I was working a real job, years ago, instead of trying to be something as
nebulous as a “writer”, I asked a coworker who he thought the nicest
people were. You see, he was in the U.S. Navy for two years and travelled
all over the world.
he replied without hesitating.
I thought they were kind of loony, from baking their heads in the sun all
They're just like in the TV commercials, where they say, ‘We'll throw
another shrimp on the barbie for you.’”
I replied again, more as a statement than a question. I told you I was a
writer, such a gift I had.
very friendly. When you go to a bar, they buy you drinks and act like
they've known you a long time.” Neil spent a lot of time at the bars.
Someone buying him a drink would be a big thing. I wonder if he took the
trouble to see anything else, like say, The Sydney Opera House.
remembered that conversation for some reason, possibly because nothing
exciting ever happened to me. When I got a chance to travel for an article
I decided to head Down Under.
strolled down a busy street in Sydney upon arrival I marveled at the
people I saw. The women were very nice indeed. I thought about moving
someone reading a magazine, Bikwil it was called.
me, sir, what is a ‘Bikwil’,” I asked politely.
you’re a Yank are you?”
“Yes, how could you tell?” I decided to test this
just a wild guess. Anyway, Australians are not allowed to tell foreigners
any of our state secrets.” He went back to reading his magazine.
if I’d put on an Australian accent when I’d met you?” I said in my best
Scottish, you twit. Now go away.”
was good, really good. I had to admit failure. I went off again in search
me, ma’am,” I said in my most courteous voice to a lady in her sixties.
“Would you say most Australians wrestle alligators at some point in their
wouldn’t know, son, I’m from Brisbane originally.”
really living there. It's more like a constant state of hell. The only
things to eat are breaded dragons. Cannibalism is on the rise.” She made a
face that said “don’t tell anyone”.
you mean ‘bearded dragons’?” I asked politely.
them breaded, actually.”
she said and spat on the sidewalk, some of which hit my shoe. “Sorry.”
about buying me a drink?” I asked, trying another tactic.
stepped back and looked me up and down.
feeling hungry, mister. You best be on your way. I still have some bad
habits I picked up in Brisbane.”
wanting to stretch my luck, I decided to press on. I had time for one more
interview before I had to go to the airport (it was a short vacation). I
saw a tall, blonde looking in a shop window.
you looking at?”
looking at the window, but could see me in the glass’s reflection.
much,” she replied.
decided to retreat.
back. I was only kidding.”
know, that's my name.”
was cutting corners,” I replied, wondering if she’d catch the joke.
going to sleep with you. I’d really, really like to, though.”
not?” Even though the thought hadn’t crossed my mind, I was still hurt at
have you Scots thinking all Australian women are tramps, even though quite
a few from Brisbane are.”
heading there next,” I lied.
recommend not bathing for a few days beforehand. The worse you smell, the
less chance you have of being someone’s lunch.”
must be awful.”
is. But the worst place in Australia is called ‘North Rocks’. Don't ever
wouldn't tell me why North Rocks was so bad. She ran away hysterically
when I tried to ask her.
toward the airport for my flight home. As the plane lifted off the ground
I thought about the people I’d met. They were weird all right, but a lot
like me. I could feel at home here. I decided I would come back again. I
settled in for a nap, but just as I was becoming comfortable, the
Captain’s voice came over the speakers.
afraid I have some bad news, and some good news. The good news is, we are
having some technical difficulties and have to make an unplanned landing
for repairs. The bad news is, we’re landing in Brisbane. I suggest all
passengers grab whatever foul-smelling substances are around and rub them
on yourselves. It’s nearly dinner time in Brisbane, need I say any more?"
had time to grab some Vegemite and begin smearing it on my face. I could
only hope it would be enough.