I first met Rock at the Green Door. The Green Door was the cool place in town where night owls met after taking their dates home. There were usually a large contingent of jeeps owned by those who’d completed their army national service and hadn’t quite got the army experience out of their system.
But there was always an equal number of bikies who seemed to be there on a twenty-four seven schedule. The owner of the Green Door seemed to have some connection with the bikies which could be assumed by the fact they had access to the inner sanctum of the Green Door and could often be seen in secret conversation behind the counter which would cease when the jeep guys made an appearance at the counter. The Green Door never seemed to be inactive and if one were to cruise past during the day, the canteen would be manned by teenage girls with an assortment of coloured dyed hair. The movers and shakers of the town referred to them as Widgees.
In today’s world the Green Door would be unceremoniously shut down by town’s health authorities, but those were days when political correctness hadn’t been invented and people had the freedom to take risks. The Green Door served a wide choice of food and drinks. You could have your hamburger with relish, tomato ketchup, pickled onions, leafy greens of doubtful parentage or naked. The counter served coca cola or coco cola with ice.
We did notice bikies emerging from the back of the green door with cases containing bottles that did not look like coca cola, but when inquiring from the owner whether there happened to be other drinks available the owner put on his most shocked expression and assured us it was impossible as he’d no permit to serve anything other than non-alcoholic drinks.
Police did a regular circuit of the rail station opposite which the Green Door carried on its successful business and sometimes paused to check what was being served and roll their eyes in disbelief. Their eyes roved the canteen looking for any sign of illegality. They did a cursory inspection of the jeeps to simulate fairness. Many of the town police were ex-army trainees and some had even trained with the jeep guys so there was an affinity there.
But a close inspection of the bikes followed with occasional notes taken. The bikies looked on sullenly and after police departed to commence their circuit there’d be loud exclamations accusing them of discrimination. Sometimes a police car would park opposite the Green Door, the only evidence of someone sitting in darkness watching was the tiny red glow of lighted cigarettes.
There were no chairs and tables at the Green Door. Originally the canteen had been visualized as an order to go establishment but clientele had evolved so that it was a regular place of meeting. Bikies would sit on their bikes and would take their supplies through the back door. Jeep guys would mill around the counter or sit on the curbs telling tired old stories of their army service, usually one of the group would be the target of humorous stories involving them.
There was little contact between the Jeep guys and bikies, but as mechanics among us talked a common language with bikies who were constantly tinkering with their machines, that common language of mechanics would sometimes achieve a remarkable transformation and the sullen faces would show animation for the duration of the conversation.
It seemed to be a rule among bikies of the town they’d present themselves as a macho group and they practiced their James Dean sullen look to perfection. There was no animosity between the groups. Both were there to hang out and felt happy in doing so. The difference was bikies were not permitted to let others see this happiness.
Each of the groups had an accepted uniform. Whenever possible the jeep group would like to be seen in kaki, and bikie uniforms were black shirt and pants with black leather jacket a must in the blistering heat of summer, or more appropriately in winter.
But on this particular evening I’d opted for my bottle green pants and startling yellow shirt. I’d obtained it on a trip to Sydney where a cultural evolution was in progress and wanted to show it off to the Jeep guys. It received a definite thumbs-down from my kaki friends with cries of dismay and derision.
I was feeling quite moulded when out of the blackness appeared one of the bikies. He waved me over and I went happy to leave the derisive laughter of my pals.
“Wedja gethar threads?” Said the bikie looking me over approvingly.
“Sydney!” I replied uncertainly. Usually bikies were only friendly talking mechanic language so this was a breakthrough indeed.
“Wanna sellum?” He pointed at my clothes hopefully.
Now at this point I should tell you a little about the clothing folkways of the town. The town uniform for the elite seemed to require men be seen with long flared pants of different shades of brown and preferably a white long sleeve shirt with tie. Definitely no startling contrasts!
Farmers of course bought whatever came of the department store shelf as long as it was shorts. From their point of view long pants were something to be worn at a wedding or funeral. Shirts were optional. But the elite of the town frowned on non-conformity, and after all I was employed by one of the elite of the town so I was treading on thin ice. I’d already received some cautionary looks when caught bravely wandering streets at night when I thought our sleepy country town was thoroughly shut down.
I briefly considered the request to divest myself of my non-conformist image but quickly dismissed the idea. I kind of enjoyed my cultural protest against clothing conformity in spite of the unfavourable reaction of my jeep mates.
“Sorry I don’t want to sell, What’s your name?”
“My friends call me Rock.”
I knew that wasn’t his real name and thought it unwise to ask why his friends called him Rock
I held out my hand as a greeting and he looked at it uncertainly, finally he got the message and gave me a limp handshake.
You’re cool, he said then resuming his sullen look he turned to re-join his friends, I saw them in the poor lighting by their bikes in animated conversation with an occasional point in my direction.
That contact yielded me a surprise buddy up until the time I left town to explore new horizons.
Rock would be quite animated whenever I passed him sitting in the streets on his motorcycle or at the Green Door and would give me the V sign. I was even permitted to sit on the curb with he and his friends but the only conversation one could have with bikies was motorcycles and occasionally motorcycle or car races. They marvelled at my limited knowledge of these things and patiently explained what I lacked in that area. I discovered this to be a sub-group education seemed to have passed by but they were fiercely loyal to each other and suspicious of a larger world that had made it plain they were rejects of society. The groups knowledge of the world was rudimentary and their use of English appalling. It was never quite clear to me where they got money to support their lifestyle when they seemed to have no work. In those days it was not drugs, that came much later.
But Rock had obviously decided to trust me and let me into their closed society, a fact that was not lost on me at the time. It was all because of my bottle green pants and startling yellow shirt. Rock had felt safe approaching me because he didn’t anticipate rejection.
I finally worked the cultural protest out of my system and joined the mainstream. But this experience with Rock has stuck with me. How often do we put a label on a person or groups judging them because they don’t confirm to our cultural pattern, or the pattern of society we choose to move in.
Could it be there are other Rocks out there today looking for someone to show some sign they’re willing to accept them for who they are? Do we miss the opportunity to give them a kind word at least as we pass by or show by some other sign we don’t judge them? I know there are dangers we can be dragged into a society whose way of life takes us down a slippery path rather than lifting them up in some way, but if we are strong enough to establish non-judgmental boundaries within our laws then maybe there are Rocks out there looking for our friendship today. Maybe they want to join us in the mainstream too but need to have a friend they can trust to help them with a potential new horizon.
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