This is either the most unfortunate art direction I’ve ever seen, or the most brilliant art direction I’ve ever seen. Either way, it got people talking.
I have been to Yass and I can assure you that McDonald’s would be considered one of its finer dining options.
But it’s the reason I spent time in Yass that really makes telling of this story worthwhile.
A lot of American kids travel during the gap between high school graduation and the first year of college. I’d bet that most of them go to Europe. But by the time I was a sophomore in high school, I had already decided that I would delay my travels until I graduated from college. And then instead of heading for Europe like everyone else, I took off for the Land Down Under.
I had more motivation than most student travelers. I worked as a Top 40 disc jockey on a local radio station during my last couple years of college. I thought it would be a lot of fun to work as a DJ in Australia, so I subscribed to the country’s weekly radio and advertising trade magazine just to get a sense of its radio industry.
One week that trade magazine ran an article about a small, regional radio station about 180 miles southwest of Sydney that had conducted a “Miss Yass” competition. The article showed a photo of the winner. She was a remarkably beautiful girl. Tall and lean with long, blonde hair. Terrific smile. Her name was Madeline.
I wrote a letter to Madeline in care of the radio station. I told her that it would be very sad if no one were there to greet me when I walked off that airplane in Sydney. A much better scenario, I suggested, would be for me to be greeted by a beautiful young Australian woman. Perhaps one who was tall and lean with long blonde hair. One with a terrific smile. One who was so personable that she had recently been named “Miss Yass.”
This could have gone two ways. She could have concluded that I was some kind of pervert, shredded the letter into tiny pieces, tossed the scraps in the trash, and reported me to immigration. Or, if I were lucky, she could have written back a very funny letter that said she’d like to get to know me and greet me upon my arrival.
I got lucky. She chose option number two. We started trading letters. It was not long before I had completely fallen in love with the beautiful, hilarious girl.
I fell more in love with each letter. I just knew in my heart that I would arrive in Australia, we would throw our arms around each other in the Sydney airport terminal, and live happily ever after.
That was the sound of this happy love story screeching to a sudden and unexpected stop.
A month or two before I graduated from college, letters suddenly stopped arriving. I kept writing, but received nothing in return. Eventually, I had no choice but to stop embarrassing myself. I was crushed.
Of course, I still traveled to Australia after graduation. I hitchhiked from north to south and east to west and back again and eventually decided that I had already traveled halfway around the world and had nothing to lose so I hitchhiked to Yass, walked to Madeline’s address, and knocked on the door.
Her father answered the door. I explained who I was. A huge smile creased his face. He greeted me like a long lost son and invited me into his home. I, of course, still held out hope that Madeline would be there.
“Madeline got married,” he told me. “They moved about thirty miles away and had a baby.”
That was not what I had wanted to hear.
“But please stay with us,” he said. “Spend a few days. Rest up from your hitchhiking. Then go over to Madeline’s new home and surprise her. She’ll be so excited to see you.”
Hmmmm, I thought. She has a new husband. She has a baby. I’m not sure that any of them will be all that eager to see me.
Nevertheless, I spent a few days with her parents. They were wonderful people. They showed me around the area. They fed me. They let me sleep in Madeline’s bed. (I don’t think I’m giving anything away here, but it proved to be the only time I slept in Madeline’s bed. If you know what I mean.)
In the end, I took their advice. I bid them a fond farewell early one morning and hitchhiked thirty miles down the road to the new home of Madeline and her new husband and their new baby.
To surprise them.
What the hell was I thinking? What the hell were her parents thinking?
It was the most uncomfortable afternoon of my life. Turns out Madeline’s husband didn’t know I existed. She had been going out with him the entire time we had corresponded. My conversation with her was awkward enough, but we freakin’ pegged the needle on the awkwardometer when her husband came home for lunch and found me sitting in his kitchen with his wife.
She took him into another room where they had a hushed but clearly angry conversation. I’m pretty sure the word awkward may have been appropriate in that room, too. He stormed out without saying goodbye and slammed the door behind him as he left. She came back into the kitchen and quietly said, “My husband has decided to have lunch in town.”
Madeline and I made labored small talk for a few minutes and then I looked at my watch and with forced surprise said, “Oh, my, look at the time. I can’t believe it’s this late. I really need to get down to the American embassy in Canberra before nightfall. I’d better leave now.”
I’m sure it sounded like nonsense because it was nonsense. I just wanted to get out of Madeline’s house before her husband came home again. I’m sure Madeline also wanted me out of her house before her husband came home again.
Oh, well. Didn’t matter to me. I didn’t really want to sleep with her.
Or to take us back to the photo at the top of this story, Myass.