Thursday, November 24, 2011
Two men on a bus—two surprises.
It’s a long way from Townsville to Sydney by bus—more than 2000 km. OK, it’s a long way by air, too, but in a bus you feel the road dragging by interminably. I had a seat to myself until we reached Rockhampton when I was joined by an old guy in shabby working clothes. He was travelling to Brisbane, about six hours further south and was a good companion. We shared a lot of stories.
When he learned that I worked for a big Japanese company (one of the giant trading firms) he surprised me by saying, “I’ll give you my card. We might be able to do some business.” His card showed a photograph of his boat, a $5 million catamaran (a great deal of money in 1988) that he used to transport tourists to the resort on Great Keppel Island.
The man had little education and had completed only one year of high school before leaving school to work as a builder’s labourer.
No education didn’t mean he wasn’t smart and, after a while, he realised that there was money to be made in supplying materials to builders. He saved, and borrowed, and bought a battered old truck. He didn’t take long to build up a business and soon needed another old truck, then another. After a while he was able to graduate to a new truck and, eventually, a fleet of new trucks, with a crew of drivers working for him.
Time passed. He married, raised a family and, while still maintaining his trucking business, tried his hand at the tourist trade. He said that his kids run the business. “They don’t trust me with the tourists,” he said. “I’m not classy enough. They still let me run the trucks, though.”
I think his kids missed a winner there. With his easy-going personality and his endless fund of stories, he’d have been a major attraction. The guy was a real-life Forrest Gump.
I was sorry when he left the bus at Brisbane but his place was taken by a quiet, friendly man in his fifties who chatted for the rest of the journey to Sydney. He had been to the World Expo which was held in Brisbane that year.
He was an accountant and, in contrast to my earlier companion, much of his conversation was about everyday things—his work, his family, especially his grand-children for whom he had brought gifts from the expo.
He was good company, and I liked him. We shared a meal at one of the truck stops along the way.
When we reached Sydney the bus was met by a group of uniformed police who arrested him and took him away in handcuffs. He didn’t seem surprised or alarmed, and didn’t appear to be distressed.
I have no idea why he was arrested. Considering the investigation necessary to have located him on that bus, it must have been something fairly serious.
I wished him well.