Wadeville. Monday, 4.35pm
I live in a world of fear.
At any time, a pimply terrorist could blow me to smithereens, an ambitious immigrant could take my job, passive smoke could give me cancer, planetary ecosystems could collapse, my phone could give me a tumour, gluten could give me… whatever, and chemtrails could make me vote Liberal.
I know the world is a dangerous place. I know, because I listen to the radio. I’m going to die.
Fortunately, I’m not listening to the radio now. I’m driving my Superoo.
I shift down to fourth for a sharp left-hand corner, then smoothly back into fifth as I climb the southern rim of caldera.
I like driving. But it’s dangerous. There could be a driver coming towards me who injested cannabis a month ago. Or is texting her boyfriend. Yeah, I should be scared. But I’m not.
Here and now, the dark world of fear and foreboding is replaced by a sunny world of trees and tarmac. The sky is chemtrail free. The threatened environment looks, well, unthreatened, recent rains having flushed it green. And when I stopped at Wadeville Woolies to buy a bottle of Rosnay cabernet sauvignon, the young bloke in a hoodie buying hot chips smiled at me. Jeez, I didn’t even lock my car.
No, the fear so purposefully promulgated by the creators of terrorism, climate change and refugees (same creators) has evaporated, because I’m not listening to the news. I’m listening to the Thompson Twins (80s new wave) sing Lies. I’m also listening to a hitchhiker I picked up near the Nimbin turn-off tell me some.
‘No man, I’m off the heavy drugs,’ he says, unprompted, fidgeting with his beard, his hair, his beard, the Chinese thing hanging from the rear-view mirror, his beard…
‘I mean, that shit’s bad for you… Can you turn up the heat? It’s cold in here. But I like winter. Do you? I like summer too. But autumn is the best time… I’m glad you picked me up, man. It’s getting late. No, I just have good old bush bud now. Not that chemical crap. Can I wind down the window? It’s hot…’
Thing is, that, despite potential dangers lurking, like Pokemon creatures, behind every tree, in every passing car, at every general store, I picked up this hitchhiker – even though a hitchhiker could be a terrorist, a refugee, a drug-user, unemployed or work for the ABC.
Picking up hitchhikers is a middle finger to fear, a thumbs up to life, a lucky dip into the barrel of human experience. And it’s kind.
‘I gave up the heavy stuff ten years ago. Gave up alcohol and cigarettes too. Except that, sometimes, I might have a beer. Like last night, had a beer with me mates because… that’s okay, we were just at my missus’ place. Nothin’ wrong with that, eh?’
He stops talking, strokes his beard, touches the Chinese thing.
‘I probably talk too much. Sorry, man.’
‘Thanks for picking me up, man. My car’s busted. Some bastard cooked the motor. It leaks oil. Shouldn’t have lent it, I guess. Mum says I’m too sensitive. It’s because I’m the youngest. I’m always helping people out. That’s good, right? Like you picking me up. Thanks. What’s this music? It’s good, man. Would you like a joint? I mean, I could roll one. I have spin in mine. I know that’s bad, but it’s… I don’t know… It’s just so hard to be good… But I can roll one without. For you. It’s cold in here…’
‘I’m okay, cobber. But thanks,’ I say, smiling as we speed from the badlands of fear into the clement caldera, where people are.