Lismore. Monday, 12.40pm
It’s a work of art. A shiny box. It has a shimmering aura around it. Wow.
I want to touch it – it attracts me. It’s a monolith like in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but gleaming, and in a plumber’s workshop. I hear Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra float down from the rafters. (Strange for ZZZ FM…) I check for monkeys.
Yes, I want to touch the glinting metal box – but I’m reluctant to do that in case I change the course of evolution.
Well, you never know: If, by touching the monolith, the hominids of Arthur C. Clarke’s story started the process that has led us to where we are now, then, a quick feel from me might initiate another evolutionary change of direction for humans. Dangerous. (Imagine if our worldview started to include the world.)
Obviously, I have breathed too deeply of the welding fumes.
But it is like the monolith – but smaller, and with fiddly bits: a 40 litre stainless-steel container with inlets and outlets and I don’t what-the-hell-that’s-for lets.
The new caravan water tank glistens on the workbench beside the old rusted tin tank I brought in here a few weeks ago. I said to a young plumber bloke wearing a camouflage cap: ‘I need one exactly like this. But in stainless steel. Can you do it?’
He said, ‘Yup.’
And here it is.
I could have bought a plastic one. The caravan shop told me everybody has plastic ones these days. I could have bought a cheaper stainless steel one from China online. But I like stuff that is made locally.
I touch the stainless flank, my fingers tracing past the intake port, slipping around the outlet pipe and sliding down to the drain flange. It feels like good work.
The young plumber bloke is standing next to me. His name is Peter. He wears the same camo cap. (But I can still see his head.) At a nearby workbench, an older bloke in overalls is folding some flat tin into a curve with supersize pliers. He’s looking my way as I check out the new tank and talk to Peter.
‘That flange must have been tricky,’ I say.
‘It’s a good job.’
‘You don’t reckon the tank needed a baffle?’
Peter doesn’t say much.
The water tank is for my caravan. (Yes, I have a caravan, but let’s get one thing straight: I’m not a grey nomad. I don’t like striped polo shirts, chemical toilets or plastic water tanks.)
My caravan was built by students at the Lismore Technical College in 1958. (I like stuff that is made locally.) The old water tank, the original, could have been made by this very same plumbing business. They’ve been plumbing in Lismore since 1903. I like that.
The caravan is 9’ 6″ (just under 3 metres) long, has two round portholes on the starboard side and faithfully follows my Superoo to festival, beach and party. These days it’s solar powered, has a built-in wine rack, and soon will have a brand new, locally made, stainless steel water tank.
‘Did you make this yourself?’ I ask Peter.
‘He did,’ says Peter, nodding to the older bloke. ‘His name is Peter… too.’
I look over to the Peter Two, and our eyes meet.
‘Good job, mate,’ I say.
Peter raises an eyebrow, nods, and goes back to crafting his perfect curves. Peter makes Peter seem like a chatterbox. I like these Peters. I like this tank. Same thing, I reckon.
Everything you do creates the world. Nothing is cheap. Nothing disappears. Plastic becomes toxin; steel becomes rust; people become history; history becomes us.