Having picked up our third and final member of the pack at the airport, we drive back to Yanchep, a small fishermen’s village about an hour north of Perth where we will be spending the next week. Donning our bathing suits as soon as we arrive at the house, we frolic down to the beach to give our pasty, sun-deprived bodies the vitamin D they deserve. After plunking myself down on a towel and whipping out a chic-lit beach read I found in the house, I bury myself in its predictable cookie-cutter storyline. When my two friends go back up to the house a little later on for a bite to eat, I can’t be torn for my book, so while they pack up and trek up the sand dunes, I continue flipping pages. Listening to the soothing rhythm of the waves slapping against the shore and deeply engrossed in whether my book’s female protagonist is going to get the guy (even though I know the girl always does in these types of books), I am in my own little world, so I barely catch the words of a man walking by when he says something along the lines of “mumble, mumble, g’day, shrimp on the barbie, seaweed.”
I peer around my book, acknowledging that perhaps the mystery person did not actually speak those exact words, (but then again, Australian is a difficult dialect to understand when not focused), and excitedly realize that I am about to encounter a genuine Australian in the wild, accent and all. I glance around, expecting the vocalizer to be waking by engaged in conversation with someone else, only to find the speaker, a very tan middle-aged man, standing right beside me, looking down at me with the cheeriest, happiest grin on his face.
Realizing that I have no idea what he just said to me, he repeats himself. “Pretty bad this time of year, the seaweed,” he chuckles, and looks to me eagerly for a response.
Confused by this random engagement in conversation, I eloquently respond, “uhm, yes, there is seaweed,” and look over at the seaweed being washed up onto the shore, not sure as to why this is being pointed out to me.
“It’s usually not this bad,’ he continues, “but oh well, it’ll be better soon.” He shrugs without losing the grin.
“Yes,” I nod, using my one day’s worth of experiences on the beach to sagely observe, “it is a bit worse today.”
“Where’s your accent from?” he lifts his eyebrows.
Not sure if his facial response is a good or bad thing, I reply, “erhm, the States.”
“Ah, the States! Well, I live over in Two Rocks. Do you know Two Rocks?” He looks down at me expectantly. “No? It’s over that way,” and he points up north along the beach. “I own a liquor store there. You should come visit. The name’s Cameron.”
I give him my name, and just as I am starting to suspect that he might be hitting on me, he smiles even bigger and goes, “well, have a lovely time here. Australia’s a fine place. Cheers!” and starts walking away down the beach.
“Cameron!” I shout out to him, sitting up quickly to ask him a question before he goes too far. He spins back toward me and cocks his head. I pause for a second and then blurt out, “would you go swimming past the rocks?” and nod past the lagoon, which I am currently laying beside, toward the rocky coastline a bit beyond it, where big waves from the Indian Ocean crash over and pool to form the calm lagoon. You see, I had made a pact with myself to ask every Aussie I talked with at least one question about Australia, regardless of how dumb it might seem, to get to know the country better.
Not thrown at all by my very random question, he responds immediately, “ah yeah, of course mate. No worries there.”
“Really?” I respond skeptically. “What about sharks?”
“Not a problem. Definitely, I would definitely swim out there,” he repeats confidently, before pausing, a hint of doubt creeping into his voice. “Well, maybe. Yeah, probably.”
I wait in silence, seeing his decision change slowly.
“Actually, maybe.” He thinks about it for a second and then adds, “or maybe not. Yeah, maybe not.” He looks back at the rocks and the waves, back to me, and nods a few times. “Maybe not,” he agrees again slowly, and then mumbles once more to himself, “maybe not.”
“Well, cheers!” he looks back up, smiles his goofy grin again, and off he walks, back towards Two Rocks and his liquor store.
My friends come back down a few minutes later and I share my interaction with them. We cheer and high-five to the fact that I befriended a liquor store owner- after all, alcohol is expensive here- and we make plans to visit Two Rocks in the upcoming days. As for the question I asked, well, after hearing that odd response, we decided to never go swimming beyond the rocks. After all, if an Aussie falters in his response on whether or not something is a good idea, (and those guys are some brave blokes), then it is most definitely something you should stay away from.