Here & Now with S Sorrensen - Jan 7

Yatala, Qld. Saturday 12.45pm: The BP service centre is packed.

Row upon row of clean cars sparkle in sunlight shafting through the Golden Arches.

I nudge my rig between the rows of sparkling cars, hardly knocking any, and into a rare empty space at one of the petrol pumps. The other pumps have queues. How lucky am I?

And that’s right folks, I drive a rig. I’m a man of the road, a wizard of the white line.

My rig consists of a Suzuki Vitara short wheelbase 4WD towing a nine-foot-six caravan built at the Lismore Technical College in the mid 1950s.

I call it a rig despite my set-up being, um, small. But size isn’t everything, right? I nod knowingly and raise a finger from the steering wheel when other rigs pass. We knights of the highway respect each other. And I’m not just talking other caravaners. I’m talking real truckies with fluoro shirts and fat legs hauling Chinese TVs and frozen chickens to the similar looking places that stick to this highway like plaque to an artery.

Sometimes these drivers, looking down at me from the great height of their Kenworth cabins, respond with a smile – more of a laugh really – and a finger.

I’m glad to be finally here at the pump. I’m a bit shaken. I’ve just had a near death experience.

A few minutes ago, I was cruising in the centre lane of the many-laned highway with my spunky travelling companion in the navigator’s chair.

After living and working at the Woodford Folk Festival for the last eight days, we’d planned to stop here on our way home for petrol and a double-shot latte. Despite the crappy Macfood, we like this place because it has special parking for us big riggers. And a truckies’ lounge where we men of bitumen can talk road talk.

The exit approached.

I checked my left hand rear-view, saw all was clear, indicated, and started to drift into the left lane. There was a frantic horn blast. Oh dear! I instantly pulled to the right. The heavily weighted caravan swayed dangerously and began to drag the Vitara across not one, but two, lanes. Out of control.

After a week of doing gigs where as a comedian I flirt with death every time I step on stage; after watching the Gyuto monks of Tibet chant up the first sun of the new year from behind the Glasshouse Mountains in a unique splash of colour that had me contemplating the transience of all things – this skidding across the highway was truly my moment of understanding.

Death is real. And always close by.

From the corner of my eye I could see my travelling companion. Her mouth was open but no words came. Her eyes were beautiful. And extremely large.

I miss her already, I thought.

I touched the brakes which nearly sent us spinning.

Some people see Jesus, some see a white light. I saw a clown with a hamburger smiling down on us as we careened across the road.

I prayed to the clown. I promised I would kneel at the Golden Arches if we survived.

Miraculously, there were no cars in the lanes to our right and I regained control of the rig.

Now safely at the pumps, I feel silly about my promise to the clown. Fear mucks the mind. I’m not kneeling for anyone. What’s the clown gonna do? Kill me? (I’m not eating here.)

I’m just going to fill up and get home.

Reaching for the unleaded pump hose I see a yellow sign that says, “Sorry. Out of Order.”

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