Tuesday, February 1, 2011


The road ahead was straight and well paved, with fields of crops on either side. They were interrupted every now and then with untouched nature consisting of eucalyptus, wattles, banksias and other well-known symbols of the Australian landscape.
I had at least one more hour of travelling ahead of me before reaching the town of Delaney where my cosy motel room was waiting.

The urge for a short break overcame me and I remembered a roadside petrol station with a little café attached to it, which would soon be appearing on my right hand side. On a number of occasions I had fortified myself for the final stretch of my journey with strong coffee and a chat with a friendly waitress.

Before long it appeared: an elongated, white building with petrol pumps outside covered with corrugated iron roof, supported by outward-angled pillars that had been fashionable when it was designed many years ago. Now, though the whole station with its rusting roof and posts and its peeling paint, looked a bit neglected. However, it had a homely look conveying the ambience of a well established roadhouse with old-fashioned service!

A large sign, announcing this to be the last stop for petrol and water for the next eighty kilometres added a touch of urgency to its invitation.
But, like I said, the cafeteria looked cosy in winter; in summer, its air conditioning was very severe, making the stop a refreshing one.

As was my habit, my first call was to the washrooms, located at the right-hand side of the building. There are two doors side by side and in front of one of them stood a little girl, obviously a traveller from the city, like myself. I recognised this from her white skin and her clothes being of city fashion. Banging at the door for ladies she realised that it was occupied. Shyly she looked around with a pinched face whilst rapidly changing her weight from one foot to the other.

‘Hello!’ I said, approaching the next door clearly marked ‘Men’.’
‘Can’t get in?’
She pulled herself together and managed the pressed words:’ No, it’s been locked and closed for a long time….’
‘Are your parents here?’ I asked to ascertain the situation.
‘Yes.’ She nodded quickly and her hands touched her belly where she was obviously in great pain.
Her legs crossed, her pretty face contorted with strain, she was desperately thinking for a solution to her problem. That poor girl looked definitely sick!

‘Why don’t you go in here?’ I pointed at the door to the men’s which was slightly ajar.
She stared through the gap into the interior.
‘But that’s a men’s toilet’ she hissed through gritted teeth, obviously she was well brought up and obedient - no matter what!
‘What’s the difference?’ I tried to belittle the matter and observed how she saw a glimmer to hope to her problem. Therefore, I assumed a commanding voice:
‘In you go!’ Pointing to the interior, ‘I shall stay here and watch out for anybody who comes…and explain everything!

I am not sure whether she had heard all I said because I suddenly found the men’s door closed and locked. If this had been a cartoon, there would have been a condensation strip slowly dissolving, I thought.

When she came out, her pretty face was transformed in relief and gratitude, her blue eyes radiated and she whispered a ‘thank you!’ and, with a skip and a hop, she went around the corner of the building, back to her family.
All I could do is give the still-closed door of the Ladies an accusing look!

Peter Frederick

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