10 hours a week. 40 weeks a year. Dedicated to the blessed carpark that was Melbourne traffic. And that was just on school pick ups and drop offs alone. Then there were the daily trips to the post office (5 hours a week), shops, work, friends places, other errands (at least 30 minutes a piece) and the time spent navigating through each space. I struggle to comprehend the amount of life that was whisked away by the "convenience" of living in a big city.
It didn't really dawn on me until a month or two after we'd moved Tielka and the family from Melbourne to Agnes Water, QLD. For those that don't know, Agnes Water is a tiny beach paradise located 5.5 hours north of Brisbane and 1 hour 20 minutes from the bustling beverage locale of Bundaberg. We moved there three years ago.
It dawned on me one morning when I had to make a trip to the local Centrelink office before work. I dropped my son off at school and headed straight there. I was mentally prepared and I knew I had the whole morning available to deal with Centrelink. What a surprise it was. First there was the three minute drive to the local school to drop off my son, followed by a two minute drive to Centrelink (probably only 45 seconds, but there's time spent getting in and out of the car and finding a park). I walked into Centrelink (the office here also provides all the local government services to our small town), went straight to the counter and a friendly face greeted me. She took my wad of documents and asked me to collect them the following day. Two minutes from arriving I was already out the door and three minutes later I was home. 10 minutes total. TEN MINUTES!!! Consider the gravity of these two words. That's a school drop off AND a trip to Centrelink. I was in shock for the rest of the day.
I'd like to take you back a few years earlier for a similar but slightly different experience I had in Melbourne. One morning, I had to make a trip to the local Centrelink office. I dropped my son off at kinder and headed straight there. Luckily there was a car park near the front of the office. I only had to drop off some documents so the 2 hour parking limit would be more than enough. I walked in the door but didn't get far. The queue ended almost where I entered. A friendly face greeted me and asked what I needed. I explained I needed to drop off some documents and she wrote down a few notes and said it wouldn't be too long. I waited. And waited. And waited. Around forty five minutes later I made a query and was assured it wouldn't be too long. Some time after that a lady called out my name and escorted me to her desk. Finally. She could take my documents and I could go on my happy way. But I waited while I was poked and prodded with question after question, trying my best to answer as correctly as possible but feeling like holes were being poked in the honesty of my application. After what felt like a slightly shorter version of eternity, it was over. Frazzled and completely spent, I walked to my car only to find a parking fine stuck to my window. I think I lost it at this point. 4 hours total. FOUR HOURS!!! Consider the gravity of these two words. That's a school drop off and a trip to Centrelink AND a parking fine.
Don't get me wrong, I love Melbourne. I love my friends and family that are still there. I love the cafes, the hustle and bustle of the city, the crazy weather. I love to VISIT.
But there's nothing like home, living and keeping Tielka thriving in Agnes Water. I love my friends and family that are here. I love the five minute round trip to school and back, the 25 minute walk from home along the beach, around the shops and back home again. The 20 minute trip to buy milk at Foodworks because I bump into this friend or that. The six minute drive to 1770 for lagoon swimming paradise in case the palms around our balcony are not enough to remind me the beauty of where we live. And the 20 second walk to the Tielka warehouse. Because in small towns, there's no shortage of space to set up business, live life and enjoy the traffic.