before the swimming carnival, Jack did not want to go to the library, so acted out a tantrum. The principal decided for the safety of other students that he would not attend the swimming carnival. Being ADD had too many drawbacks for Jack. He couldn’t comprehend why they had to treat him different.

He decided the ADD kids didn’t have the best life, and ended his ADD career. This put him in a new school, where his OCD and ‘Developmental Delay’ experiment succeeded. He had no friends at this school, and his education was again simplified. He enjoyed doing excentric things just to see how people reacted. After the newness wore off, people were not shocked anymore, they were patient, tolerant and considerate. He hated it. And he hated because it was as if they were ignoring him.

This pattern went on in high school, till Jack had exhausted all the local public and private schools. The Opees moved to Melbourne where they managed to convince the education authorities (with the assistance of the Department of Health) that Jack could gain a graduate certificate without sitting the exams. This certificate would not get him into university, but Jack had already purchased an on-line commerce degree. He only needed uni for the parties, and student discounts. For that he needed a student card, which wasn’t too hard to get. As a fraudulent member of a down syndrome association he was granted enrolment in a part time subject that he never attended.

Having Downs was fulfilling too. He thought it would be a way to get an easy job, but the type of monotonous work he was offered he could not stomach. His stomach also turned at the interviews when he looked around and thought how he would be stealing a job from a real person. It was that horrid emotion again. Besides he reasoned most of the downs people he met were in general too happy for Jack to imitate well. He eventually dropped the downs charade after he realised it was preventing progress with the girls.

 

And so it went on, wherever there was a hand out to receive, or an charitable group to exploit, Jack was there.

He became a Christian and others paid his way to exotic islands and even an Olympics. He gave that up after being chased and had his life threatened by some ‘non-Christ’ believers in Lakemba.

He became trans-gender just long enough to have others paid for a trip to Thailand for a sex change that never happened, but not long enough to fulfil some sexual promises he had made but had no intention of going through with.

He moved cities regularly.

He became a Syrian refugee, and got all sorts of help setting up a home in Brisbane, which he had to abandon when a film crew came to interview him about his story of hardship, and a letter from the ATO (Australian Tax Office) showed up at the same time.

He became an orphan, a neglected husband, a victim of child abuse, and even managed a sponsorship deal as a wheel chair basketball player.

He became Jill Obrien to apply for an accounting job in a company that was aiming to increase their female employee ratio.

He became a teacher in a remote rural town in WA because the department was offering incentive packages and supplying free accommodation. By this stage he had become very proficient in his entrepreneurial career, and he had several detectives around the country independently investigating his fraudulent activities. Every time a new police officer knocked at Phil and Fro Opee’s door with a new story, they would say they haven’t seen him for years, which was true. Jack never visited. He only phoned when he needed money. They would say they could not believe the allegations, which was not true. They would shut the door and worry and console each other that they were good parents. That they did the best they could do with their angelic Jack. That he was still being misunderstood. That the stories were not true.

The outback, like every other endeavour, did not agree with Jack. It was too hard. Being a teacher was the worst occupation yet. There were too many restrictions, too many rules, too many problem kids. Nobody in town liked him. The local constable looked at him funny.

After his study of the indigenous students at school, and comments from other teachers about government assistance, he played with the idea of the stolen generation, but he was too young. He was still convinced that he could become indigenous, get some government money and head to Europe.

But that never happened. The loose ends were all converging, detectives on the same trail had compared notes, federal police were involved. Jack had no idea that his time was running out.

The constable knocked on Harvey Royce’s front door. Jack answered.

‘Good evening Mr Royce. There has been a complaint…about you…from the school. I’d like you to come to the station and make a statement in relation to this allegation of harassment.’ There was joy in the tone of the constable.

‘What’s this about? - Who?’ Jack knew who and what, but needed to act the part, and maybe find an opportunity to disappear from Meekathara forever.

‘I can tell you down at the station Mr Royce.’

‘Can you give me a half hour, I’ve got dinner on..’

Constable Attwell gleefully cut him off ‘If you don’t come now, I’ll have to arrest you!’

‘Hmm, Ok, I’ll just turn the stove off.’

The constable followed him in and watched.

At the station, Jack Opee signed a statement in the name of Harvey Royce where he tried to communicate his innocence regarding an incident with a fellow teacher. Jack had used the orphan story on her in the hope that she would comfort him by allowing him to bury his head into her more than ample bosom. She proved to be difficult, as with most of the ladies Jack had attempted to seduce. He attempted to persuade Constable Attwell that is was just a communication error, that she had mis-understood him. Harvey explained his disadvantaged and underprivileged background and blamed a cultural gap. Constable Attwell informed him that there were no charges against him yet, but he would be doing some checks on his story and background.

Jack was not going to stick around for the fall out of that investigation. It was time for his walkabout transformation into one of the Yalata people of the Nullarbor. The last thing he did before leaving Meekathara was to pick up the phone.

‘Hi Mum…’ some chit chat and lies about how life is going, and the weather in Perth, ‘…can you send a money order to the post office in Kalgoorlie?’

Mum promised, then he almost hung up. She was saying something about the federal police wanting him.

The federal police were listening to the conversation. They knew he wasn’t in Perth, because their instruments said Meekathara.

Constable Attwell was not at the station when they phoned, because he was on his way back to the teacher’s place. He was troubled by the research into Mr Royce’s background and he wanted answers.

It was at the Eucla lookout where Jack gave his car the freedom to drive over the edge into the desert by itself. He would hitch hike the rest of the way to give some credit t the story he planned to tell the Yalata community. About the same time the Police from Canberra drove past in the opposite direction at speed.

Jack had a tough time with the Yalata community. They may have been a minority group and underprivileged in his eyes. But in their eyes Jack was a white liar. They knew how to deal with confidence men - always agree, but never promise or do anything. They never believed a word of his story. But they were kind to him, thinking he might after all be one-can-short-of-a-six-pack. It didn’t help him that the language he picked up from the kids at Meeka was not their language. But they didn’t tell him that either. They knew their land was valuable, but were not interested in any of his proposals about grants, development, mining or real estate.

Jack had no money or obvious options at that stage so it took him a whole month before he eventually gave up and decided it was too hard to be an indigenous person. He could not comprehend how they could be happy with so little, and hitched a ride to Ceduna.

In that month Jack had become a national celebrity. The police had hit a dead end so had let the media in. One show focused on his criminal activities, another interviewed the representatives of groups he had exploited, another tract his early childhood. The nation was outraged and fascinated, they couldn’t get enough of him. His various aliases, disguises, personalities and faces were published everywhere.

Even with his new beard, and barefoot Aboriginal look, Jack was recognised in Ceduna, and now spends his time between mental health facilities and correctional centres.

No one really believes Jack Opee will correct his behaviour. No one wants to let him out to try, except maybe Phil and Fro Opee.

——End of The Grass Is Not Greener by Bronson R A Symes ———-

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