One morning many years ago when I was working as a bike courier I hit the road, not a cent in either my pocket or bank account, and with about 70 K worth of fuel in the bike. But it was payday and all would be soon set right. At around 11 am I did a delivery to a north-eastern suburb. It’d been a slow day up until then, and as nothing was forthcoming on the PDA – a hand-held gizmo that gave out work as text on its screen – it looked like continuing that way. I checked my bank account on my phone: nothing yet. OK, so I wheeled off to a cemetery about a kilometre away to indulge my hobby of necrotourism – wandering graveyards – while waiting for the money to arrive, which I hoped would be soon as by then I had about 6 K of fuel left, and I couldn’t do any further work until I refuelled. In this cemetery I found the first centenarian I’d ever come across, a Chinese woman who’d lived from 1899 to 2001. Further along I found a grave with three oranges placed in a bowl, an offering for the dead. I wandered on, finding graves of young people which always upsets me. “Why are you under a stone when life has just begun?” I think. People in their twenties – a photo of a young woman on the tombstone – teenagers, children. Very upsetting.
Equally upsetting is that another check of my account shows my pay still hasn’t come in. And now the dispatcher is telling me to head back into town. As I have no fuel to do this I call in with pretended engine trouble and I’m taken off the roster. I sit by the cemetery gate and check the account and wait and check and wait …
By 1 pm the lack of lunch is starting to make itself felt. With some hesitancy born of superstitious qualms I go back into the cemetery and eventually find the grave with the bowl of oranges. With a whispered “Forgive me” I take one. (Always be polite to the dead. You don’t want them coming back in the middle of the night gibbering at the foot of your bed demanding the return of their oranges.) Back at the bike by the gates I cut the orange in half using a pair of scissors from my tool bag. It’s fresh and sweet and really hits the spot. (The orange, not the tool bag.)
As it gets toward 2pm with still no money in the bank I head off in the direction of home, knowing it’s impossible to reach with what little petrol I have left. About 5 K on I park outside a service station and continue my wait. And as I wait an unreasoning panic starts to creep up on me: What if the money doesn’t come in at all? What if there’s been a glitch with the computers at the bank? What if they’re paying me by cheque this week and haven’t told me? How will I get the bike home? There’s nothing in the cupboards, so how will I eat? (There’s only so many graveyards I can steal oranges from.) Then at 2.30 I check the account one last time and find a whole heap of money there. Thankfully I wheel the bike up to the pumps and fill the tank to the brim. I then go into the service station and buy a steak and mushroom pie, a carton of iced coffee and a chocolate bar. Food of the Gods!
It’s so late in the afternoon by now there’s no point signing back on for work. I head off down the road and spend a blissful hour at a cybershop.
And that is how grave robbing saved me from certain starvation … or at least possible malnutrition. It was just a shame about the gibbering spectre at the foot of my bed that night demanding the return of the orange.