13. Conspiracy or not?
The way I had lost my job was the trigger to a becoming ill again. Not that I was very ill, but I became paranoid that someone, somewhere for whatever reason wanted me ruined. A couple of failed government audits also contributed to the stress that was bubbling up inside me. The reason for us instructors failing audits are sometimes so minute. Example: A client entered a school crossing at 28 km/h, but realized it quickly and reduced speed to 23 k/h. I felt too silly to even mention it as there was no danger of any kind and he had immediately corrected his speed. To me this is too puny to even worry about. Yet I failed an audit for this plus a couple of other very minor mistakes that I failed to point out and correct.
It was such a humiliating experience to have to endure. I was focusing on creating safer drivers which I believed my whole profession should aim for. This kind of rigidity by the government would later become a point of my reform agenda. Having to put up with small mindedness was even more frustrating since I achieved some degree of success on the internet. I started to get clients online. There were enquiries from around the world. A few times I did bring clients and instructors together, one in San Francisco, another in Singapore and a small number in England. But normally I had to politely decline international enquiries. Local bookings that I could convert into lessons for myself were of real value. It was very encouraging.
I received emails from around the world praising my material. One Ugandan driving school asked if they could use it to teach their instructors. A parent from Johannesburg, South Africa praised my tutorial as by FAR the BEST he had come across in printed or electronic form. I was very pleased to hear such comments. Yet, at home I was made the fool because I had trouble with a rigid, bureaucratic system that did nothing for road safety.
On Monday, June 29th 2000 I attended an appointment with a Member of State Parliament, who I had asked to see. I felt strongly about the fact that the crash figures from AAMI car insurance showed that our state was the worst performer. The new system of licencing drivers was surely to blame. I was trying to organize a group of instructors to bring the matter before this Member of Parliament. Many agreed that something should be done. Very few were happy with the new system. Many evenings I spent listening to complains about the auditing and the stress it causes. But when it came to take positive action, like seeing this Member of Parliament, hardly anyone responded. One instructor said, he plays golf on Mondays, others had lessons booked. The one that promised to come to meet with the MP phoned to say he was running late.
As I sat alone across her desk in her office I started explaining my case in my very passionate, dramatic matter. She must have questioned my sanity. At one point she asked me: “And who else is coming?” The other instructor still had not arrived. It was a relief when he showed up. I had regained a small amount of credibility. As soon he had sat down he started passionately into a tirade of abuse aimed at one of the auditors, even calling him by a bad name. I had to remind him to leave personalities out of it and stick to the issues. The MP looked puzzled, listened attentively and took notes. She seemed genuinely interested in our concern.
However, I never heard anything as a result of this interview. The topic was obviously taboo. Why? Perhaps the government that started the system would not want to make waves? The new government that took it over also may have thought it was too politically sensitive to admit it was a failure? Nothing was changed, our stress remained. Another wasted effort, I thought, because I assumed that no action had been taken that I was aware of.
In my quest to be heard I wrote to the Advertiser Newspaper about the shortcomings of the new driver testing system. My letter was not printed. When I queried it, the newspaper wrote back to say that out of the hundreds received not all could go to print. The writer promised to follow it up again on my behalf. I felt at least someone is giving me some attention.
I also phone the talkback program on 5DN Radio, the station I listened to mostly. The same day I overheard the voice on the radio inviting a “mathematics genius” to phone in and … (I forgot why the request was made). A strong, inexplicable awareness came over me. It felt that I was spoken to personally. It was the start of a game that I was to play with the media and that would last for a number of years.
For a moment I thought that perhaps I was that mathematics man. Wasn’t I the one that discovered the government blunder out of 250 instructors? I dismissed the thought as absurd. Until two days later. On the Friday morning popular radio host Jeremy Cordeaux played a CD titled: “Give me some truth”, and offered it as a prize. This again struck a cord; as if directed to me only. Perhaps someone is willing to listen to me, if I tell them the truth? I picked up the telephone and rang the station, not knowing what I should say. I talked to Jeremy Cordeaux about driver education and the need for an independent assessor for every student before being licenced. He grasped the issue quickly and agreed.
I was not brave enough to mention the government blunder on air publicly. It was not my intention to expose it on radio. Either on the same day, or the Friday before, another strange co-incidence took place. At first I thought I had imagined it, but my mind would not let go of a combination of thoughts. Can the following be co-incident?
At approx. 5.55 pm on Friday 2/6/02 I tuned into 5 DN Radio after finishing my last driving lesson. A caller with a strong foreign accent was talking about his sick wife: “I have doctor appointment Monday morning for wife. She very sick. My car broken. Is possible one of the listener give us lift from the Salisbury Park to Park Terrace?”
“Are you saying Les that you have no friend or neighbour that could help you out?” asked the radio host.
“No, we here on our own. Know not many people. Wife very sick and lonely. I must get her to doctor Monday”.
“Look Les, I put you back to the switchboard. Leave your phone number and if a listener is able to help, we pass on your details. So it’s on Monday Morning from Salisbury Park to Park Terrace. Is that very far? And what time is the appointment, Les?”
“No far. I walk many times, but wife very sick. Doctor appointment is 9 o’clock in morning”.
“OK Les, I am sure one of our kind listeners, who lives nearby will give us a call and help you out. Thanks for your call.”
“Goodness, there must be some lonely people out there. If you are able to help Les and his wife, perhaps you can spare an hour or so on Monday morning. Just give us a call on 8305 1323. News is next…”
As soon as I heard this, the weird sensation of being spoken to struck immediately: This must be a lonely couple. I live not that far from Salisbury Park. If I change my lessons I could help. From Salisbury Park to Park…Strange, the word park twice?
I knew the law forbade me to use my mobile phone while at the wheel. But outside it was dark already; nobody would see me break the law. I still felt terribly guilty picking up my mobile phone and dialling 8305 1323.
“Hello, I think I can help this poor chap in Salisbury Park on Monday morning,” I said conscious of the traffic lights about to change. My phone number is 8 250 ….. If Les gives….”
The female voice at the other end interrupted: “We already have someone, but thanks for…”
I found it strange that in those 15 seconds I had been listening they had already found a volunteer.
“My name is Dieter Fischer.”
The young female voice hesitated for a moment and sounded little embarrassed.
“Oh, hmm, what is your number again? Thanks, we will pass it on to the caller. Thank you.”
It all went so fast. I finished the call before the lights changed to green. On the way home I kept thinking about the strange response at Radio 5 DN. Why did they say they already had a caller that offered, but then still took my phone number?
Feelings of paranoia arouse inside me. Perhaps I am being set up just to be assassinated in my own car helping a poor migrant and his wife?
Before dinner the phone rang. It was Les. His story was another mystery to me. It turned out, he was not that desperate. A neighbour may be able to help out. I wanted to probe more into Les’ circumstances and background. Les’ story was not very coherent. His sister had been murdered in Hungary. He came to Australia, could not find a job, his wife was homesick and now needs care 24 hours.
Isobel wanted to know what the phone call was all about.
“I heard about this man and his wife on the radio. He needs a ride to the doctor on Monday morning. I thought I could help out, if I change my morning lesson to the afternoon.”
To change the subject I asked this question at the dinner table: “When I stop at the red lights by law I am not allowed to just make a quick call. Tonight I did. Am I stupid to feel guilty about it?”
Before Isobel or one of the older family members could say anything, my 10-year old son came up with a perfect solution: “Why didn’t you step outside the car, dad, and use the telephone?”
“What a great idea, Jon,” I felt happy with his answer. He was an 'outside the square' thinker like me.
Isobel wanted me to assure her that I am taking my tablets.
1. More in number 2. A sound mind 3. Now I'm found 4. Candle and the Wind
5. Realm of Nature 6. All in his Hand 7. The Wonder of it All 8. To Think God loves