I felt the size of a peanut...

I have to admit that, compared to the other photos in this blog, this isn't the best. In fact, it's cod-ordinary. However, there's a reason why...
In 1998 I hitchhiked all the way around Australia photographing everyone who gave me a lift and writing about each hitch (http://soididbook.blogspot.com.au/).
This was my 38th hitch - Sally Sahir. She was one of only 2 lone females to pick me up on my journey. Oddly enough, one took me into Alice Springs (Sally) and one took me out the following day.
Sally picked me up hitchhiking north from the Desert Oaks Resort Erldunda, on the corner of the Stuart and Lasseter Highways and pretty much smack-bang in the middle of Australia (the Stuart heads north/south and the Lasseter heads west to Uluru).
She was in a good mood, having just landed a job, and was celebrating the fact with a beer (a can of VB cradled in her lap). It was around 10am. She offered me one but it was about 8 hours too early for me.
We set off and, like all my hitches, after a few minutes I told her what I was doing and would she mind if I photographed her? I do remember her saying, somewhat quietly, 'Oh'...then, tentatively...'sure', but I was too preoccupied with the beautiful day outside and the fact I was hitchhiking through the middle of Australia, loving every minute of it. I didn't stop to think that a single woman being asked this question by a hitchhiker she'd just picked up might start alarm bells ringing. Anyway, I knew I was a big, friendly bloke, so what was there to worry about? Plus the fact, by the time I'd met Sally, I was well into my journey and was used to people being more than happy to let me photograph them.
I knew what I wanted to do for a photo and it involved using a layby which we could pull into. I told Sally this and once again, she quietly said, 'okay...'.
Meanwhile, Muggins i.e. me, was totally oblivious to how Sally might be feeling. We chatted amiably as we drove and, after around half-an-hour or so, I said, 'Can you pull into the next layby and I'll do the photo?'
At the next layby Sally duly pulled in. There were people there and I'm sure Sally must have breathed a huge sigh of relief. I had a look around and knew it wasn't what I wanted. It was then that Muggins said, 'It's not what I want. Can we drive to the next layby?'
As I said this I turned to face Sally.
Now, there are lines from movies, songs, books, poetry that stay with people forever. The short sentence I heard next will stay with me 'til the day I die.
Sally, cowering into her seat and with eyes the size of dinner plates behind her huge, 1970s Charlie's Angels-style sunglasses, feebly uttered the now-immortal words, 'You're not going to go all weird on me, are you?'
In that instant, her short sentence sent everything crashing down on me like a ton of bricks as the magnitude of the situation hit home. I felt the size of a peanut, with a brain to match, and spent the next minute or so apologising profusely. Understandably, she took some reassuring as she must have spent the entire time I'd been in the car worrying for her safety.
Any idea of using other laybys for photos now went out the window. No matter how much apologising and reassuring I gave her, there was no way she was going to move from where we were for the sake of a photo. Whether I wanted to or not, I was going to have to take her photo there and then. And I was going to have to be quick. She was in no mood for modelling.
We got out of the car and I looked at what I had to work with. It wasn't much. Sally wasn't going to venture far from the relative safety of the car, so I had to make do with what was there.
I tried a few basic combinations of her standing in the doorway of the car, making sure the car was between us the whole time, and working as quickly as possible in case she pulled the pin on me. The adrenalin was surging through me but more out of horror at my behaviour than out of concern for getting an award-winning photo. I was going to get whatever she gave me. Even though she's smiling in the photo, it wasn't a comfortable smile!
I took maybe 10 frames and called it a 'wrap'. I knew the photo wasn't great but I had something in the bag.
My apologising must have worked and Sally allowed me to get back into the car with her, whereupon we set off.
When Sally picked me up, she was quite content to enjoy the day and asked if I minded if we cruised along at 70-80km/h. After the 'photo shoot', however, we averaged 110-120km/h the rest of the way to Alice Springs!

Gear used - Nikon FM2, FP4 125ISO B&W film, 1/250 sec f8. Minutes spent apologising and grovelling - many.

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