‘What you don’t know can hurt you.’
A couple of years after The Dude and I got married, we took a trip to Australia. This was a very long time ago. So long ago that when I googled ‘Crocodile Dundee’ after coming up with that groaner of a title, I found out the movie came out after we took our trip. So we weren’t familiar with lines like ‘That’s not a knife…this is a knife’, much less with the fact that practically everything in Australia can pretty much kill you.
Speaking of my punsterific headline, let me say right off the bat that I don’t mean to pick on The Dudeman. It’s just that the photo of him in his Crocodile hat looks, well, more ‘DundeeLike’ than mine.
At any rate, we were young, we were naive, and we were game for pretty much anything. We were also pretty poor, but I had oodles of frequent flier miles from all my work-related plane-hopping for Ogilvy. (See ‘Around the World in 80 Shoots’) So we cashed ’em in and flew Qantas to Cairns. Where, before we could even grab a rental car, we were ourselves grabbed — right there in the terminal — by a couple of guys who said “Hey, wanna go diving on the Great Barrier Reef? Come with us!” (Use your imagination for the Australian accents.)
Nope, we were not certified divers. In fact, I had never even tried diving before. But we strapped on that gear and dove right in. There are still marks from my fingernails etched into that boat’s wooden sides.
Yup. We stuck our hands into the shells of giant clams. And wait — that’s not all! Dude Man actually followed our leader into an underwater tunnel, not realizing that Mr. Leader’s flippers would stir up the sand in said tunnel, thus rendering Dude effectively blind. “I just stayed calm until the sand settled,” he said when later queried by Worried Me. I would have had a watery seizure.
I could write a whole post about that diving boat. But I have to save room for dangerous tales of the dry-land variety.
Having survived the diving boat, we started our Road Trip. Our Plan was to drive to Sydney, then ditch the rental car and fly home. The Very First Day was turning into The Very First Night — and we were remarking on how easy it was to drive in Australia because the roads were so empty — when we had to turn on the wipers. Clouds and clouds of bugs were dive-bombing our windshield. So many that we absolutely could not see. Our measly wipers not up to the task, we pulled into a gas station. Where the attendant said, “What are you doing driving at night? Nobody drives at night. That’s when the bugs come out!”
We had no choice but to stop at the first motel we came across. Exhausted from steering into an insect-strewn sunset, The Dude threw his suitcase onto the bed — only to see what he thought was a kitschy decoration scamper off the pillow. It was the biggest tarantula he’d ever seen. He was wise not to tell me about it till we were back in our squashed-bug-coated car and on our way to the next motel.
But enough about bugs. And spiders. Let’s talk snakes. Which, as you may know, are my least favorite of God’s creations. (See ‘The Year of the Snake’ for how The Child almost did not come to exist.)
We knew, somewhat vaguely, that there were poisonous snakes in Australia. What we didn’t know was that we’d get up close and personal with any. We had stopped one day for a picnic at a roadside park with a nice refreshing-looking pool.
There was absolutely no one else there. Australia, at least off the Beaten Track, is remarkably free of people. Or it was then. We would stop at beaches where there were showers and changing rooms — but no people. We found out only later — after frolicking in the water at said beaches — that this was not only because of the sharks, but because of the jellyfish.
But about that pool. There was no one around to ask “Hey, are there snakes in there?” So The Dude just jumped right in. And the minute he did, swarms of snakes came out from behind some rocks and surrounded him. “I just stayed calm and slowly climbed out,” he said as I tried to refrain from shrieking.
This story is getting about as long as our Road Trip itself. So I’ll skip the bits about the shells that poke you with a poisonous spike when you pick them up and you die in thirty seconds and about the man and lady whose boat capsized and the lady got eaten by a crocodile (not named ‘Dundee’). Things we found out only after we had been on that beach and beside that river.
But did all of this danger scare us away from Australia? Hardly. Both of us loved it so much we wanted to move there. But, as you may know, the Aussies have their standards — and their ‘Occupational Ceilings’. They could have used a few more Ad Girls, but were full up with ophthalmologists. So here we stayed. In nice safe New York City.
New York City. April 2018