Bush fires, cattle trucks, nightworks, and near misses

The past 18 hours have nearly convinced me that I shouldn’t venture outside of the house for a while. 

A flock of helicopters combed the sky near the University yesterday afternoon while I waited for my supervisor to join me for our meeting. My supervisor’s assistant said, “Oh, all of these helicopters are really starting to worry me…” as she shifted her position so that she could get a better view out of her window. “There are two flying right over there – a yellow one and a white & blue one – I think the white & blue one’s a rescue ‘copter.”

This is where all Australians would easily have been able to turn to me, fingers pointing mockingly, and say, “Spot the Canadian!”

Because the whole time she was worrying about these helicopters, I was thinking, “I wonder what they’d need a rescue helicopter for? Maybe there was a robbery, or there’s a high-speed chase going on, or a hostage situation of some sort. Maybe the criminal is fleeing toward the campus at this very moment, and the rescue ‘copter is trying to save the children he’s abducted while he lurches through the scrubby brush around the campus, closely tracked by sniffer dogs…” 

So while my mind was replaying every bad episode of ‘Cops’ I’d ever seen in Canada, the assistant said, “The smoke’s getting worse…”

Still, this comment hardly registered on my Dangerous Threats of the Universe radar.

I strolled in to my supervisor’s office, and just as we were about to discuss the article I’m going to submit for publication in the UK, my supervisor’s mobile phone rang. It was his frantic wife, calling to tell him about the bush fire that was raging less than a kilometre away from their house. Our meeting thus decidedly called to an end, my supervisor had to quickly make his way home – in order to ensure, well, that he still had a home to go to. Staff clustered in his assistant’s office, and watched the smoke expand and billow in the near distance.

My dear friend KC checked the news last night to make sure that the bush fires had been reined in (by late last night they had, but they area’s still being monitored closely today), and, luckily, no houses were damaged.

I got home late last night, crawled into bed (waking my partner in the process, but it’s really difficult being quiet when it’s pitch black and you’ve only just moved into a place; you don’t quite know where the walls end and the doorways begin, and there’s a lot of mandatory light-switch flicking that needs to be done until you are more familiar with your new house…) I settled down to sleep…but my best efforts were utterly foiled by the goddamned roadworks that were taking place outside our window. 

“WHY,” I railed at the universe, “WHY do they insist on tearing up the bitumen at midnight in the residential neighbourhoods, when everyone is at home and nestled in their beds, when this is the time they should be out there trying to finish the bloody South Road underpass?? But no. Apparently, the underpass can only be worked on when it’s rush hour, when every Adelaidean needs to get to the other side of the city via South Road???”

It doesn’t seem logical to me. Do the highway construction in the middle of the night, when the residents are at home and sleeping comfortably. Do the residential construction in the middle of the day, when the residents have happily travelled down South Road, and have gotten to their respective places of employment, about 20 minutes quicker I might add, because of the lack of construction. Not the other way around, you morons.

So a grouchy version of me got up to go to work this morning. On my way in — driving down South Road, in fact — I got stuck behind a cattle truck in traffic. There’s something upsetting about seeing a MAC truck full of live, trapped animals. Now, don’t get me wrong — I enjoy tearing into their meaty haunches when they appear, preferably marinated in something nice, on the plate in front of me. I’ll happily dig in to Bambi, the cow that jumped over the moon, or Bo-Peep’s fluffy charges. But I also enjoy being removed from witnessing their transport, and oblivious to their ultimate transformation into the marinated steak on my plate. Hypocritical? Maybe. But it helps me sleep better at night, provided there’s no bloody construction taking place outside my window.

At any rate, there I was, stuck in traffic behind the cattle truck, looking at the cows’ manure-splattered shanks sticking out below the truck’s steel cages, and I was feeling a bit out of sorts because of their cramped situation. Or maybe I was feeling out of sorts because the truck was half-filled with cow manure, not surprisingly, and the wafting stench of shit was beginning to make me feel a bit light-headed.

To add insult to injury, as we were crawling our way down the 25km zone on South Road (see my rant against the construction works, above), an arrogant, trailer-pulling, gas-guzzling, climate-changing 4×4 decided it wanted to be in my lane. Not in front of me, mind you. No, that would be too sensible. It wanted to be in my lane, the part of the lane that I happened to be driving in at that very instant, and so it decided to sidle its bulky Land Roverness there quick-smart. 

Luckily, my window was open.

My train of thoughts sped along “the lane’s not ending, why are they changing lanes, oh my god they’re moving into my lane, oh my god they’re going to hit my car, what the–??”,  while my hand jerked spasmodically toward the horn, and my mouth thought, “Bugger you brain, and bugger you hand, with your slow reaction times” as it decided to open up and shout “WHOA!!!!”

The window was open; the passenger in the offending vehicle heard my mouth’s self-preserving exclamation; the collision was averted. A meaty forearm extended in apology from the passenger’s window as the gas-guzzler and its rickety trailer moved into the lane ahead of me.

There’s nothing like a near-squashing to get your sleepy heart pumping in the morning.


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