Some memories of high school still make me roar with laughter.
Picture this: Alice Springs, a small outback town in the middle of the desert, nineteen eighty something.
When there isn’t a lot to do in a dust bowl of a town like the one we were fortunate to grow up in, you make your own fun. And this night it happened to be in the form of ‘cruising around.’ Where hapless teenagers would drive from the Truck Stop to the Golf Course, to the Speedway or Drive-In on an endless loop, hooting and hollering at other kids from the same school indulging in the same activity. Aimlessly wandering the streets in a car said that we were free! To have a car was a massive status symbol… and my Mum’s Mercedes Benz was the biggest statement of all – especially filled with a four-pack of gussied-up teenage girls.
We call it cruising around because not only did we partake in the automobile activity, but it was usually accompanied by Vodka Cruisers, Goon-bags of wine, or in our case, West Coast Coolers. But before you get your fingers out to waggle at me, I was the designated driver, so no alcohol for me. If my parents had gotten a sniff of trouble, or I so much as sullied the shine of the Merc, my car privileges would be revoked until I was a hundred years old. That meant no freedom, no flaunting for boys, and nights filled with lame video marathons and grumpy parental chaperones.
As it sometimes happens when you’re driving about with a car full of four buzzed pubescent girls, someone needed to pee. Real bad. And we were ages away from the nearest facilities. Being Alice Springs, it’s just a case of pulling over on the side of the road and you can sneak into the bush to do your business – So that’s what we did.
I had to angle the cars lights off the road so my friend could see where she was walking, and while she ventured into the scrub we turned up the radio and proceeded to dance in the headlights – as you do when you’re feeling the chemical rush of half a West Coast Cooler in the middle of nowhere.
Just as we bust a move, hear the trickle of pee splash from behind a shrub, a cop car pulls up. Great!
One of my friends freaks out, dives into the car and is desperately shoving our coolers under the seats – yes, we were drinking under the legal age. She’s a bit of a goody-two-shoes, so to say it looked like she was in the throws of a heart attack is an understatement.
I’m a little shocked and dumbfounded to see the men in blue show up in the most deserted place in Australia, one friend gyrating in the headlights, another hyperventilating inside the car, as another stumbles out of the bush yanking up her jeans. What must they think?
They do what cops back then did – posture a little, have us line up and invade our space… no doubt trying to detect a waft of booze on our breaths. Luckily we all managed to pull it together long enough for the boys in blue to believe our story that we only pulled over for an emergency toilet stop. I didn’t know it at the time, but they had actually suspected that we’d stolen the car and were out joyriding (another activity of the local youth in this armpit of a town.)
Just as they were about to leave, headquarters radioed them back, a check on the licence plate number had yielded a result, and wouldn’t you know – my parents hadn’t paid the latest registration fee.
Needless to say the night ended with my father coming to collect us, screaming at the cops because they wouldn’t let him drive an unregistered car. But like hell he was going to leave a luxury car sitting on the side of the road waiting to be stolen. My friends were dumped home, and, like ninjas, my parents collected the car in the shadow of night while I kept a lookout for the police as we sneaked the car home.
I don’t know when they found the bottles of booze under the seat, the next time I checked, they were gone. But I didn’t get into trouble, or have my car driving privileges revoked… thankfully they were too embarrassed at having my friends and I hassled by the police for driving an unregistered car.
That’s what I call a lucky break! And that’s how we roll in country towns 😉
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