The True Tale of the Drop Bears is a harrowing, hilarious tale of Australians’ unique ability to band together, even on an early morning train from Milan to Como.
While I enjoyed the freedom of arriving in Milan a few weeks before the semester started, the start of classes signified the much-awaited arrival of the other international students. And with it, the wild parties hosted for us by international student organisations like ESEG and ESN.
I suppose they decided to give us a slow introduction though, kicking off the semester’s events with a relaxed day trip to Como. We were instructed to arrive at Cadorna station by 7.45 am and no later!! They would leave without us otherwise! We all arrived on time, even early, and most of our guides were nowhere to be seen – our first experience of Italians’ unique concept of time.
When we finally made it onto the train, I was sat with two Americans who would become important friends, Mollie, a journalism student, and Sarah, a feisty 20-year-old from New Jersey. Naturally, they wanted to know about Australian animals and so I recounted stories of swimming with a shark, killing snakes with shovels, and waking up to find I was sharing my pillow with a spider.
The True Tale of the Drop Bears
Having exhausted all the typical stories, I paused and said, with a carefully composed, pained expression, “well, I guess then… uh, there are… uhm, have you heard of… Drop Bears?” Pausing for dramatic effect and to show the deep depths of my pain.
Their eyes widened, “no?! What’s a drop bear?”
“Well,” I said, “we don’t like to talk about them much. It’s really painful for us. They’re… well, we think they’re kind of like koalas, but vicious. They hide in the trees and when you walk underneath, it’ll just drop on top of you!”
“What?! What do they look like?”
“I… we don’t really know, because… well, if you see one, you’re dead.”
They were both panicked and by this stage, a few other students sitting in nearby seats were listening in as well. I was one of three Australians in our program, and the other was sitting halfway up the carriage. Still, I stood up and yelled over to him, “Oi Alex!!!” voice suddenly tentative, “I uh… well… Mollie & Sarah want to know what drop bears look like and … do you know?
“Oooh,” he said, face suddenly full of concern, voice conspiratorial, “are you talking about drop bears are ya? That’s a bit of a sensitive topic for us, y’know?”
“Yeah, I know… I just, they wanted to know.”
“Well,” he looked down, paused, then looked back up seriously, “we don’t really know what drop bears look like, because… if you see one, you’re dead.”
By now, half the train carriage was on edge. Everyone stunned by Australia’s unknown pain.
We called up to the third Australian who happened to be at the opposite end of this carriage filled with previously rowdy exchange students, now ghostly silent.
“Oh, I uh, guys, I really don’t like to talk about this. My… my uncle was killed by a drop bear.”
“We’re so sorry oh my god. I would never have brought it up if I’d known!”
“No, nah, that’s… that’s okay. We need more awareness. Just, well the thing is, we don’t really know what they look like because uh… well if you see one, you’re dead.”
Gasps abounded and the train sat in silence for a few minutes. Mollie & Sarah sat across from me, eyes wide, while chatter slowly but surely filled up the train.
The True Tale of the Drop Bears is part of a series of stories I’m writing called ‘True Tales’. It’s a space for me to write rambling long stories about my own experiences, just for fun – without the pressure of optimising for SEO or meeting client expectations (or even my own!).
If you enjoyed it, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. If you didn’t, well, I doubt you made it this far so it doesn’t matter! 😉