Friday, December 10, 2004

the boom boom bus

My older daughter, Gillian currently works away from home in a small rural town where nothing much ever happens unless you make it happen. She comes home every second weekend. When I picked her up from the bus last night, she says to me, 'Mum, this really weird thing has been happening. And I started it. And I feel bad.'

Like what? Like what????

'Well, it's a lie. A little white lie we started at work and now the whole town believes it's fact and when I try to tell them that it's a lie and that I know it's a lie 'cause I am one of the liars, people think I am lying!'

So the story is: She works in a government training program with about ten other teenage kids and they go from government training place to government training place in a distinctive bus with Greencorps logos all over it. As a joke some time ago, Liam, the group's resident sexual obsessive, made a great show of putting condoms into the ashtray - Just In Case. Then a few weeks ago, the bus is broken into overnight and Gillian and her friend, Kim are the first on the scene. As a joke, Kim takes the condoms out of the ashtray and they tell everyone that someone must have broken into the Greencorps bus to Have Sex. First they tell the others in the Greencorps team the ... ahem... shall we say ... embroidered version of events. Then the rest of the team tell the management. Then they all tell everybody they know. The news travels throughout the small town! Gillian watches the ensuing rumour grow with alarm.

Oh my God! Oh my God! There are louts going about the town breaking into vehicles and having sex! Don't just lock up yer daughters - lock up their cars too! Someone heard there were drugs. Suspects are starting to be named!

People start coming up to Gillian in the street and asking her for more details about The Crime. She begins to tell them that she and Kim made it up and that it hadn't really happened at all. The responses she gets to that range from pity... 'Oh, don't be embarrassed about it. Not like it's the first government vehicle ever to get christened that way... ' to accusations that she is in denial... 'For god's sake, Gill... Everyone knows it happened. Just admit it.' The town begins to call the Greenscorp vehicle The Boom Boom Bus.

I couldn't stop laughing as Gillian described the snowball she and Kim created on the spur of the moment with no idea of how far it might roll.

But she was serious. ' Mum, I know it's trivial. I know it doesn't matter that the whole town believes that someone had sex on the Greencorps bus. But it's just disturbing! I just made up a piece of the town's reality! And I can't unmake it! I just can't believe that it's become fact.'

I said to her, 'There's worse to come. Just wait till you get to the stage where you and Kim begin to believe the story too.'

She looked at me. 'I'm pretty sure Kim already does.' Apparently Kim acts just as shocked and amazed as everyone else when they talk about it.

Of course, the next step will be that some kids really WILL break into the Greenscorp bus and have a sex and drugs party because someone has put the idea into their mind that they can!

Later, Gillian and I went for a video and by chance picked up a film called Donnie Darko, a great story that explores the nature of reality and how we create our own realities out of whatever is around us. There is a great scene about people emballishing a rumour as it goes from teller to listener to the next teller. That little bit of synchronicity was a bit disturbing in itself.


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