Wednesday, August 13, 2008

On the road

Here's a funny story. In the South Australian outback, Leigh and I would often drive into a little town at about lunchtime, looking for a suitable watering-hole and a bite to eat. Now, at this time of day, these places are always like ghost towns. There's nary a car on the road. Nobody around. The place is quiet, utterly deserted.

So one of these places, suffering under the unusual name of Quorn, about 400k from Adelaide out towards the Simpson Desert, was our place du jour. We drove along the typically deserted back streets until we came to the central business district, which consisted, as far as I could make out, of four pubs within about fifty yards of each other. (It's a notable fact of Australian country life that the smaller the population, the more pubs per town. We were in a place called Eden, which, by the way, thoroughly lived up to its nomination, and I remember reading a sign as we drove in that said: "Eden - a drinking town with a fishing problem.") Anyway, in the main street of Quorn there was not the slightest shred of evidence to convince us out of the eerie belief that a flock of UFOs had recently landed and extracted the entire population, plus their automobiles, to the Andromeda Galaxy or thereabouts.

We chose one of the pubs, a grand old edifice called the "Austral" (I know, pathetic, isn't it?) I pulled up in parallel-park position right outside the front door, which happened to be open. We got out, stretched, and walked on in.

Inside was a barmaid, a woman in her mid-forties or so, and an old guy slowly enjoying a small beer. I gave the barmaid a "G'day", and we ordered a couple of beers and enquired about the food situation.

"No problems, fellers, I'll fix somethin' up for yerz." (That's how they talk out there.)

She came around from behind the bar, walked out the door, then immediately returned, giving us a quizzical shake of the head.

"That'd be right - bloody Volvo drivers!"

"What?", I said, "What have we done?"

"It's angle parkin' in this street, ya galah! Yer fuckin' parallel-parked!"

"Well, how was I to know?" I replied. "There aren't any signs."

"Ah, everyone knows it's angle parkin', boofhead."

"Well, what does it matter?", I rather defensively responded - "there's no-one here anyway."

"Well that's why, ya drongo - nobody can get a park!"

Postscript: About a week later, after we'd been up to the desert, we arrived back in Quorn, ravenous, on a Saturday night. The place was jumpin'. Cars everywhere, lights, people all over town. What a change from the week before. As it happened, there was just enough room, amongst all of the properly angle-parked cars, for me to get a spot parallel-parked in exactly the same place as I'd parked the week before. 

"Watch this," I said to Leigh. We pulled up outside the pub, got out and walked in. The same barmaid was there (the place was packed), looked beyond us out the door, and gave us just the slightest dismissive shake of her head, and I swear I saw her eyes roll around. Later, as we sat down to eat in the pub's restaurant, a waitress came up to take our orders.

"You'd be the bloody Volvo drivers, then," she said.


Apathy Personified said...

Haha - Love it!
Wouldn't have happened if you were in a caravan though.....

Sharon said...

You've got to collect these into a book. Very entertaining.

TheWhitePearl said...

Right on Laurie.

That's exactly something I would do.


Yuh-uh, you just pretend the other cars aren't there.

Bonzai said...

Great posts, Laurie.

I saw a movie on TV a while back, can't remember what it is called now.

The story is about a poet returning to his native Spain after decades of exile in the U.S. because of the Fascist took over in Spain.

The guys was 65 years old.

When he returned to Spain, he hooked up with his highschool sweetheart, who was by then a widowed grandmother.

The two old lovers rekindled their old flame. For the rest of the movie they giggled and fucked like silly, horny teenagers.

At one point, the old guy summed it up thus. " I used to think that passion is the privilege of youth, now I realize that you only become old when you stop lusting for life." I think it was beautifully put.

At the risk of sounding like a POMO, I think age is just a state of mind (provided you are healthy, of course)

Everyday my roomate has lunch at exactly 12pm and dinner exactly at 5pm. He has to be in bed by 11:30pm or midnight even though he doesn't have to work. You can't get him to deviate from his routine even if WWIII breaks out.When we go out for drinks, he would insist on leaving shortly before midnight, almost like Cinderella.

He wouldn't go for camping or God forbids, long distance travel. The difference in time zone would kill him. Yes, he is old and gray, even though he is only 24.

Coming from a different culture I am keenly aware of how aging is perceived differently in the East and West.

In Asia, people are slotted into boxes. People tend to only mingle with those in their own age groups, and there is a definite social expectation for people to "act their age". By "acting" I mean it literally. When my uncle turned 60, I realized he suddenly took on the demeanor of an old man, he walked slower, he started talking in that long whinny, exaggerated old man voice. I think he faked it just to play the role. Too much pressure to conform.

My mother now hangs out with fellow senior citizens (she is 67)and takes hobby classes with them. The strange thing is, I think she is actually quite youthful and healthy, whereas people in her groups are in their mid 70s to mid 80s. Sometimes I think perhaps she can only hang out with the really old people because they put her in that box. In contrast, I have friends here who are around my mom's age and they are very active and mingle freely with younger people in outdoor trips and other recreation activities.

Now we often hear about "aging demographic" in Western countries. I think perhaps this is an exaggeration of the alarmists. It is not really how old you are, not even how much you can do,--I don't think there is a sharp, rapid decline in mental ability when you get older unless you suffer from dementia,--but how much you are willing to do and are allowed to do.

In Asia the population is overall younger, but they also seem to age faster. Life is laid out like a straight line, there are expectations to fill and goals to meet at each sign post, once you reach a certain stage in your life, they put you in a box. Some people praise it and call it "respect for the senior", but I find it very oppressive and limiting. It can also be exploitative because now your grown children may expect you to look after the grandchildren for them.