Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Random Memory

I was talking on another forum, and a friend of mine showed me a picture of the drill-rig next to her house, which she thought was impressive because it was twenty-seven tonnes and taller (but a lot thinner) than a two-storey house. 

It brought to mind this memory: 

When I was driving across the continent once, one of the two trips I did alone, I had to pull completely off the highway and park gingerly in the saltbush to allow passage of an oncoming vehicle carrying something that not only covered the entire highway from gutter to gutter, but overhung the saltbush on either side by several metres. I think we were in South Australia close to the New South Wales border (By "close", I obviously mean within half a day's hard drive, give or take). We were already on the eastern end of the Nullarbor Plain, which at a good speed and doing 12-14 hour days, takes a little less than a day and a half to cross.

I happened to have the CB radio on at the time, and I'd been chatting with the guy driving the pilot-car before they came over the horizon so I knew to look for suitable spots to pull over. I spent the time rehydrating, getting out and stretching my legs, then getting back in again. Well, you have to, really. And as it chugged past I looked up with awe at their mechanical cargo and said: "What do you call that thing that you're carrying?" (To my eyes it was an enormous and completely incomprehensible machine, the size of four or five houses).

Another voice, obviously the driver of the rig itself, drawled laconically: "It's the biggest Tonka-toy in the world, love. Wanna play?"

I love the bush, I really do. Why the hell did I ever let anyone persuade me to come back to suburbia? Where am I ever going to have random conversations like that around here?

About twenty minutes later, the next oncoming vehicle came along, a guy in a three-part road train probably about thirty-five to forty-five metres long and with each component probably eighty tonnes. Those road trains have serious engines, and while the guy with the Tonka-toy and his paid escort (I love calling them that!) were crawling along at around 40 kilometres per hour, this truck was barrelling along at the speed limit, which would have been 100 kilometres per hour in that part of the country.

I gave him a call, too - well, it would have been rude not to. I told him about the mother-of-all-wide-loads ahead of him crawling along at a snail's pace, and suggested that he might want to pull over and have one of his compulsory rest-stops to give the rig a chance to pass the town (well, more accurately, the fuel-stop) of Nullarbor, after which I knew and he would have known that the land got a bit flatter and the saltbush got a bit lower, and he would have been able to pull his truck off the road and get around the rig with a degree of safety in some places.

He was really quite grateful to have the information, and you could hear the pleasure in his voice that I told him (my car looked like a city car, and city people don't think to keep people informed), and you could hear him already rescheduling his time in his mind as he spoke to me. As he went screaming past me in the opposite direction (I was doing about 140 and he was doing about 100, our approaching-speed was notably fast) he said goodbye and thanked me again. I said to him: "Remember me to the guys: tell them that the tonka-toy woman said hello". I enjoyed his laughter - he thought my comment was about the size of my car.

Now, their CB radios were a ways stronger in transmitting-power than mine, and I had an excellent aerial for reception, and a while later, in amongst a heap of static, I heard him calling the pilot-vehicle. The pilot-vehicle was too far away for me to pick up his half of the conversation, but the truckie said something like "Remember the tonka-toy woman? She said hello." Then silence and static, followed by a  warm, friendly laugh.

City-slickers really underestimate the humanity and overestimate the oafishness of bushies and road-train drivers. I really like them - far better than most suburban people. They have a sense of the reality of the world. You can't help but drop into trance and learn about different levels of reality when you drive dead-straight roads for hours at a time into mirages; you can't help but be decent.

No comments:

Post a Comment