Harry and I first met Gal Lesham at the National Folk Festival in Canberra during a frisbee match on the main Oval at midnight. He was looking for a ride back to Melbourne. We offered to take him on the eight-hour drive south. We made an instant heartfelt connection with the young traveller from Israel who was enjoying a break after three years of compulsory military training.
On the way home we made a detour to show Gal the beauty of our bush block and spontaneously decided to stay the night in our humble cabin. Gal cooked a delicious 5 course meal to share some culinary delights from his country.
When I received the following story in a recent email from Gal, I wasn’t surprised. It seems detouring is in his blood. It may not have relevance to being blind, but for me it highlights how we can all lose sight of important deadlines and find ourselves lost on the road to who knows where.
I have just returned from army reserve duty and I am SO tired! I’ve spent the last 4 days jumping on bushes and walking walking walking. It seems as if the army has nothing better to do than walk all day.
I thought that this nonsense would end after the mandatory service. Boy was I wrong. But I can’t blame anyone except myself.
On the first day, they wanted to kick me out of the reserve unit, which would have meant that I wouldn’t have to return to do reserve duty any more. Why did they want to kick me out, you ask?
It All Started the Day before Enrolment Day
I went to visit a friend in Herzliya in the evening and we were soon joined by another friend who lives an hour’s drive north. He suggested we all go and visit a third friend, who happens to live three hours away in the Golan Heights.
I quizzed my friends, being concerned about my deadline in the morning, to make sure that they would drive me back by 9 am to make it in time for the army reserve.
My friend heartily promised, ‘no problem’ – I would be back in time.
At 9.30 am the following morning, I awoke at my friend’s house. I called the Commander at the barracks and said I’d be an hour or two late. Then I turned to my friends and said,
“Can you drop me off at the army base?”
“No problem,” they said and proceeded to the butcher to buy some steaks for breakfast. “We’ll just do a barbecue first and take you to this great place we know on the way.”
I reminded them that I needed to get to the army base as soon as possible, I was already late.
My friends assured me that the detour would only take an hour or two more, and then said, “There’s no reason to hurry anyway, you don’t do anything much in barracks on the first day.”
So I happily took a refreshing dip in the water where we had pulled in by a local spring and ate some steak.
After We Had All Finished
I asked my friends again, “Can we now go to the army base?”
They nodded and smiled, “Of course.”
Then one of my friends added, “As soon as we’ve done a small detour to pick up my girlfriend. She’s expecting me to come and get her. Then we’ll take you straight to the army base.”
The sweat under my collar prompted me to remind them it was actually getting pretty late.
“Don’t worry, Gal,” they said, “it’s only going to take another hour or so.” And proceeded to remind me, “No one does anything much on the first day anyway.”
After we had picked up the girlfriend, I felt really pressed for time – seeing as I was now five hours late and an uncomfortable two hour drive away from army base at Eliakim.
Again I reminded them about my schedule.
“Relax, Gal,” my friends said, driving off in the opposite direction.
“What are you doing?” I yelled at them, looking out the car window as the scenery drifted further away from the army base.
“We’re going to get some fuel.”
“But it’s in the opposite direction?”
“We’re heading this way because petrol is eight cents cheaper in Qatzrin ,” one of my friends said. “It’s only one or two more hours anyway. It’s not going to make that much difference.”
“Besides,” my other friend pitched in, “you’re late now anyway, so what’s the rush?”
After we filled up the car with petrol and went on a new detour to give a ride to the girlfriend’s brother (only 45 minutes out of the way, no big deal), we dropped off one of my friends as he had to get back home to his wife.
“Don’t worry, Gal,” he said, jumping out of the car, “You’re already late. It’s not going to make a lot of difference”.
Eight hours later
I am arguing with my friend and his girlfriend that it did not make sense to stop at the Pancake House for dinner.
“Come on, Gal,” my friend argued. “She’s been fantasizing about pancakes all day!”
“You can’t go the army hungry.” she insisted.
Seeing that I was already 10 hours late, nothing seemed to matter now – not even the six calls I had received from the Commanding Officer to ask if I was crazy or serious.”You’ve gone too far this time,” he bellowed down the phone.
Finally, after eleven slightly fun, slightly stressful hours, I arrived shamefully at my army base. The ranking officer was so angry; he refused to give permission for me to receive a uniform or rifle, and was very keen on the idea of sending me home PERMANENTLY, until the Commander intervened and told him to let it slide this time.
“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by” Douglas Adams
Photographs & article ©2013 Gal Lesham
Edited by Maribel Steel