Strolling along the foreshore near Rapid Creek with “B” last evening. A mob of mildly agitated Aboriginal women approaches. One of them comes up to Jenny. “Dat thing dangerous, you know,” she says, gesturing towards the gleaming new high-tech aluminium automated ablution facility just installed by the Council near the Beachfront Hotel. It replaces the decrepit, dirty old brick dunny block that cost a fortune to clean and maintain. The new one is said to be self-maintaining. The doors fly open after 10 minutes use, and a disembodied android voice intones “Warning! Leave the cubicle immediately!” Then it cleans itself with jets of high pressure water and hot air.
“Us Aboriginal people can’t use dat thing, you know. Dat thing dangerous.”
Jenny looks bemused and says nothing. I can’t help myself. “I know what you mean. But I reckon that thing’s a tardis. You might be able to time travel in it.” Baffled, the woman shakes her head sadly and wanders off.
“Why did she choose me, I wonder?,” Jen muses as we stroll on across Rapid Creek footbridge. “Because you look like the sort of person who would sympathise with her concerns. I reckon that thing’s dangerous too. It freaks me out. I wouldn’t use it. I might go in to check it out, but I certainly wouldn’t have a shit in there.” Jen says “I wouldn’t even go in and check it out“.
On the other side of the creek two young policemen on bicycles are busy moving along the remaining members of the Aboriginal group camping there, shooing them back across the bridge towards the lurking tardis. Enlightenment slowly dawns. Too frightened to use the new loo, they’ve been crapping on the lawns instead, and a good burgher has complained. But Aboriginal people have always camped there, under the casuarina trees beside the creek. It’s their place. I hope the tardis time travels somewhere else, and they put back the old dirty dunnies.
Update – This morning I saw the same mob of women again, while on my morning jog. They were carefully examining the sister tardis down near Nightcliff jetty. By the time I passed there again on my return leg, they’d decided to time travel after all. Four of them stepped gingerly together into the tardis and allowed the door to slide shut silently behind them. One woman, the youngest, waited outside nervously in case rescue was needed. There’s safety in numbers. I didn’t wait to see if they finished their business inside ten minutes.