Sometimes, fascinating insights are made available to those who listen in silence.

I was fortunate enough to be sitting at a table beside a couple of crusty old blokes having a cup of coffee. Or tea. I was having coffee – I think they were one coffee and one tea – anyway, it doesn’t really matter what they were drinking.

They might have been brothers. They were similar in build and facial structure … both with rather long and pointed noses … both wearing glasses … leathery skin secretly revealing tales of a lifetime of outdoor work.

It was all a bit of a monologue to begin. The older looking of the two (Robert / Bob) was having his say.

“What time did you get up this morning? Did you hear that bloody rooster at about 4.30am? I was almost ready to grab an axe and go and chop his head off. Bloody nuisance. And I’ll take off the head of the mindless fool who owns that rooster. He’s a bloody nuisance too. How are we supposed to get any sleep when that thing goes off before dawn? One of these days that rooster and I are going to have our own, private, Dawn Service … and then he will have much better understanding of the meaning of the Last Post. No more rise and shine from him, and I will be able to sleep in until 6am. It will be glorious.”

That’s just a sample. The tirade went on for some considerable time. Sometimes the banter was almost thoughtful. Sometimes insightful. Much of the rant contained the usual racist, religionist bullshit for which these old country gents are famous (or should that be infamous? – probably).

Bob was capable of spewing forth views that would cause a shock-jock to redden with embarrassment. You know, the sort of embarrassment that one would feel and display if for example, one was caught in a bit of a compromising position in a block of public toilets … in a foreign country … engaging in a little phantasy role play with another gent … not that there is anything wrong with being caught at that (each to his own … when it comes to activities between consenting adults, whatever floats your boat is all good so far as I am concerned). However, if you were the sort of person who regularly publicly passed judgement – and harsh judgement at that – on your fellow global citizens … and if you were the sort of person that would share almost every view with the Nazis – except that you prefer blokes (and it’s sort of a secret) – then there would conceivably be a little embarrassment if you were caught, as they say, with your pants down (literally and metaphorically) and your dick in some guys mouth … and you haven’t even exchanged names …

Note: After careful consideration of the facts, I believe that I erred above when I said shock-jocks might blush – I apologise unreservedly for this statement. I no longer believe it to be true.

So I sat silently at the next table, nursing a second coffee in the hope that my eavesdropping (for want of a better term) would be beneficial … or at the very least, educational. Through my entire first cup, the Bob went on and on … standard fare for those who consume mainstream media without the benefit of the increasingly heavy duty media filters that seemingly develop in the brains of a some individuals in most generations. He believed what he read in the Cairns Post. He quoted “facts” from newspapers, talk-back radio, commercial television news and current affairs programs.

That’s right, he called them “facts”.

Bloody government. Bloody Muslims. Bloody boat people. Bloody mining tax. Bloody aboriginals. Bloody carbon tax. Bloody Greens. Bloody youth. Bloody dole-bludgers. Bloody weather. Bloody rooster. I was beginning to wonder if Tony Abbott would magically appear, resplendent in red budgie smugglers fluro vest and hard hat … axe in hand … Gina and Andrew watching his back (as good mates do) … off to save the day by slaying the troublesome, unreasonably noisy rooster. A media pack nearby (they are no longer deserving of the moniker “journalist”) to record the heroic event … the police forces from various states present to protect the general public from such a dangerous nuisance (the rooster; not Tony, Gina and Andrew). It was as though Bob’s memory was now only capable of repeating the junk he listens to, reads and watches every day.

It’s quite sad really. He clearly loves his children and grandchildren. He talked about them in honeyed tones … between bouts of bileous bitter banter, and sour-lime-faced misconceptions.

I was beginning to hope that it was the early start to the day had made Bob a little less agreeable than his usual easygoing self … then it occurred to me, the rooster wakes him up EVERY morning before dawn. And Bob did not talk like someone for whom there would be much easy-goingness about. I don’t think that 3 years in a coma would have made any difference to how well slept Bob would feel.

I was tempted to openly opine that mainstream media has rotted his brain. To suggest that he stops buying the paper, flushes the “wireless” down the dunny and gives away the “tele”… I’m glad I bit my tongue – and drawing blood is what it took … so misguided, senseless and irrational were the house of straw arguments … loosely bound to support much of his rant – otherwise I would never have learned the point of this story.

The brother / friend / companion sat in silence, nursing his cup as though there were a chill in the air (it was about 28 deg C and over 70% humidity – partly cloudy, beautiful weather). Perhaps he’s mute? What if he breaks his vocal embargo to agree? Perhaps I should depart before my faith in all old men evaporates in a flash of generational connection?

So the hither-to self-muzzled companion sets down his cup and clears his throat. His voice is calm and soft. Not a hint of anger, disapproval or disagreement. He has a slightly higher voice than his ranting friend. Somehow it seems to have greater weight – despite the lower volume and higher pitch.

As if on cue, the traffic slowed and the background noises settled. There was a clarity that moved through the air – as though all of a sudden everything had come into sharp focus. I held my breath … waiting … hoping.

“Well Bob, I look at it differently. There are those of us who have always lived by the sun – not the clock. The crowing of a rooster has, for me, always been my marker that said dawn is imminent. I have always connected this crowing before dawn with certain jobs that need to be done – a schedule that needs to be kept. I still do.

“I am not alone in this pre-dawn rooster observance. All I ask is that foolish notions like your wanting to finish that particular rooster be weighed against our collective reality. I don’t argue that dogs that bark at night should be put down. I am not suggesting that … television noise in the evening, music and parties until all hours, traffic after midnight, parents shouting at their kids at 10 pm … should be stopped just because it doesn’t suit my choice of lifestyle.

“My advice to you is that you reconcile your rooster problem in exactly the same way I came to terms with the night noise. Ignore it. Make a mental note that the pre-dawn crowing is not part of your rhythm. It’s a time stamp for others who follow a different path. It’s not for you so sleep through it – or at worst – roll over and go back to sleep, happy in the knowledge that for those who connect with the rooster call, all is well.”

It sounded like sagely advice.

Wisdom. Acceptance. Understanding. Appreciation.

Which is why I am sharing the story.

PS. … the very same logic should be applied to the Sunday morning tolling of Christian Church Bells and the Islamic Call To Prayer … you only need to respond if the message is for you … otherwise, relax … or …’as you were’.