Whilst writing the script for the documentary promo, I’ve taken to looking through some of the notes from my travels. Whilst many are superlative-filled attempts at describing what I’d been up to, I came across this gem from December 2006. I was in Tasmania, staying at the Zeuschners’ lovely home and taking a drive south to visit a friend in Hobart.
It’s been a busy weekend. Drove down to Hobart. On the way, having kept myself well hydrated, I needed a break and spotted a rest area, with requisite picnic tables and public amenities. Pulling up, I spotted another car with two chaps in it, with a shifty air about them: looking around edgily, sitting in the car doing nothing and (great observation, this) out-of-state-plates.
I’d seen enough episodes of The Sopranos to know that this might be a spot where drug deals and that sort of antisocial behaviour goes on, so it was with military alertness that I walked towards the toilet area. Having concluded my essentials, I walked back towards my car and spotted the two chaps walking up the hill towards me: one rather hefty, the other skinny, and both with suspiciously ginger-looking dyed hair and goatees.
Imagining they were going up to conclude some pre-arranged drug/cash exchange, I became aware that I might be in a potentially dangerous spot. I quickly assessed the situation, figuring if I walked on the side of “Skinny” I could probably handle any difficulty with him and then outrun “Fatty.” Puffing out my chest to improve my stature, I passed them and gave a quick nod, accompanied by a tough-sounding growl and they passed without any issue (clearly intimidated by my tough-guy look). I returned to the parking area and walked around a bit to stretch my legs, the adrenaline of a few minutes beforehand quickly abating.
I clocked the two ginger-goateed men walking back from the toilets. They stopped for a quick conference, looked towards me and split up. Fatty returned to his car and Skinny walked towards me. My spidey-senses were on full alert as he approached.
A quick set of niceties later, he gave me their names and explained they were en-route to visit his sister. I put it down to a love of the outdoors that he explained they were camping there that night, even though it was still afternoon. After about a minute (and that was all it was) he continued, “So, I was just wondering if you wanted….”
Now, at this point, I was expecting him to say “… wanted a bag of weed,” or, “…wanted to tell me when the cash/drug exchange was going to happen.” I certainly did not expect him to say, in the fashion that you might ask someone if they wanted to join you in a game of football, “So, I was wondering if you wanted a threesome with me and my mate.”
Now. I’m hardly naive, I’ve been to “gay-friendly bars” (Supernova’s RIP), but this was the first time I had ever been propositioned in such a fashion. Or, indeed, any fashion, let alone at the public amenities of Tasmania’s primary highway. So, whilst I was relieved that the immediate danger of drug-related violence had passed, he had clearly mistaken my earlier puffing-of chest for a gay mating-dance. It was thus with a somewhat bemused tone of voice that I responded, “Uh, no…. I’m alright thanks.”
I thought he might be a bit embarrassed at this point and scuttle away, but he continued in a somewhat hopeful tone, “Oh. Well would you like to play around with either of us?”
By this point, I knew he didn’t mean ping-pong or a bit of snooker, so I continued with, “No. Uh No, I’m fine.” And then, in a moment of absolute English-ness, I added: “But thanks for asking.” THANKS FOR ASKING?! What on Earth was I thinking to add that little bagatelle?
I returned to my car, still slightly startled by the whole occasion, and made swift use of the advanced driving skills I had learnt on the farm. A few minutes down the highway the bizarre nature of the situation became clear to me. I had just stumbled across the downfall of politicians and former 80s pop icons and hadn’t really believed, until that point, that anyone would really approach a stranger at a public convenience and ask him if he’d like a bit of mano-a-mano-a-mano. Suitably illuminated on the nature of public conveniences in Tasmania, I continued to Hobart with some trepidation.
From this point forth, any rest stops I take in Tasmania will be at the side of the road in the bush. I’ll take my chances with the Tiger Snakes. In any case, they’re less frightening than the Tasmanian Pit Stop Trouser Snake.
Hobart: nice town. On the harbour. Looks a bit like San Francisco. Perhaps that gives a link to my earlier experience at the rest-point.