It was a long 2400 km (1500 mile) drive in ‘The Beast’ from Sydney to Charters Towers in North Queensland for my brother Steve’s wedding in June 1993.
We now have six children but in those days it was just three year old Josh and one year old Samantha in the back. Jared was just a sparkle in my eye at that time. The beast was a 1984 model Ford XF Falcon that was an ex Sydney Taxi, the odometer had stopped years before at 556,000 kilometres so we didn’t know how many k’s it had really done. It had a terribly squeaky suspension so the neighbours could hear us coming for miles and the air conditioning didn’t work. It was reliable though, the straight six carburetter fed (I call it a slightly refined tractor motor) engine had plenty of grunt and it ran on liquid petroleum gas (LPG) so it was also cheap to run.
Unfortunately there were a lack of petrol stations up North that catered for LPG and if it ran out of fuel you couldn’t use a can to refill the pressurised tank, you needed a tow which we probably didn’t have the money for. I remember turning off the Bruce Highway as we were running low at some stage of the journey, the engine stalling for lack of fuel, then silently rolling up to a bowser just in the nick of time. It’s funny looking back now but at the time it was pretty nerve wracking!
A much more favourable highlight was enjoying Trish’s home made Lasagne at a roadside rest area after having it previously heating on the engine wrapped in aluminium foil whilst driving and listening to Ricky Scaggs. Utilise the technology I always say!
At one point we were still over 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) from our destination and nearing the seaside town of Gladstone. The kids were tired and whingey and my wife wanted a shower. We pulled into town and eventually found a Marina so we boldly decided to avail ourselves of their facilities. I didn’t see any signs saying we couldn’t use the showers and toilets but then again I probably didn’t look too hard either.
Whilst my wife headed off to the showers with Sam, Josh and I went to the mens toilet/shower block. Josh insisted on being in his own cubicle so we ended up sitting adjacent to one another. I was sitting there feeling like an incompetent Dad hoping Josh was managing okay when the following conversation took place between us; Josh had hearing problems so as usual he was speaking at full volume.
“Are you doing a wee or a poo’?”
At this point I could hear people outside chuckling to themselves.
“Dad, are you doing a wee or a poo?”
More laughter prevailed but it didn’t emanate from me.
I whispered as quietly as I could, “A poo, shoosh!”
“What Dad, I can’t hear you”.
Some more laughter.
“A poo, SHOOSH!”
I was thankful that there was silence for a little while but unbeknownst to me Josh’s little brain was ticking over formulating another question.
“Is it a hard one or a sloppy one?”
At this point people in the toilet/shower block burst into laughter and I sunk into my toilet seat feeling overcome by embarrassment and a feeling of incredulous surreality at the conversation that had just taken place. My embarrassment quickly turned to mirth though and I started to laugh as well.
Josh wasn’t sure what all the commotion was about, he just wanted my answer so he patiently asked me again.
“Dad, is it a hard one or a sloppy one!”
“I’ll tell you later son”.
I never did answer that question – and I’m not going to tell you either because its none of your darn business!