Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My Outback Phobia

When I first moved out west to teach the Peter Falconio disappearance was still fresh in everyone's minds. For those of you who aren't familiar with the mystery, in 2001 two young backpackers from England were driving through the Northern Territory on a main highway on an isolated stretch of road that runs through the middle of Australia. Joanne Lees (who survived the incident) claims that she was hog-tied by the driver of a car that pulled them over, Peter was shot, and she managed to escape and hide from the killer. Peter's body has never been found.

In any event, I had made a mental pact with myself never to stop on an isolated road for ANYONE. If a situation looked ligitimately serious, I would contact police in the next town I drove through.

On one occassion however, I found myself in an awful predicament whereby one of my tyres had blown when I was still 30km out of town. Faced with any number of horrible situations that could happen to me, I decided to get a lift into town with the next car that would stop for me. I just hoped it wasn't the same person who Peter Falconio stopped for... As it turned out, the next 'car' was in fact a goat truck. It was old and rickety, and it smelled. Of goat. And there was a dog in the front seat. But I was grateful that the driver had even stopped for me, so I bundled myself into the vehicle and nervously rode into town with an old man and his goat truck.

Mostly I was just happy to still be alive.

The Peter Falconio case is the catalyst for a silly phobia I have developed over the years. I still don't stop for ANY car on an isolated road at night, or when I am alone.

So today I was taking the kids to the bus stop (20km away) when a typical backpacker vehicle signalled for me to stop.

A van like this... perfect for stashing bodies in...

As I approached the mini van, the first thing I observed was a Scandanavian looking backpacker at the wheel. (Cue flashes to the crazed Norwegian shooter a few years back - and please don't get me wrong. I LOVE Scandanavians. Hell, I used to frequent the Down Under Bar in my uni years, and Scandanavians and I go WAY back... but I was still nervous. Surely some of the world's best serial killers are good looking!?)

I wound my window down, but kept the car in drive. He smiled a friendly smile and asked me for directions. I told him he was on the wrong road, and offered for him to follow me to the bus stop, where I could show him the direction he needed to go in. He seemed relieved and grateful. And once he was set on the right path he gave me a wave goodbye.

I had survived.

I know... this fear is irrational, silly and unfounded. But I can't help it. It's my sense of self preservation that makes me crazy.

Do you have an irrational, silly and unfounded fear? Or just any old fear? Please share so that I don't feel quite so silly...


  1. There are some memories! I was living in London at the time of the Peter Falconio case... you can imagine the British media storm. I've never been on lengthy remote roads as such, but I'm pretty sure that case would be in the forefront of my mind.

    I don't know if it counts as irrational, but I am TERRIBLE with spiders and various other bugs. It's embarrassing...

  2. I can't put my face under water. Not in the pool, not in the bath, not in the shower. I keep feeling like I'm going to drown. Probably not going to happen in the shower but there you have it :)

  3. My wife doesn't stop unless the only occupants are women and or kids. That's the compromise we reached on that issue. We don't have cell phone coverage in the mountains. It's too dangerous for a woman to stop for strangers that are male. We have women go missing every year and usually that's what has happened. I stop to help women, of course, and also men that look local. However, I carry a pistol in a shoulder holster everywhere I go, while my wife let her permit expire and doesn't want to renew it.


Please leave a message! I love hearing from you!