Another throwback to the 2008 trip to Australia. This is a little more personal, a first person perspective with some dramatic undertones added; the kind of writing that could be done on the internet before all the wankers got connected.
I live a life of strange metaphors as if the spirit world were trying to tell me something. Whether the shaman in my dreams of late mouthing the words “slow down” or the weird argument with a Hertz representative over a flat tyre, there’s been an underlying message during my time in The Outback. ‘Did you choose to reduce the excess?’
I’ve just passed the 2000 kilometer mark for driving in the outback, 1850 of it with a flat spare tyre (as the Australians spell it). It’s been an odyssey all it’s own to get it fixed; from broken air stations in remote areas, to news at Ayer’s Rock Resort that I needed a new tyre, to no one having an exact match for it. And of course that strange question asked of me, “Did you choose to reduce the excess?”
2000 kilometers of driving could be considered excessive. 1850 miles in the middle of nowhere with a flat spare — several hundred of that on desolate unpaved back roads — could be considered foolish. But the question being asked, repeated three times each more forceful and frustrated than the last, I do not know what that means. “Did you choose to reduce the excess?”
The excess? The excess baggage of life that so many accumulate — is that what is meant? Why no. I don’t feel like I made a choice not to have the house, the kids, the stock portfolio, the excessive complication of a 21st century life. It just sort of happened that I got to 44 with none of that kind of excess. Everything I own except my Mini Cooper is in a 5×10 storage unit back in Flagstaff. Did I choose this lonely life? I don’t feel like I did. It just sort of turned out this way.
The Excess? The excessive chatter of a hyperactive mind? Why no. I don’t feel like I chose that. It’s just my nature. I think everything twelve ways to Sunday, measure all the angles and when I do make a decision I often wonder where the other path would have taken me. If only I had been at Uluru two days earlier, the great sunset at King’s Canyon would have happened here! …Maybe. No I didn’t choose this constant chatter, this continual creation of possible alternatives in my mind. I didn’t choose this any more that I chose to have a flat tyre rushing down an unpaved road toward Chamber’s Pillar as the sun got ready to set.
The Excess? The excess depth of insight that seems to scare others away? I don’t think that was a choice either. It comes from looking deep inside myself to repair holes, to make myself whole and well rounded. I suppose it’s like driving the desolate Mereenie Loop road with a flat spare tyre. It might be good to go a bit slower and take extra care. There is no backup if you get another flat.
And so it turns out that ‘reducing the excess’ is an Aussie term for buying the extra insurance coverage. Without that I was completely on my own, or so they told me before they hung up. (Both of us on landlines.) It turned out that they were wrong. After all else failed I took it back to Hertz in Alice Springs, and they pointed me to the place that does their tyres. I am to be charged 40% of replacement cost. The insurance coverage never mattered because of the deductible.
So I wonder what possessed this person out at Ayer’s Rock to insistently ask this strange question of me. It seems that I go through life as if I am driving a back road with a flat spare tyre. It would be nice to reduce the excess of worries, to not fret over pennies, and to have a G’Day Mate.
I think of what I dreamt about the Outback before I left for Australia: a woman in a white wedding dress continually slipping and sliding and falling down in a red muddy puddle. A more elusive meaning than ‘reduce the excess’. Maybe I just make life too complicated, maybe I am stuck in the mud, maybe I just like dirty women. I’ve got two more gorges to see, N’Dhala and Trephina before a day in Alice Springs, a day on a train to Darwin, and one last week of leisure in Cairns. I wonder what all that will bring my way.