A friend and colleague of mine recently spent time in Australia, and after begging and pleading she finally agreed to pen a guest post for me on her experiences. In this hilarious piece, Stephanie takes us along with her in her attempt to chase summer.
This year I vowed to avoid winter, which is hard to do because I live in Washington, DC where we had 54 inches of snow last year, hence this year’s vow. My method? To follow summer wherever it lurks.
Turns out, in December it lurks in Australia, so I went and found it there for three weeks. With so many things to say about this large and diverse country it’s hard to pick just one thing. So let’s start with the very first things I noticed, which were the signs. Yes, the signs, like this one:
For most of us this would be funny. For a true ornithophobe like myself (fear of birds – I had to look it up), this sign conjured an imagine of a more horrific version of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” Seriously. My first impression of Australia was that death by giant bird attack was imminent.
Later I learned that death by falling asleep at the wheel was the real danger. On every highway at approximately every kilometer there’s a rather distracting traffic sign suggesting that a “micro sleep can kill in seconds” or that “fatigue kills.” In fact, I started making a list of the signs (not while driving, of course. It’s already hard enough to drive on the wrong side of the road. It’s even harder while taking notes.)
Some of the most common were:
- Double demerits; rest, revive survive (3 sightings)
- Don’t sleep and drive (7 sightings)
- Open your eyes. Fatigue kills. (4 sightings)
- Break the drive. Stay alive. (6 sightings)
- The only thing that cures fatigue is sleep. (2 sightings)
Despite all these warnings, one can acquire vast amounts of no-doze at the rest stops, which may explain the signs claiming that you’ll die if you drive over 110km per hour. And, of course, you can tell who the foreigners are because they are all exceeding the speed limit. Australians, despite their reputation, are generally a law abiding lot, particularly when it comes to the roadways.
Oddly, though, there were no signs regarding drunk driving, although there were plenty of “brew thrus,” those institutions I thought were unique to New Orleans where the savvy driver can buy a wide variety of alcohol without the bother of getting out of their car.
These first “signs of summer” showed me a side of Australia I never thought I’d see – the law-abiding, overly cautious, terrified of birds side. But it was still better than 54 inches of snow. Way better.