The goal in the back of my mind was to have a vehicle in a week. My second day in town I roamed the net on used car sites trying to get an idea of what to get, battling a hungover head. I really didn’t do much thinking about it before arriving, except for a massive land cruiser with 35 inch tires, but I knew thats not what I would be getting. I needed something with really good gas mileage, a reliable engine, room to make a home inside, and nothing fancy. The third day I started narrowing my choices between some vans, and calling up peoples ads. I’d decided four wheel drive wasn’t necessary, maybe there will be a couple times I regret that, but we’ll see. I got into these little Mercedes diesel vans with a lot of room and on the fourth day went and looked at one. It gave me a bad feeling, and I just wanted out of the car when the Chinese guy kept grabbing at the turn signal and telling me how to drive. What do I know about small diesel engines, nada, and I’m sure it would be difficult to get parts in the areas i’ll be. Mistake averted. I found myself at Toyota vans, the Hi Ace or Town Ace. A little history, I lived and traveled in a 1987 Toyota Townace named Moby in New Zealand, and still deep down in my heart felt the pain of seeing my good friend being driven away by an irishman that I sold it to. So maybe it was because of the better gas mileage, being a little bit smaller for manoeuvring and shipping, having an easy and familiar engine, or being a cheaper price that I decided to go with the Town Ace, but maybe deep down inside I missed Moby. Maybe I wanted to bring him back to life to share this adventure with. So the fifth day I got in contact with two that I liked and caught trains to opposite sides of the city to look at both. Very similar, both were 2002s with 200K KM. The first one was perfect. The guy had done a lot of mechanical work on it, and it was in great shape. He was asking $AU6600. He was a nice young electrician with a broken arm from skiing and I trusted him. On the train ride to go look at the other one, I was already planning out in my head to call him back and offer him $AU5500. For some reason I didn’t have as much hope for the second one. The guy was asking $AU5500, and he had told me if I came before four o’clock with a better offer than he had gotten, he would sell it to me. Apparently the offer was only $AU4350, so I was thinking maybe it was crap with some problems, or the guy was kind of a schemer. The strangeness I had felt in our communication was explained when I meet him on the street corner. Turned out to be an older Armenian man, with a very matter of fact personality. As I got in to drive, I could see the seats weren’t in quite as good of shape and was almost trying to find reasons to not like it. As I started up a steep hill he told me to gun it and feel the power, so I did, and the motor sounded great. My mind was changing. As I drove along he told me all of the little things that had been recently done on it. Half the time we got into his life story, and it was really interesting. From leaving his country during the war, to getting married in Jordan, to going to some college in West Virginia because of playing the violin. Man o man did he love West Virginia. He loved that everyone smoked and that they were just so darn nice. He had owned the van for 11 years, mostly for hauling around musical instruments. He was forced to sell because him and his wife bought a new house (built in 1901) and the van wouldn’t fit in the garage. I pulled it over and took a look at the engine. Everything looked great, so I asked if he would take $AU4400 cash right then. He came back at forty-four and a half. In my backpack thats exactly what I had in crisp 50s wrapped in a sheet of notebook paper, so I agreed without hesitation. Money is a weird thing. Buying something large, like a car, feels strange to me, and I like being on the buying side. A little stack of pieces of paper (or thin plastic here) and in return you get a big machine. It doesn’t feel right that these little feathery colourful notes trade for something to transport me from Australia to London.
At this point he was visibly nervous about my driving, which I attribute to getting used to the left hand driving again, and he’s old and scares easily. He was a stickler for turn signals, and explained that Australia wasn’t like America in that it’s very english and has lots of rules, and that America is more free to do what you want. At this point I was going to drop him back off where I met him and he would do the transfer online the next day, but he was petrified about me driving home. Mostly because he was worried about being liable for anything or anyone I hit along the way. So he had me drive us to the motor registry to get it into my name. The entire way he made noises like he was being hit by a stick on the shins and thought a meteor was about to hit the car. I really don’t think my driving was that bad, but he would beg to differ. He had to make sure with the lady at least eight times that his name was off the car and had no responsibility to it. Australia, sure does make it easy to handle vehicle paperwork and transfers compared to the US. When we left he asked to drive us, and I had to say yes because I couldn’t bare to see him in pain again. I’m not sure he would’ve gotten in the car with me again. He knew I needed to get back to the city over the harbour bridge so he got me in the right spot to find my way, pulled over at a gas station near his work and gave me a solid handshake and a “good luck”, like he was sending me off to the front lines. He nimbly whisked away like a ghost. All those years they shared, now nothing. He didn’t seem too sentimental about it, not like I would’ve been. I’ve kissed everyone of my cars goodbye. Once he was gone and I was driving alone, realising that I had been reunited with Moby II, I had flashbacks to Aukland, New Zealand. I had the same happy feelings flowing through my body as I did on that January day over a year and a half ago when I had first bought Moby. Imagining the possibilities, and being at the start of an adventure. I couldn’t help but think of my last co-pilot, and take a trip down memory lane. Here’s a look at father and son.
So on my fifth day in Sydney I managed to get myself a vehicle. No more riding the expensive trains everywhere. I will miss the randomness and quirkiness of train travel in the cities a little bit, but not too much. I would get a little depressed when I would be in one of the railcars and 80% of the people would be face down into their phone, and the other 20% zoned off with headphones in. If there is a facial expression for the exact opposite of joy, then this is how they look. Hard to even get a smile out of someone. Then I daydream about the situation and really look at each one of them. Most look interesting like we could all have some fun. I think if a keg of beer was brought to us we would end up having a blast.
Someone would meet their future spouse, someone would have a one night stand, a few would go out to eat, a group might form to play basketball. Someone would probably put on some old gagster rap with their phone, which is the only allowed use. I could hear their stories, and tell them mine. But we will never know because everybody’s in their bubble. Pop your bubble and talk to your neighbour.