Driving across the outback is where I feel most comfortable in life. That might seem slightly unfortunate, seeing as I spend the better part of my time working in a community law office in suburban Melbourne, but hey – life isn’t one big peak experience. Besides, it’s not like I’m not comfortable day to day; I just mean that this one experience feels incredibly natural to me.
I think it might be to do with the ephemeral nature of the little packets of experience you get to have when speeding through a seemingly sparse landscape. A wallaby here, some local kids over there, an amazing tree growing in an improbable spot, the occasional finger salute. That last one is what I call it when you pass another driver and you acknowledge each other by lifting one finger off the wheel. It’s a thing, and quite an exciting one at that – especially if you haven’t seen anyone else on the road for hours, as is quite often the case.
I’ve even worked out some novelty forms of said salute, my favourite being a tie between the metal horns and the peace sign. It’s just a way to connect with fellow drivers, aside from sizing up who’s got the best custom ute canopy. Melbourne drivers aren’t as liable to notice this kind of small gesture, I guess because there’s so much else to focus on while driving. In the desert, there’s sometimes very little to break up your visual field from the drivers’ seat, so you’re more likely to notice something as small as a lifted finger.
Speaking for myself, I’m inclined to notice other things as well, like a really solid ute tray design. Melbourne must have programmed me for picking up a finely crafted vibe because I do feel like I nerd out on it a bit more than others when I’m on the road. It’s definitely not that other drivers don’t appreciate these details; they might even appreciate them more than I do. It’s just that I look at them through a particular lens that has a distinctly Melbourne style tinge to it.