The freeway was practically empty as Neville, my trusty Mazda 2 sat happily on the speed limit as we made out way home around midnight last night. I love the empty freeway late at night. Music blaring, window down a little, driving like this makes me happy.
My cargo had been deposited fifteen minutes beforehand.
For all the stick I give out to the Elks about my membership with them, there are times I truly see the benefit of being a member of such an organisation.
Last night was one of those nights.
It was a fairly ordinary meeting. The proceedings came and went. The only different thing of note was the inclusion of two visitors from Queensland who sat and watched over proceedings with an eagle eye. They appeared to be very nice people. Women with bright, open faces and easy smiles. Most of the Elks are like this.
After the meeting we were getting changed for supper when one of them piped up, "We have to work out how to get back to the train station. We're going out to Belgrave."
"Really? You're taking the train at this time of night?"
"Oh yes, our car is at the station." one of them said. They were starting to look at the train timetables - the next train was nearly an hour away.
It was 10.30 p.m.
I'm an advocate of public transport but there is no way on the planet you would get me on the Belgrave Line any time after nine - or most metropolitan trains. After seeing a train driver a few years ago, I've heard the horror stories that don't make the papers. There are security guards at most outer metropolitan stations after dark. Most of my friends won't travel the trains after nine at night, especially alone or without somebody at home waiting for them - too many nutters.
"Look, it's no trouble. I'll give you a lift to your car. I can't, with a clear conscience, let you travel on the trains this late at night. You're our guests. It would be my honour."
"Are you sure it's not out of your way."
"Not at all." I told them.
We settled down for a cup of tea and some curried egg sandwiches and spanikopita and malt loaf and talked about all sorts of things over supper. Elks suppers are the best - though they are dreadful if you're on any sort of diet. You forget about the joys of things like asparagus with a bit of mayonaise wrapped in crustless fresh white bread. Or home made scones. Or home made vanilla slice ("PANDORA, YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO CALL IT SNOT BLOCK!" Is the normal cry when this comes out.)
Half an hour later, my cargo and I were making our way out to Boronia, about a half hour drive on the freeway at that time of night.
Oh, did I mention that my cargo, Rosemary, 82 and Maggie, 73, drive around Australia towing a caravan. They go all over the place together. Strong, vibrant, capable, intelligent women who don't look a day over sixty. They told me about their lives, how they spend their days keeping busier than my schedule has me. They have friends and family and clubs. They go all around Australia with their activities, as well as visiting their large extended families and friend network. They do this together. Both widows, they met when Maggie nursed Rita's mother and husband in their final days and their friendship serves them both well.
These women are an absolute inspriration. I want to grow old like that. They both said that the trick to keeping young - or at least feeling young, was to keep busy and active.
We approached Belgrave. I know my way around here - it's up near the 1000 Steps.
"So, where do you live?" one of them asked.
"Truthfully - I live about a kilometre away from the lodge building in Richmond."
They looked shocked. "You've driven us all this way?"
"I couldn't have you sitting on that train at this time of night. If it wasn't me who took you back, somebody else would have. It's dangerous, although I reckon you'd both give any young hoodlum a run for his money." I told them.
Rosemary nodded in agreement.
"Nope, other than I get to take the car for a nice drive on the open road, I'm just following the Golden Rule. Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself."
"That is very kind." They appeared somewhat gobsmacked.
"It really isn't a problem. An hour of my time and a bit of petrol to make sure you get back safe makes me feel better. You've got back to your car safely - you're happy. I'm happy."
I deposited them at their car, got a hug and a kiss off them and bit them goodnight. Before I left the car park I made sure that they were buckled in and their car had started. Content in the knowledge that all was in order, I started the drive back.
It's these little things that really make life so much more enriching. Whether it's uttering a "Bless you" to the person sitting next to you on a tram who sneezes, or contacting a friend unexpectedly, passing a square of chocolate to your workmate who's just broken up with her boyfriend or acts as simple as stopping to assist somebody who's fallen in the street - it’s these little common courtesies than appear to reward all the more.
An hour of my time and a bit of petrol. The cost is minimal.
Making somebody's day. Absolutely priceless.