When I set out on my first adventure pulling a 2.5 tonne caravan behind my shiny new, Toyota Prado 4 Wheel Drive, I knew Jack about caravans. I’d just picked it up – all 7 metres of it – at a Geelong sales yard.
It was raining heavily. Dressed in my usual shorts, polo shirt, good quality thongs, wearing my Canadian Tilley hat, my Tag-Heuer diving watch, and usual positive outlook, I held an umbrella over the head of an employee who patiently showed me how to hitch the caravan to the Prado. He was already saturated, but I felt as though I should at least be making an effort to keep him dry.
On the drive to a caravan park only five or six kilometres away, I struggled through heavy Friday afternoon traffic, travelled over a bridge undergoing a revamp that looked too narrow for my caravan but eventually got to the caravan park in one piece. I had thought I should have displayed a large sign that said, “Caution. Newbie towing Caravan”.
Fate and good driving kept me in good stead. All I had to do now was to survive eight weeks driving around the lovely state of Victoria. With my caravan number plate displaying the byline, “Victoria, the place to be”, it seemed like I had made the right choice. Not as far to travel from my home at Alice Springs if the new caravan suffered a warranty issue.
By the end of the eight weeks, I had decided there are two main types of people one meets in caravan parks, the person:
who can’t help himself (usually men) from telling you how much better all the gear they have on their caravan is than yours
who has retired from the workforce but who cannot cast off the notion of how very important he had been before retirement. He was once a Rooster, but now is just a feather duster
One of the first places I stopped, I forget where it was now, we had no sooner parked our van and this fellow turned up wearing what we called a “giggle hat” in the military, more commonly known as a bucket hat. Well, he had to tell me that he had the xyz type widget for his van and had noticed that I had the inferior zyx widget on mine. It was just what I wanted to hear a few days after shelling out $50 odd thousand for a caravan.
Next, it was the abc widget – I should have gotten one of those. So it went on until I eventually told him that I had to set up my caravan – which should have been obvious to any 10 year old – and he left us alone. Had he not, I probably would have addressed him in an uncharacteristically rude manner.
A few days later I met the man who had been so important, if I had lived in Perth, I probably would have heard of him. He had to tell me how he had been the Chief Executive Officer of one of Australia’s largest IT companies. He also had a single engine airplane he had bought in a kit from the USA and assembled all by himself. He also had to tell me about his expensive Breitling pilot’s watch.
He seemed like a nice person so I didn’t have the heart to tell him I didn’t give a brass razoo what he had been. I didn’t tell him about my collection of tertiary qualifications and that I had been a big shot in an educational institution, a senior public servant in not one, but two governments. To me, all that is now meaningless, just a means of surviving for 50 odd years.
I’m just a retiree who enjoys not being anything but a greying nomad who gets up each day and decides what he wants to do to fill in what hours he has left. It’s a great stage of life and allows one to travel extensively. Complete freedom. Living the dream!
Now when I meet these types, I simply let them rabbit on until they run out of something to say. If they ask me what I did before I retired, I tell them the truth: I worked at a high security facility 25 km west of Alice Springs and my job was so secret even I didn’t know what I was doing. That usually shuts them up.