I live in Australia, which is a big country with a small population. Lots of tiny towns in remote areas. I’m an optometrist, and one of my first jobs after graduation was travelling by myself thousands of miles to these little towns to provide eye care. It was eye-opening😆, but I digress…
The first few times I had to do this were seriously nerve-wracking, not only from a professional standpoint, but also, as I realise now, from an ADHD position. I had to remember lots of stuff to pack, navigate the routes in the time before Google Maps, find the tiny church hall or doctor’s office where I’d set up, get to each place at a designated time etc.
At the start of my third trip, I forgot to set my alarm for 4am, woke at 6:30am and immediately freaked out. Frantically grabbed bags, suitcases and flung them into the back of the hire car(which boss paid for), and sans eating or showering, began driving insanely through the peak hour of the metropolis I lived in, running red lights, overtaking lines of cars and forcing my way back into traffic.
Somehow I and all my fellow commuters survived, and I was onto the highway out into the bush(as we refer to rural countryside), my heart rate gradually dropping back below 140, and starting to breath again, when I glanced back and realised I’d left my work briefcase with all my diagnostic equipment at work(head office in the city) the day before. It’d be fair to say that there followed some reasonably loud expletive-ridden, steering-wheel-thumping expressions of displeasure.
I did a handbrakey and chucked a uey(pulled the handbrake on while driving at speed to do a U-turn) and re-doubled my insane speeding through traffic. It was all going ok until I entered a 5-way intersection at speed and went air-borne over the crest of a junction and landed in the adjacent lane into the side of a truck.
It’s at this point that anyone with the least modicum of sanity might have decided that their adventure had ended for the day. I, however, was merely furious that the truck driver waving me over was going to delay me even further! He started to try to berate me, but I interrupted, saying, “Yeah, totally my fault. I’m a bleeping idiot, here’s my details, my card and my bosses details. Gotta go!” And jumped back in the rental and took off at full speed.
I arrived back at the office, ran in past the startled receptionist to my room, grabbed my briefcase, and yelled, “Sorry, had a prang, running late, seeyalater” on my way back to the car, whence I reversed my insane route back through the city and out onto the country highway. Where I realised I’d burned through most of the tank of petrol. “F**********!!!”
The gas stations still had attendants, and so while they filled her up, I frantically looked at my map, and realised I could take a shortcut off the highway and cut across country, saving me heaps of time. Hallelujah!
I took off up the highway and turned onto a nondescript poorly graded side street. It’s probably relevant to reiterate the whole large country, small population thing at this point to point out that this means proportionately fewer tax dollars per square mile, particularly as it pertains to road maintenance.
Several hundred yards into this shortcut, the poorly maintained bitumen road turned into an ungraded dirt or gravel road.
Now I haven’t read the specs on a 1990 Nissan Pulsar, but I’m fairly certain that the suspension, shock absorbers, drive train and braking system weren’t designed for off-road rally driving conditions(particularly after an earlier smash), and I’m absolutely certain the car rental agreement considered it verboten. I was drifting around curves, the tachometer in the red, literally dodging kangaroos, kicking up stones into the under-carriage, flying across the countryside, the Violent Femmes playing at full blast out of the speakers, furiously chain-smoking, compulsively glancing at the clock every 12 seconds, willing time to slow.
How I survived that diversion I’ll never know, but I pulled into the sleepy little town, population 300, only 2 hours late, screeched into the parking lot of the church, leapt out into the 100F air and started throwing bags from the car, and looked up to see at least 75% of the town’s population, sitting in front of the church, staring at me, mouths agog. No-one moved, or lifted a had to help as I furiously manhandled several heavy bags up and into the church, staring thunderously at the rector as he noted that though only 20 people were on my list, another 30 had decided they’d like me to see them, slammed open bags, scraped tables together, and assembled the necessarily ad hoc consulting area. The townspeople shuffled in, sat in the pews and stared as I fumed. I called out I’d just be a few more minutes, and grabbed the trial lens set( all the possible combination of prescription lenses laid out as glass lenses in a box) and swung it open onto the table. Upside-down.
Suddenly 200 pieces of glass lens were flying across the wooden floor, making a cacophony soon rivalled by raucous laughter as the whole crowd started whooping and wailing with glee. I stood there; my eyes saucers, my mind shrieking…and then something happened.
It was impossible not to join in. I started roaring with laughter, doubling over.
Everyone helped collect the far-flung pieces of glass.
I saw all 50 people, stopping when they brought in some home-baked lunch which we shared, swapping stories and smiling.
Just about everyone ended buying some glasses, most multiple pairs, and it ended up being the most profitable visit to any town for the year. The boss forgave me for the state of the car, and talked me up as an example to the other optometrists. Funny how life turns out sometimes.