64. The plus in US
Virgin Airline’s in-flight magazine featured an article reporting on Hospital Angels (Clowns) visiting sick and dying children and cheering them up with bedside performances. The airline generously provided free travel around the country for these angels of cheer. Would an air-carrier give me a free trip to the US? Didn’t I also cheer up kids? In a different manner perhaps, but in my mind I had worked hard and deserved a little help from an airline.
Unfortunately, businesses operate only in hard cash. All my effort to get from Tullamarine Airport, Melbourne to the USA on this last day of March 2003 proved futile. The United Airlines morning flight at 11.40 am departed without me.
Was I really on the right course of action? Was I really called to run away at this point? Isobel would be worried. Why go as far away as the USA? I just sat at the airport with my tiny backpack, passed on from Ben Mitchell and my small, black pull-along suitcase. Time was meaningless as I watched people hurrying to and fro and pondered my next move. A young man dressed in fashion clothes sat beside me. I could read the label “Downtown” both on his shirt and trousers. I caught the airport bus downstairs to downtown Melbourne.
It would have been easy to purchase an air-ticket on my credit card. But what kind of miracle is this, praying to God to provide something special and then using your credit card to make it happen? Without something extraordinary happening to provide for me I would not go anywhere. My miracle came out of the blue. I decided to walk from Spencer Street Station to Flinders’s Street Station, which was located very centrally and it housed a Police Station. In the back of my mind I contemplated reporting to police about my fear of returning to Adelaide. But this was not my preferred option.
I turned left and strolled through the centre of town. Amongst the many faces of the lunchtime crowd I searched for a familiar one. If I had spotted one, what would I have said to them? I recognized no one. At the corner of Elizabeth Street, outside a bookshop, a young man, microphone in hand, announced the imminent arrival of a VIP. The famous lady, whose name I recognized straight away, was to give autographs to those buying her just released auto-biography. She was due to arrive 5 minutes later at that very location. (Her name, jumbled, could mean: the lad)
My brain immediately switched back to the previous evening. Before falling asleep I had listened to this famous ex-Olympian athlete talking about her book and her remarkable story of overcoming depression and cancer. Her story was truly inspiring. I was sure she would be a Christian, the way she portrayed herself in such positive terms, using Christian principles. I had no idea then that she would be in a Melbourne bookshop the next day, let alone right there in Elizabeth Street, right at the time when I stumbled across her appearing in the store. Was this my miracle?
I stood in line for only a few minutes. A man in the same queue looked very much like Mr. T. the politician to whom I had sent a little basket 1 ˝ years previously. Almost on time, the VIP was riding down the escalator and sat down on a small table. People had brief conversations and presented their purchase to be signed personally by her, the co-author of her biography. When my turn came I stood there, lost for words and as nervous as I had not felt in years. I indicated that I had no room in my luggage to carry her book but I had a request to make. My emotional level was on high as the words stumbled out of my mouth: “I am on a mission and was looking for a backer, because my wife would not agree what I am doing…” The 51 year-old, but much younger looking lady, stood up and gave me a big, genuine hug. She saw the funny side and said, jokingly, that she could not interfere in a domestic matter.
It was an overwhelming experience. I tried to get the message across that I could use my credit card for now, but could I count on her for support later? It all went so fast that I was unsure, if she understood or indeed gave an answer. I gave her my business card. The bookshop assistant assured me that they would look at my website. There was a queue behind me; I could not take any more time and walked upstairs once again into the lunchtime crowd of downtown Melbourne. Was I kidding myself or was this the catalyst I was looking for to go ahead with my inner urging?
My biggest dread was to face my family later and having to explain my actions. The cost of the ticket would be a drain on our finances. As far as I was concerned I would give everything to do God’s will, including my house if this was required. Isobel would not see this as ‘God’s will’ and would resent me spending a large amount of money. She was not called to do the things I did. My choice was to follow the path I thought was right or to abandon my plans and “just get on with my life”. Isobel would be happier that way. But I would not be true to myself and frustrated forever.
I continued strolling down Elizabeth Street. Should I bother going to the police? (Little did I know that I would be doing just that a week later). On a large sign I spotted the handsome, familiar face of the airline captain outside a branch of the Flight Centre. Since I had booked my Europe trip through the Salisbury branch of this travel agent, I walked in to enquire about flights to the US. The young lady’s name at the travel agent was Angela and her second name was the same as that of a driving instructor who was elected to Parliament ten years earlier. I’d had an interview with him regarding the log book system. Within a short time I was booked to fly to Washington DC next day.
By now I firmly believed I was on the right track. Leaving the travel agent, after a second visit and a drawn out visit to the bank to obtain the cash, I headed for the “Greenhouse” a back-packer hostel in the centre of Melbourne. I had already paid for room No. 54, without seeing it, but it had no windows. It was totally unsuitable. My money was refunded in full without question, of which I was thankful. At the desk I overheard a young lady ask the clerk beside me about the F1 Motel. I had noticed a sign advertising this place, which was right beside the airport.
In the escalator I noticed a young man wearing a T-shirt of the UCLA. I assumed the letters meant University of California, Los Angeles. Was this a clue to change my booking to Los Angeles? I went straight back to the Flight Centre and rebooked to terminate my flight in LA. (It was a very good move; the East Cost of the US later received record snowfalls for April. I would have been ill prepared). The return flight was scheduled for April 30th to arrive back in Melbourne on the 1st May.
The F1 Motel was only a stroll from the airport. I liked the name Formula 1, the same as that of my speakers club in Adelaide. When I discovered the fact that the correct name was Formule 1 (for mule?) I laughed. The French owners preferred the French spelling, I was told later. For only an extra four dollars I spent a very pleasant evening in this motel.
The date next day was April 1st 2003, (O! 0.1.2.3.4). I awoke early as usual. The clock radio showed 4.15 am. As it had happened the previous months and years I would receive my most profound revelations in the moments after waking from my sleep. That morning a thought entered my brain that related to the Iraqi war, which was not quite two weeks old at the time. (I shall not disclose details for various reasons). The thought was a tactic to breaking the resistance of the Muslims in Iraq. It was a simple strategy that involved spreading a rumour that was not quite true. But in western culture on April 1st to play a little game is allowed, even when it’s not entirely based on truth.
Watching the war coverage on CNN during those early morning hours I realized something was not accurate about the time. The clock in the motel room had not been changed since daylight saving ended a day earlier. My dream actually had come at 3.15 am; what numbers? How weird! Before my United Airlines late morning flight I had breakfast at MacDonald’s right beside the F1 Motel. As I read the Sun-Herald I recognized and decoded certain phrases hidden amongst the pages, just as I had done years before when I was on a high.
I was aware that just leaving your family for no real reason and having an urge to travel to the US is the stuff psychiatrists earn big dollars with. Pharmaceutical companies make huge profits with people like me. To the professionals I would be a classical case of mental confusion, a failure to distinguish fantasy from reality. Looking back at past experiences, it also took an illness to actually do what I did. Four years earlier (Chapter 9) I don’t know if I would have obeyed God, if HE said to me audibly during a church service: “Stand up, walk up to the microphone and tell people there is corruption in high places in Adelaide.” It took an altered state of mind to do it.
This trip shaped up to be a similar experience; a changed state of mind to accomplish what would otherwise be left undone. This is the only way I can explain in a rational manner what happened to me in Melbourne during the weekend of the Sandown “In the driver’s seat” experience and the days following. Being regarded as mentally ill did not bother me. (Two weeks later I would suffer badly for my actions). The pivotal question was - did I act out a mentally ill state?
If the journey to Los Angeles was all baloney, it would not merely mean a happy-go-lucky – well, if it’s not God’s will, they will just ignore my email, nothing lost. If I was out of God’s will taking trip it may mean - sleeping on the street, hungry and exposed to countless dangers. What took place during my stay in the US still is a mystery to me. On the one hand it was as if each step, each interlude right to the final destination had been meticulously planned. I was the robot that went along with it all.
On the other hand it could have been sheer co-incidence that I finished up each night exactly where I think I ought to be. I trusted God whichever way HE decided to guide me. What was the higher purpose, the ultimate goal the master planner wanted to achieve?
In the queue at LA International Airport I had a chance to speak to the lady sitting right behind me. She was from Lilydale, Tasmania visiting her husband in New York. Her youthful looks strongly reminded me of the writer of the article in the Herald-Sun, the recipient of my fateful email before the Columbia crashed. US Immigration wanted to know where I was staying while in the US. I had no idea and would certainly not lie about it. I said I was visiting Anaheim. The customs officer filled in the card for me. She wrote down Marriott Hotel, Anaheim.
At that point the significance of the words Anaheim struck a cord – a ‘n’ and heim (in German heim means ‘home’). Was I on the way to ‘home’?
Autobiography - Dieter Fischer
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