Etiquette in Outback Queensland

Or Does Anyone Know if I Should Order Dinner for My Children from the Seat of an Outback Toilet?

I’m sitting here watching a series on Netflix called Very British Problems.  The episode in question is discussing how to deal with other human beings.  What is and isn’t acceptable and how discomfiting any interaction with other members of the human race is.  Thankfully I was born in Australia and am not nearly British enough to have had all of this social awkwardness passed down to me through genetics, I do harbour enough of this Very British Problem that anything outside of the social norm is a veritable nightmare for me.

Listening to these droll, British comedians navigate the minefield of social niceties sparked a memory of living in Outback Queensland for me.  About twelve years or so ago, give or take, I spent a short time living on a station out past Adavale in Queensland.  Not sure where Adavale is?  You know The Gold Coast?  It’s not there.  Head to the middle of nowhere in Queensland, open the gate, turn left and keep going.  Or, if you’re in Brisbane, point your car towards the Northern Territory and drive for over fourteen hours.  Once you get to Adavale, it is only a two hour drive north to the station we lived on.  I like to call it a working holiday.  My (then) husband worked, I holidayed.

When you live that far out in the Outback, the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) is something you rely upon heavily.  If something goes wrong, that is the only ambulance you have access to.  So every month at the Adavale Pub there is a pot luck fundraising dinner for the RFDS.  Now, I’m using the term Pub loosely.  Think place where you can buy booze and a can of beans in the same place.  The Outback is a wondrous place, and if you ever have a chance to visit the Adavale Pub, I highly recommend it.  The people are friendly, the beer is cold and there is a surfboard hanging out on the front verandah emblazoned ‘Adavale SLSC’.  Only in Outback Australia will you see a sign for a Surf Life Saving Club 900 km from the beach and not think it out of place.  But I digress.  Back to the Pot Luck Dinner.

Now, my first introduction to the people of Adavale had been as we were on our way to the station for the first time.  We pulled in to get a cold drink before finishing our journey.  I was standing at the bar waiting to order and the woman next to me had just bought a beer.  Struggling to zip up the stubbie cooler around the bottle, she turned to me- a complete, a little naive at the time, stranger – and said “we should all be this tight” and wandered away.  Leaving me to stand there, gobsmacked and wondering if a 60-odd year old woman had just made a vagina joke to me.

The answer is a resounding yes.  Yes, she did.

So, knowing this information, it will come as no surprise to find that my moment of social awkwardness at the Adavale Pub RFDS fundraising dinner indirectly involved my vagina.  Or maybe it will come as a surprise.  If you are surprised, you might want to reassess the way you view me and this blog in general.

Before dinner was served, I went out to the toilet.  True to Outback form, the toilets were… out back.  Around the gaps in the corrugated iron door, I heard the same 60 year old voice that had spoken to me on that first day at the Pub.

“The food is out, I’m just going to get some for your kids.” And she proceeded to list all the different options and ask me what I wanted her to get for them.  Now, I’m a small town, country girl; not schooled in the finer arts of etiquette.  What is the proper etiquette here?  Do you wipe, flush, wash your hands then come out and speak to the person?  Start speaking while you’re going about your business?  Answer and wait for them to leave before you finish up in there?  Is there a book you can buy or classes to take to teach you what a lady should do in these specific circumstances?  Because I’m a mother fucking lady, and I just don’t know how to deal with people in my intimate pooping space.   It’s been twelve years and I still worry I did the wrong thing.  If you have any thoughts on how to handle poop time invasion correctly, I would love to hear them.


For the record, I answered and waited for her to go before I finished up my business.

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