Ghan, 10th February 2005
The Ghan from Alice Springs to Adelaide is fully bookend. All cars are taken.

The steward tells about all the train details, including the showers and points at the piles of towels. Those towels are for showers only, he explains. There are plenty, but not enough to use as pillow or blanket.

The whole car of passengers listens in disbelief.

Come on, were are about 60 passengers here and those 2 small piles should be enough towels for all of us? You would not believe that yourself, would you?

The steward is off to the next car to repeat his story. As soon as he is gone the passengers look at each other. Now, who is going to have a nice shower and who is going to be smelly for the next 20 hours?

The first courageous passenger steps forward. The whole car watches as he takes a towel of the pile and returns to his seat with his trophy. Well, he'll be able to take a shower for sure.

A second passenger follows, a third and a fourth. The piles of towels decrease rapidly. The car is now in a state of panic. Herds of passengers stampede towards the remaining towels. It takes only a few minutes before the last one is gone.

Evening falls. At ten o'clock the lights are off and the train slows down. Most passengers sit back, relax and doze off.

The situation in the next car is completely different. Its floor plan is a mirror copy of my own. Passengers do not face the towels here, they are at the back. They have heard the same story from the steward, but without the image of vanishing piles of towels. So, there was no panic here, no stampede. There are still two piles of towels, enough for everybody that wishes to take a shower.

I feel guilty as I take a towel from the "foreign" car and return to my own shower. The towel goes into the laundry bag. It is the first one. Nobody has actually used his conquered towel here.

It is hard to sleep, sitting next to a young mother with a 3 weeks old baby on her lap. The night manager passes and refills the towel stock, while most passengers are asleep. There is no rush now. The towels are still there in the morning.

The shortage did not really exist, it was only perception. Cause and result are mixed here. The image of shortage created shortage. Herds behave strange in the extensive desert.

Till next nut,