Friday, November 11, 2011


Whenever I felt the need to eat, I made a habit of stopping where the big interstate trucks parked because there, for sure, would be the best food and best comfort! In summer, their air conditioning would be working well and in winter, there would be, for sure, a warm log fire to relax by. On this day, I found myself looking for a place to have a mid-afternoon snack. The nearby large roadhouse looked inviting, and there had been a group of semi-trailers congregated in the vast car park, waiting for their owners.
‘Good afternoon’ a friendly greeting made me relax right away.
Sitting down in a cosy nook, I had asked for a chicken salad and a pot of coffee in accordance with the weight-watching program I was undergoing at the time.
‘Very well.’ The young lass had made notes and disappeared into the kitchen.
The background music was all ‘country’ and I had glanced into a newspaper for the latest news on the economic front, what so-and-so said in Parliament and the reply from the opposition, the news from the footy teams and how they dealt with unruly players.
Boring, boring, I thought - always the same. But it helped me to relax, so much so that I felt like dozing off.
‘Here you are luv,’ a friendly-voiced waitress put down some cutlery, pepper and salt and then ‘bang!’ an enormous bowl of something appeared in front of me. My sleepy eyes  snapped wide open and I gasped in shock. It was a large mound of salad, piled high above the rim of the bowl, and on top of it, carefully balanced, was a half a grilled chicken!
I can’t eat all that, I thought. What a portion! Looking around helplessly I had seen on each table one or two tall, burly men in singlets or T-shirts, tucking with gusto into similar mountains of food. They all seemed to take the size of the portions for granted! Trying to fit in with the other ‘road people’, I had pretended to tuck in with great appetite. But I still had to furtively wrap most of the chicken into a paper napkin to take ‘home’ to my motel room.
Later, back in my car and driving off, I had made a mental note to check the size of the meals in future before ordering.
Upon approaching the town of Darebin, I had remembered some friends in Melbourne asking me what I did if I fell sick or something similar whilst on a country trip.
Well, on my last trip to Darebin, I had lifted a heavy case of samples out of my car. Grabbing it wrongly, or misjudging my ability, my back had given out and the pain which shot up and down my spine was excruciating. I had managed to drag myself into a motel room, close the door and fall on top of the bed. The pain got worse because the bed had suddenly become so unbearably soft. Carefully, I had managed to slide off it and slowly lower myself onto the thickly carpeted floor. The relief was instant - no pain, no aches. I managed to pull down from the bed a pillow and a blanket.
Never had I thought a floor could be so comfortable to lie on. I slept through the evening and the night, but before I dozed off I had wondered what the staff would say if they came in the morning to make the bed and found me on the floor, unable to move. Would there be a doctor in the town that could come and help me? How long would I have to lie on the floor before I could move again? I was a long way from home . . .
However, when I woke up in the morning, I had felt extremely well and had no more problems with my back! As I slept deeply, nature had taken over and healed, like the utilities programs in my computer, I thought.
Another time, I had caught a bad flu virus. I must have shaken hands with a real germ carrier of an architect! Arriving at a motel, I had checked in with a croaky voice and running nose, shivering and obviously with a slight temperature. Once holed up in my room, I had helped myself from the courtesy bar to a tea bag and a small bottle of Bundaberg rum. After a cup of hot tea laced with rum and when ensconced in a warm bed, I had started to glow like a stop sign. But again, when I woke up the next morning, although my pyjamas were wet with sweat and my hair was sticking to my scalp and forehead, I felt fine, even on top of the world I had thought,
Another time things were a bit trickier for me. Again, on a country trip, I had parked my car in front of a hospital engineer’s office. The ground was so uneven that I had twisted and sprained my ankle. First I took no notice of the pain and completed my business with the engineer before driving off. As soon as I was on the road, I had noticed that my left ankle was swollen and extremely painful. Putting my car in ‘cruise control’, I had experienced immediate relief. But every time I had to slow down and use the brake, the pain that shot up my leg was indescribable. I never noticed before how often one has to brake, even on a clear freeway! Finally I arrived at the next town and, jumping on one leg, with gritted teeth and bated breath, I checked myself in at my motel,
The next day I went to the local hospital by taxi, where a doctor x-rayed my ankle and put bandages on it. I hired a pair of crutches from the nearest chemist and spent the next two days in my room, conducting my business as well as I could, from my telephone. Other illnesses have, thankfully, never happened to me whilst on a business trip.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


On the horizon there was something like fog and I was driving right into it. At first I noticed the occasional locust splashing on the windscreen and I had winced in my seat. The creatures turned into something like scrambled eggs and slid down the windscreen in a gooey, slimy mass. My windscreen washers did their work and cleared the screen, but this was becoming increasingly difficult as the number of smashing locusts increased. What would happen if I ran out of water to clean the windscreen? I thought. And then I noticed the red warning light indicating an overheated radiator. Just now this had to happen, I thought bitterly. Turning into a roadhouse, I quickly parked my car and ran into the restaurant part where I found a man looking worriedly at the darkening sky.
‘My radiator has suddenly overheated and I think I need fresh water.’
The attendant appeared to be amazed at my naive talk and advised me out of the corner of his mouth: ‘Nothing to do with it. You have to brush the locusts off your radiator and you’ll be alright. You’ll still need some water for topping-up’.
He suddenly had a small hand broom in his hand and walked to my car where he brushed an amazing amount of roasted locusts from the radiator – all crispy fried, I thought. After everything was checked - water, petrol and the windscreen was cleaned properly once more - I was about to drive off.
But first, I returned to the service station’s office and bought a small hand broom and felt slightly safer. Returning to my car in a haze of swarming locusts, I had noticed the horizon looking black. All the time the chirping noise and flying whirr of the creatures had been sawing at my nerves. A four wheel drive had pulled up behind me and I asked the farmer who emerged from his heap of scrambled eggs what else one could do in such a situation. He glanced at me in a strange way. Somehow, they all seemed to know how to cope with a situation like that one.
‘Well, you’ve got a small brush or hand broom, I see,’ he pointed at it. ‘You surely need netting in front of your radiator . . .’
‘What’s that?’ I interrupted.
He pointed to his vehicle. ‘What you need is a fibreglass mesh tied in front of your radiator to prevent the bloody locusts from clogging up your radiator.’
I stared at the flywire mesh in front of his radiator – that’s the solution, I thought.
The farmer noticed that I was simple and added ‘Of course you still need to get out of your car occasionally and brush it clean once in a while. Otherwise your radiator may still boil!’
I had thanked him with great relief and gone back into the service station’s office where I bought some flywire mesh and tied it in front of my car’s front grille.
Upon continuing my trip into the ‘black hole’, I learned what fear was. You cannot see the road ahead; your windscreen wiper cannot clean away quickly enough the messy slime that runs down the windscreen. And when you are out of water, and the radiator is hot again, you have to get out and brush away the insects and that’s when they get you. In the stifling heat, they crawl into the car, into your clothes and as quickly as you brush them off, they clog up your mesh again. And all the while, that high pitched chirping is penetrating your brain and you cannot do anything about it!
With my suit clinging wet to my body, shaking and wide eyed with terror, I got through the swarm, headlights blazing. At the next roadhouse, I steadied myself with a strong cup of coffee.
While the mechanic filled up the petrol tank and checked the motor and radiator, he tried to talk to me: ‘So, you’ve been through that swarm already. They are expected here by tomorrow. Then we will have trouble,’ he said with a grim expression. ‘You won’t believe what they eat. There is nothing left wherever they strike!’
‘I thought the Government was spraying their areas to reduce the swarm.’
‘Yeah, but only crown land, me boy!
‘What do you mean? They spray only on government land and across the fence, on private property, nothing is being done? And there is more private land than crown land in some areas. That’s no good.’ I got agitated. ‘The authorities are bragging on the radio about what they are doing to break the plague while they keep breeding on private land.’
He laughed, ‘You’ve just learned a lesson now, haven’t you?’
I swallowed bitterness. ‘Yes, I suppose I just have.’