42. A million to one chance
The Australian Bureau of Statistics publishes every year all kinds of figures about the population of Australia. One statistic reveals the localities where the rich and poor live. In August 2002 the richest people lived, as every year, in the inner eastern suburbs on Sydney’s magnificent harbour. Their average annual incomes had jumped the $ 100 000 mark some years ago. Australians with the lowest income lived in the rural district in a small South Australian hamlet called Geranium. Their average taxable income slipped below 20 000 per year. The postcode of the town consists of ‘my’ numbers: 5301.
I overheard a brief conversation by a radio journalist speaking to a lady from Geranium. She answered the questions in a happy tone of voice. She wanted the rest of us to know that they are very happy in spirit. How uplifting to hear that happiness depends very little on income! Real happiness bubbles up from an unlimited supply within, which the lady on the radio certainly portrayed. I wondered in which place in Australia Jesus would live and feel at home.
Newspaper headlines were still a source of great frustration, while at the same time feeding my ‘madness’, as Isobel would express it. I was not mad, never had been. As August arrived I was more confident than ever that if I had an illness, it was a strange, yet beautiful one. Seeing headlines in the paper and thinking they may relate to your life story is not normal. That’s why I found it impossible to talk to anyone about it. The uncertainty, if my thinking was rational, was to be my struggle for months to come.
I was reminded of the first girl I fell in love with at age 15. When she looked in my direction, when she was friendly as we passed each other in the church foyer or smiled at me, I was happy and over the moon. She must love me! At other times my heart would sink to the bottom of despair; when I saw her talking or walking with another boy; or when she said she was busy when you just wanted to be near her.
Everyone who ever was in love with someone and was unsure if the affection was mutual will never forget those dizzy heights and devastating lows that occurred, often in a single day. As a 51-year old I again experienced the same roller coaster of emotions. I knew God loved me. There was never doubt about God. I doubted myself, my normality.
Yet, to ignore obvious facts, hard evidence of what was happening, would be to betray myself. For instance, I found out about my business partner John from Melbourne. He was a man with vision and liked my concept of having learners drivers study road safety at home online. He spent many thousands of dollars to advertise his large driving school. Because of the generic name driving-school my web address could be used by other driving-schools. All they needed to do was register with me as www.driving-school.com.au and use /theirname as their own web address. He had placed an advertisement in the Melbourne ‘Yellow Pages’.
The Adelaide Yellow Pages made a big mistake in my advertisement. They omitted the hyphen between driving & school. I had returned the corrected proof immediately and phoned on at least two occasions to make sure it would be corrected. The advertisement was still printed wrongly, much to my annoyance. There was nothing I could do, apart from reducing payments in lieu. I paid three installments out of the five.
John was one of my most ardent supporters. He paid lots of cash for a large advertisement plus smaller ones in 14 ‘locality guides’ of the Melbourne 2001 Yellow Pages. All his entries had my web address as www.driving-school.com in error (the .au was omitted). Had the error been the same as mine (no hyphen) I would have accepted the answer that it was perhaps the same error carried through the system. But it was a complete different mistake in John’s case.
A statistician would perhaps be able to work out the odds of this happening by chance. I had long stopped believing in co-incidents. No one can blame me for thinking that shady characters were still working against me, causing this one-in-a-million stuff-up. Anyone knowing the internet would know how much business is lost through just one typing error.
In the past these conspiracy theories would send me high again. But experience has taught me to commit everything to God in prayer. HE is a specialist in wrestling victory from apparent defeat. I knew that God could take the mistake of the hyphen, the minus, and turn it into a plus. HE would have the last say in this saga.
Every morning at breakfast I would flick through the newspaper, which we still had delivered. My ‘outside the square’ thinking brain noticed the figures 5, 15, 35, 50 in many articles or advertisements and was terribly teased by them. For a long time I wondered why the number 50 featured so prominently. It took a long time to realize that 2002 was the Queen of England’s year of the jubilee. But 50 also it represented the Roman numeral for L.
At one stage there were two huge billboards on Main North Road near Parafield Airport opposite the Liebherr building which advertised 50 % off at the liqueur outlet around the corner. What co-incidence? The Liebherr (dear Lord) building is located right on that corner. The service station on the same corner during late 2002 also changed the name to ‘Liberty’. How co-incidental, how liberating!
I also discovered clues creep into advertisements in the paper. After uploading crash 6, Suzuki advertised with the headline: ‘Suzuki’s a buzz with spring value.’ Amongst the advertised cars were a number of bees buzzing around. My website featured my Suzuki driving school car. Immediately I was reminded of the bees escaping from the Pest Control van in Crash 6. Co-incident? What about this next one?
On father’s day 2002 I played my first item on the trumpet in years. As a word of intro, to make me feel at ease, I thought of a little humour. After getting on stage I said: “I am showing off my new father’s day shirt. I am also wearing new father’s day undies, but let’s get on with the music.” I really did have undies on that were given to me that morning. But what co-incidence, in the PS column of the paper the very next day was a picture with a dozen or so men showing off their undies. The caption: Undies with impact. It was about an ‘underwear modeling competition’.
In a rather large advertisement, right beside the undies article, a solicitor was looking for witnesses for a hit-and-run accident. The Solicitor’s name was Mitchell, that name will feature in the next chapter and in a later one. Like the name Sobczak, I will never forget Mitchell. The picture, the article and the solicitor’s ad triggered a chain-reaction in my brain. My mind flew back a couple of weeks when I spotted the car of a lady I had not seen in months. Her name was Sue. Sue was also the name of the wife of John Fisher.
Who was John Fisher? One evening around 7 pm a man knocked on our front door. He introduced himself as John Fisher: “I ‘m here to pick up the 21st birthday cake. My wife Sue sent me here.” He acted a little strange. I told him he must be at the wrong address. But he would not go straight away; he kept mentioning his wife Sue, even made a few comments about her, always emphasizing her name. Eventually he left.
My son’s name is Jon Fischer. But it was the fact that he bothered throwing his and his wife’s names around, when all he wanted was to pick up a cake. The name Sue caught my attention in all this. It directed me to the Mitchell Solicitor’s ad, which was right beside the ‘underwear model competition’ which I linked to my comment before my trumpet playing on father’s day. This may sound confusing to the reader, but this is how my peculiar brain worked at the time. Was this a message from, whoever, to sue someone, the government perhaps?
Whatever the truth I wrote a long letter to the solicitor. I had made a few light-hearted comments in the letter. During a phone conversation to follow-up the matter I realized he did not take me seriously. It was no surprise. I did not really like the idea of suing anybody.
In an email to Rebekah, my Advertiser contact, I tried to make sense of some of the happenings:
Your colleague Tracie McPherson wrote a short article on P 15 on today's 'tiser. Did she write this while she was over 0.5? Nothing makes sense except perhaps the sentence: "People should start focusing on the good rather than the bad". I suppose this academic Cynthia, no sorry, Sue R… had to go to Uni for 7 years to come up with such a gem of wisdom.
That reminds me, the name Sue came up twice before recently. Would you believe, by sheer co-incidence, a man knocked on my front door about 10 days ago to pick up a 21st birthday cake. He introduced himself as John Fischer, the same name as my son's? We said you must have the wrong address. He then blamed his wife Sue for the mix-up. He mentioned her name a few times. It was almost as if staged. Tonight at the end of my last driving lesson I recognized a numberplate I had not seen in a long time. It belonged to Sue.
No, Isobel sees nothing unusual in any of this. I keep asking her what would need to happen for her to take notice? "Take notice of what?" she replies. And only mentally ill people ask this kind of question in the first place.
At least she can't add: "Have you taken your tablets today?" I don't take any more tablets.
As you well know, I suffer from a mental condition that c's and then computes those incidences and says: "Perhaps someone is trying to tell me something?" I wish those messengers would speak in a plain language. It would make life much simpler. Yes, true; it would also be more boring.
Bob D. Fischer
Your safety is driving P L us
PS. Looking forward to "Tomorrow tonight" on channel Seven. The story of baby Mc Phail will be shown. ps. Should I go back on tablets?
I have forgotten what the PS referred to, but at the time it must have triggered a thought in my active brain.
I hated the puny little rules that the government loaded us driving instructors up with. The classic example is the five seconds indicating rule, discussed previously. In practice this rule was both unworkable and totally unnecessary. When instructors have to tell students: “You must obey rule so and so religiously on your test, what you do afterwards doesn’t matter”, you have to question the sanity of the whole system.
In my very first edition of the road safety book I illustrated the following crash that actually happened. A law-abiding, newly licenced driver remembered at the last moment to give-way to the pedestrians before turning left off a busy main road. Unfortunately, a huge truck right behind did not expect the sudden stop and rammed the car half-way into the turn. Two children had started crossing and were squashed by the car that was pushed right over them.
With this illustrated crash I tried to highlight the need for common sense over rigid laws. Years ago I had a thought along those lines. I emailed it to the small group of media and political contacts I had:
When air traffic controllers go on a work-to-rule campaign we experience chaos at airports as a result.
At present there are no delays or disruptions at airports, so I ask the question: "What rule are air traffic controllers braking at the moment to keep things running smoothly?”
Your safety is driving P L us
PS Yesterday I discovered Psalm 37. God is at work. He loves breaking man-made rules.
The Psalms had been a great source of inspiration and strength since my teenage years. During the lonely hours alone in my room during my first few months in Australia I learned many of them by heart. I continued this practice later as I was driving in between driving lessons. I would speak scripture onto a tape and play, replay, play replay each verse, one by one until I knew almost a dozen or so Psalms off by heart.
Verse 5 of Psalm 37 expressed my sentiment in my spiritual walk with God:
“Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in HIM and HE shall bring it to pass.”
Verse 15 of the same Psalm gave me a feeling of safety:
“Their sword (the enemy’s) shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.”
The grand finale, as well as Verses 3 & 5 of this wonderful Psalm contains the word trust that had been my shield and my tower of strength when the night was darkest: “HE shall deliver them from the wicked and save them, because they trust in HIM.”
The probabilities that my imagination about events were true started at a million-to-one. However, as the incredible events of 2002 unfolded and God revealed HIS ways to me more and more towards the end of 2002 the odds had decreased considerably.
I would place a bet of a-million-to-one in favour of the bible coming true. But Christians are not called to prove anything about God. HE is sovereign. HE reveals himself to whoever HE wishes.
Autobiography - Dieter Fischer
1. More in number 2. A sound mind 3. Now I'm found 4. Candle and the Wind
5. Realm of Nature 6. All in his Hand 7. The Wonder of it All 8. To Think God loves