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"An Australian version of me. Only younger. And Talented. And better looking. Okay, nothing like me." - Al Penwasser

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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 15: Gala Auction

Every year (apparently) the Repat Foundation holds a big gala dinner for returned servicemen and women and high profile Adelaidians. My friend Kelsey, who's studying event management at uni, was one of the key volunteers that helped put the gala together. On the night they needed more volunteers to run the show and guess who put his hand up? Predictable old me.

Jerida came too and she went to the Entertainment Center at nine in the morning to help set up. I wasn't available until six that evening (I was at the latest Port Adelaide game), so I rocked up and entered through the backstage door just in time to catch the end of the briefing for the night proper.

The dining room looked amazing. It was covered in red and black with a dash of white here and there and it was awash with candlelight.The chairs were all covered in soft-looking red lycra sleeves and there were spotless crystal glasses on every table. Lined up along the back of the room was the object of our attention for the night - a long table of objects that the diners could bid on. It was a silent auction.

As hundreds of rich-looking socialites entered the auditorium, my spirits were unexpectedly high. I was dancing along to the military swing band, much to the amusement of the other volunteers and a couple of the guests. They all took their seats and Jane Doyle came onto the stage to introduce the night. There were speeches and letters from the ANZACs and then the entrees were served.

Someone had to get the bidding going on the silent auction. I looked around at the items. There were a series of painted ceramic pots, some paintings, a set of golf clubs, movie vouchers, shopping sprees, jewellery, a nice dress, a hot lap in a V8 Supercar and a joy-flight in a two-seater areoplane. That's the one I stopped at. See, I'm getting to a stage at the moment where I deliberately make things happen just so I can write about it on this blog. A joy flight in a tiny aeroplane was something I'd never tried before. So if I could win that, that would be another week of my blog sorted. The hot lap would have been cool too, but I've been a passenger in a stunt-car while the driver did tricks, so that's sort of similar. The joy flight is something completely new.

The reserve price for the flight was $80, so that's what I put down. Then as people came to check out the items up for sale, I watched them like a hawk. It took two hours for someone else to bid on it, but eventually someone bid $100. That's ok, I'd bide my time. Beat her bid at the end of the night.

Meanwhile, I did actually have a job to do. We were there to answer any questions and cross out all the invalid bids (the ones that weren't filled out correctly). It didn't take long at all for someone to have a problem with that. Two ladies who were already tipsy came up to us and said 'Who crossed out my bid?'
'That was us, madam. The bid was too low and it needs to be signed.'
'But why did you cross it out?'
'Because it wasn't filled in correctly.'
'I didn't know my table number when I made the bid.'
'That's fine madam. Feel free to write it down again, just remember to increase your bid by $5 and sign it and you'll be fine.'
'Don't do it again,' one of them threatened as they both ambled off. I heard the other one yell to a companion that we'd crossed it out because she'd forgotten her table number. I sure hoped the rest of the night wouldn't be like that.

More food and entertainment was brought out during the night. Some singer came out who was apparently the runner up on The Voice. He was pretty good, in my expert opinion. After the main course finished, they held the major auction - the one for their big-ticket items that they brought out actual auctioneers for. They gave all the volunteers big thick glow sticks so they could move through the crowd and catch the attention of the auctioneers. When someone wanted to make a bid, the closest volunteer would go up to them and wave their glow stick around. I was keen to be involved in a battle. You know how at the end of an auction there's always two or three people left who are battling it out with each other? The whole time I was hoping that I'd be the volunteer representing one of those guys. The closest I came was when a guy put up his hand once right towards the end of a battle for an expensive pearl necklace. But he didn't bid again.

As the time limit for the silent auction drew to a close, the item tables became busier and busier. I wasn't worried about my flight. I waited until 10:59 and looked at the sheet. The winning bid was $120. The value of the flight was apparently only $100. Well, it was going to a good cause... I took out my pen and Jotted down $130, then I got to work collecting all the sheets of paper. It's not cheating, shut up.

I hung around while a couple of people organised the winners, then I helped guests find their prize. We packed up and shared celebratory champagne (water for me) in one of the backstage rooms. The organisers couldn't thank us enough for all our help and joked that if Kelsey wanted to volunteer for all their Anzac Galas from now on, that was fine by them.

Stay tuned. Some time soon you'll be reading about my joy flight in a two-seater plane. I met an eccentric man throughout the night who said he flies them, and he gave me his name and phone number so that when I wanted to take the flight he could organise it. This might be my favourite one yet.

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