From Australia to Nashville: An Oven Cleaners Journey

I’ve my spent my whole life cleaning ovens in Australia.

It’s not a bad life. I love talking to people and getting my hands dirty, so becoming the best oven cleaner in Sydney was a challenge I¬†was well suited for!

With that being said, my dominance of the industry in this region has a few drawbacks. It wasn’t until last year that I left the country for the first time.

I’d not considered my non-existent travelling experience until I visited a particularly worldly client’s home. Their walls were covered in photos of their travels proudly showing all the different places that they’d visited over the years. We have thousands of tourists come to visit us every year here in Sydney from Columbia, India, England, Germany – all these places I’d heard of but I had no idea what they were actually like.

Despite its gargantuan size my homeland seemed to be shrinking more and more. It no longer felt like the exciting vibrant place it once was, it felt stale and a little lifeless. I told my wife this and she told me I needed to go away. She’d done her travelling when she was much younger and had no trouble in settling down with the kids when it came to it, but I was the country bumpkin who had been happy with his working week and weekends spent barbecuing with my mates.

The fact that the solar eclipse was working its way through Nashville, Tennessee was simply fortuitous. I’d long been a fan of the blues and the musicians that called their home in that most sacred of cities, so when I found out that this once in a lifetime event would be passing over there I talked to my wife and she gave me the thumbs up. I cleared two-weeks of my calendar in the August of 2017 and booked my flights.

The enormity of what I was about to do had not really gripped me until I stepped aboard the plane, it was the first time I’d ever done so and suddenly the thought of flying through the air for hours on end began to put the fear in me. I felt my knees shake a little and was glad for the in-flight entertainment system, although the take-off was certainly a lot more frightening than I expected it to be.

My first steps on a new land were confusing. It might sound strange, but it was the smell that first surprised me as I left security and made my way out into the bright Tennessee sunlight. In terms of the environment there wasn’t too much to tell it apart from rural Australia: dust, sand, shrubs, but it wasn’t long before the differences started showing themselves. The people dressed much different to Australians. Just like in the movies, big bellied fellas swaggered around with stetsons and boots, whilst their impossibly pristine wives were all spitting images of Dolly Parton.

I’d not been alone and in a foreign country before so I was very much in novel territory – instinct soon kicked in and with just 8 hours to go to before the eclipse I was in a dusty saloon bar, drinking beer, eating BBQ food and making some new friends. You can take the Aussie out of Australia…

Total Isolation and Nuclear Event Detectors

I was in no way prepared for the total eclipse when it came around – it’s a good thing I wasn’t driving!

 

Sometimes it’s possible to live your life in a bubble, all you have to do is to turn off your TV, your radio and your phone.

Understandably, not a lot of people choose to do this. For many it would seem like a cry for help or even a sign of madness. When I chose to do this at the start of August last year, I wasn’t in the best of places. I was three months into my new job as a technical engineer and I was hopelessly bored.

My parents always warned me of the emotional drop off that I was going to experience in the time after graduating from college. They were right, of course, I just didn’t expect the feelings of utter ennui to be as strong as they were.

Life is pretty sweet at college‘, my Dad had said, almost to himself. ‘Just enjoy it whilst you can.’

As much as I tried to take his advice on board, I constantly found myself getting stressed over my workload. Before I knew it, I was a week away from graduation and I’d spent the last 6 months of my college life slaving away in the library. I passed with flying colours, I found a job – my parents were proud. Still, I couldn’t help but feel that I’d missed out on something.

Although I’d been told that no one ever lands their dream job straight out of college, I still struggled to deal with the grim realities of working life. I had to move several hundred miles away from my home town of Chicago, away from all the friends that I’d made in college. I was starting all over, just for the sake of work and it didn’t feel good. The flat I rented in Fulton might have been within driving distance of St. Louis and Kansas City, but it still had that small town feeling that I couldn’t shake.

I spent most of my summer on the road. The first summer after graduating and whilst my friends were travelling the world or working in vibrant cities, I was driving along the flat featureless roads of Missouri county, fitting Nuclear Event Detectors (from Wall Industries, Inc) into banks and security systems. The feel-good hits that the radios played didn’t chime with me, so I turned it off. The TV was full of beaming news anchors and sunny forecasts that I couldn’t enjoy – so I turned that off too. I had friends posting pictures of themselves partying, continuing their college lifestyles in earnest; so my laptop and phone quickly followed suit.

The 21st August 2017 was a Monday. I’d lived in a bubble for the last 3 weeks, simply taking call outs for work and grunting my greetings to any clients where necessary. That evening I was sat in my room with a beer in my hand, I remember casually wondering how much longer I could carry on this way and shrugged to myself. Rain beat against the window, reflecting my pitiful mood – I was considering going to sleep when the sun went out.

Complete darkness reigned. I was blind, I was confused. I spilled my beer everywhere.

Panic set in, I’m not religious but I remember making a brief prayer and then considering how stupid it was of me to hide away from the people that I loved. It was stupid to be wallowing inside when there were plenty of people out there who were in worse situations. I’d just about made peace with my mistakes in life when the sun reemerged and I realised that the world hadn’t ended.

The first thing I did was turn on all my devices to confirm what had just happened. The next thing I did was call my buddies in Chicago and tell them that I’d be driving home on Friday for the weekend. My bubble had well and truly burst.


Thanks to Jerry McCall who was able to escape his low-mood by being surprised by the eclipse – truly amazing! If you’ve got a similar tale that you’d like to share then Send Us Your Story!