Being a country boy, I was always fascinated by that marvellous transportation device – the elevator. On the rare occasions when we ventured forth from central western NSW to the ‘big smoke’, both my older sister and I would check out the elevators if such existed where we were staying. We’d go up and down seeing all the sights until either the management or our mother intervened. Such excursions were more difficult when the hotel lift was operated by a paid employee.
Our favourite lifts were the ones that had two doors, the outer one of which resembled an empty crossword puzzle tilted sideways. They were a bit scary if you looked between the doors and down the shaft.
Over time, elevators became, for me, the crux of the difference between city dwellers and us bushies. I could never get used to the fact that not only did people not speak to each other when in an elevator, you could also be seen as some sort of weird alien if you actually said ‘good day’ to another occupant. I was used to a small community where you not only spoke to everyone, you also knew all about them. Or you thought you did.
Years later when I ventured to Sydney to undertake my studies, I was still amazed that people undergoing amiable conversations would cease talking once they had entered the elevator as though they had hit a ‘mute’ button along with their selection of a destination. The same applied when you got on a bus or a train.
Many years after that period of my life, when I had accumulated enough funds to travel overseas, I noticed, on one occasion, a variation of ‘lift living’. This was a lift that had been installed in an ageing and cramped building. It was a rickety contraption so small that only one person (and maybe his suitcase) could travel in it. There was certainly no communication there. And this was in Paris – supposedly the place of lovers’ meetings.
Of course, there are still differences between bushies and city dwellers that transcend such devices as elevators; lifts are now quite commonplace in the large rural centres. Ask a city dweller how far it is to the nearest, for example, service station and they will answer in the time required to get there rather than the actual distance. A bushie will give you the actual distance and often include relevant details such as “turn left where the brewery used to be”.
I recently had a new neighbour move in after selling her house in the western suburbs of Sydney. I was gobsmacked when she thanked me profusely for taking in her garbage bin on one occasion when she was away. Isn’t that what neighbours do?
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