One of the million things I love about travelling is the people I meet. Plonk your backside on a stool at any country pub and within minutes you’re meeting people. When you live in a town where you see the same faces all the time, a new face at the bar is like a magnet. They want to know who you are, where you’re from and every other detail you’re prepared to give them; they’ll soak it all up and then, they’ll give you their story too.
Recently I was in a pub in a country town washing the debilitating dust blockage from my throat when the local teacher sidled up to interrogate the new face. She grilled me on all the standard stuff while she established that I was no threat to her local community, and then it was my turn to find out her story.
She was the teacher at the local school of 15 kids from Years One to Six. She told me of the challenges of getting kids from the bush to sit in a classroom all day learning from a book and how she’s created ways of integrating country life into their lessons to try to hold their attention. I complimented her on her efforts and explained how school wasn’t for me because of that exact problem. I recalled how if my maths teacher had shown me a chook shed roof instead of a triangle I may have been interested in learning how to work out the lengths of the different parts instead of wagging that class for a swim in the creek.
Seeing my interest in her teaching methods, she braced up with her best school teacher posture, cleared her throat and then, in her best teacher voice, began my lesson. “If you had one swag and found another on the side of a track, how many swags would you now have?”. Now I knew this was an easy problem and clearly one she had been using on her younger students, so I quickly answered “three”. She giggled, clearly thinking I was taking the mickey, and said, “let’s try another. If you had three swags and the mail truck came with three more swags, how many swags would you now have?”. I took a swig of my beer and answered “seven”. Miss shook her head and told me I must have been a pain in the backside to my old teachers and announced she would give me one last go, but she would make it easy. “If you had two swags and the head stockman gave you two more swags, how many swags would you now have?”. I looked her right in the eye, took another pull of my pot and said “five”.
My new friend stomped her foot and said, “why do you always add one extra swag to your answer?”, to which I replied, “because I’ve already got one in the ute, what else do you think I’m sleepin’ in?”
The entire bar, who had been eavesdropping, erupted in laughter, and the teacher bought me a drink.