A visit to the tip is said to be like a good bowel evacuation. Or better. Our local tip offers even further pleasure. Philosophy, nuggets of wisdom, argument and analysis. And other treasures. Should you spot something you fancy amidst the broken, forlorn castoffs, rejects and discards, you can take it home with you as well. You don’t have to have an immediate use for it. Come in handy. It’s the handyman’s insurance policy. But first you have to get it past the operator.
“What do you think of the business in Iraq?”
Tip operator, Aristotle Bob opens topically. He’s a newshound in between tippers. Sits in his porta cabin glued to his recycled National 10 band transistor, an icon of the seventies. Things people throw away these days.
Waddles over to my driver’s window to issue his standard challenges:
“What have you got? What’s new?”
The John Wayne waddle helps him avoid arguments. Conveys authority. So does his height. Must be six foot six with his hat off. He’d be a good man to have on your side in an insurgency. He’s come over to assess what you’ll pay today. He’s agile for sixty five. True, he’s got a crook leg, crook knees and a crook back, diabetes, diverticulitis and a heart condition and PTSD from his time in ‘Nam but he’s always in good form. Sizes you up in flash.
“Ten dollars this time.”
“Iraq?”, I say.
“Iraq is just a distraction. Smokescreen. Sneaky bastards want to cover their domestic stuff ups.”
“Our boys will give ’em hell.” He smiles and takes my money. Give ’em a hiding. A real hiding. They won’t know what they’ve struck.”
“Distract us from their buggered up budget.”
“Wronski, you need to have more faith in your government.”
Aristotle is in typically good form. Helpful. As quick to point out errors in a man’s thinking as he is to put you right on your rubbish sorting. Let you know which is household and which recycling. Don’t dare get them muddled. He checks each bin as you unload. Bob’s up just when you think he’s mentoring another tipper. Ferrets through to check your selection. What’s this? In the other bin, thanks, Wronksi, if you don’t mind.
Ari’s never short of a word. Talks at you like a taxi driver. Or a hairdresser. Only more to the right. And a fair bit louder. Put you straight on all sorts of matters from abortion to gun control.
Doesn’t pause to draw breath. Being deaf means that he hears his own voice better than yours. Who needs talkback radio. Crafty, too. Getting you to repeat yourself gives him more time to think up a reply.
Hawkeyed, he scans the driveway, without taking his eyes off you and your load. Other locals enter warily, utes and trailers laden with cargoes of lawn clippings, dead truck batteries, discarded BBQs, broken microwaves, rusty bicycles, outgrown play equipment, uncle’s bowling trophies and sundry other household and workshop detritus. Some tippers give him a cheery wave but none of them gets past him. Everything at the tip has its place.
Today an abandoned still fabricated from a gas cylinder by some home moonshiner doubtless poisoned by the results, glints in the spring sunshine. Catches my eye. I think better of asking to take it home. He’s probably got his eye on it himself. Anything good, he’s got first dibs on. No hard feelings. He’s only got others’ well-being at heart.
Today Aristotle Bob is putting me straight on politics. Again. Foreign policy. But nothing’s off limits. He’ll also take care of other misconceptions, illusions or misunderstandings. Including right of reply.
Former prison officer, father of six, pocket philosopher, and public guardian of proper recycling and correct waste disposal. Ari is a local hero. Renowned throughout the district for his symposia. Impromptu. Gratis. He’s on duty Wednesdays and Sundays if you want to catch him.
The weathered blue sign tacked to a scribbly bark says Transfer Station. But it’s so much more. It’s our own University of the Open Pit. Topics are suitably wide ranging, eclectic, topical. They embrace politics, philosophy, modern culture and society with a special focus on modern youth’s moral decline and the throw-away society. Everything you need to know that’s fit to be put on a fridge magnet.
Many locals choose to specialise in sport but it’s not compulsory. I was withdrawn from that elective when I told him that I was football illiterate. Told him to his face. It took a bit of doing.
He looked at me as if to say what are ya made of? Rolled his eyes. One of those. Still we remain on more than speaking terms. Ari always greets me like a brother. A daft, eccentric brother who needs a word to the wise about the ways of the world. And my job is to listen.
You, see, Wronski, those idiots over there would not last five minutes against our boys. No discipline. No stamina.
It’s more complex than you seem to think, Ari, I say regretting the challenge instantly. I need to be home before dark.
Won’t keep you, he says. Then he tells me that the enemy are just a bunch of thugs and wanna-be tough guys who will wet themselves when they have to deal with real soldiers. Go to water. Run away, he tells me. Only take a few good hidings and they’ll crawl away into hiding.
It’s a view which is repeated on national media when I get home. It seems we have a Defence Minister.
Australia has a “lot of capability” at its “fingertips” including the “incredibly capable Super Hornets” says David Johnstone who must have been away getting his teeth fixed for the last twelve months. Either that or embedded with top secret “on sand matters” in Canberra’s many golf courses and watering holes. All so hush hush we’ve never heard of him.
He’s geeing us up. Like Aristotle Bob, he knows we are invincible. Besides the enemy is known to be untrained in modern warfare. And we’ve got a moral cause. It’ll be a walkover. We’ll go through them like a dose of salts. A humanitarian dose, of course.