“Excuse me,” I said, approaching a family of five who looked, from the dad’s expression, like they’d just had an unscheduled pee stop and beer o’clock at the next campsite was at risk of being missed, “I know how this sounds and I’m really sorry about that, but can I borrow one of your children?”
The mum’s smile seemed frozen in place as she no doubt went back over my sentence trying to find a less purvy way of hearing it. I decided to help her out, but mainly out of self interest: the dad’s face was pretty grim and on top of everything which had happened I didn’t feel like being punched in the nose.
We were, after all, at a fairly isolated service station on the Bruce Hwy between Maryborough and Gympie. There was nothing about but trees and travellers. But mostly trees.
“You see,” I said, indicating over my shoulder to the big rig carpark, “I’ve locked my keys in my bus and I can’t fit through the window.”
Oh, I’d tried.
I knew it was going to be a fruitless endeavour but I figured I had to give it a go. I watched a Youtube video of an octopus escaping by squeezing through a small hole in a ship’s side once and figured if I could try channel that sort of can-do attitude…but no.
The best which can be said about my attempt is it wasn’t, as I’d fully expected, my stomach which proved the obstacle to success so much as my barrel chest.
Or man-boobs, as Tracey later decided to phrase it.
Being pretty sure I wasn’t the first person ever these people had encountered to have locked their keys in their vehicle, I waited for everyone to break into understanding and relieved grins at this point. But while their eyes followed in the direction of my thumb their expressions didn’t seem any less punchy.
Oh fark it’s been stolen!
Panicked, I spun around, fearful a midget carnival dwarf had happened past as I’d been stuck in the window and taken advantage while I went off to scare a couple of parents.
Thankfully this highly probable scenario hadn’t occurred. A big blue rig had simply gone and parked between us and where my bus sat key-in-ignition ready to be stolen.
“It’s on the other side of that truck,” I said. They didn’t look convinced. I shrugged and must truly have looked pathetic by now as I mumbled, “Honestly, I have a bus.”
Thinking for sure they were going to chase me off and I’d have to wait for another family to pull up I further explained I’d dragged the trucker’s steps over from their refuelling area and one of the windows was open and wide enough for a kid, but not a child like me, to crawl through.
They didn’t laugh.
I mean crickets.
And while this not thinking me funny continued to be a theme, to my great surprise they were soon following me over the tarmac.
The dad still hadn’t smiled and I swear had one hand curled into a fist, so I tried small talk.
They were from the Sunshine Coast: I mentioned I was from Gympie. They were coming home from a holiday: I said I’d been visiting a couple of friends in Hervey Bay.
It was like pulling a healthy blood result from my liver, but at least they seemed willing to help.
The kids, meanwhile, were arguing excitedly about who was going to climb through the window. I suggested they all could if their parents said it was okay.
I glanced at their Mum for her input. She said nothing but still had on the same smile as when I’d originally approached them. At this point I wasn’t sure if it was a genuinely friendly smile she gifted strangers or was maybe still frozen on her mug from the shock of my initial request.
I asked if they’d mind if I took some photos to share because I have a blog where I write up all the dumb stuff I do because I do so much dumb stuff and this sort of fits the brief rather beautifully. Before they could say no I added, “I won’t show any faces, of course.” I also showed them every photo I took before they left so there’d be no concerns.
I got a nod.
Usually I tell people about the page so they can read the piece if they’re going to be in it, but I decided not to push it. The name was on the side of the bus anyway, if they were interested. And they might make assumptions about why the big family wasn’t anywhere to be seen.
In any case, we were soon up the steps and ready to start feeding in children.
“What’s on the other side of this window?” the Dad asked as he lifted the first of his kids up.
And here I thought asking to borrow a kid from a stranger in a remote service station was going to be the most awkward moment of breaking back into my bus-home.
“My bed,” I sighed.
Smiling in what I hoped wasn’t a creepy manner I went down the steps to stand with the mum and watch.
“I’m just gonna wait down here with you,” I said.
I still have no idea how my nose escaped unbroken but I’m pretty sure I’m on some sort of list now.
Other stuff from my two days away
Raising a family on little more than laughs
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