The Right Wrong Right Side Of The Road

Which side of the road do you drive on where you live? if you’re in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaya, Siam, South India, North India, East North India, South Africa, Rhodesia, and Japan, you drive on the left hand side of the road. If you are elsewhere you drive on the right.

The chief need, whether on left or right, is to do it well. With dignity. With foresight. With accuracy. All concepts that I am desperate to introduce to the residents of our street.

We are a mixed lot here in Dreyer Way, and generally benefit from it. All races, all nationalities, all ages. We do not hold wild parties and we keep our lawns mowed. We do not break into each other’s houses. We pick up litter after bin night. But we also do not know how to park in the street to save our lives. If we do not learn, some of us will risk losing them.

The convention in Western Australia – at one time enforced by the police – was that you had to park your car as close to the curb as practicable. It had to be in a place that did not obstruct other road users or the driveways and pathways that served the street. The car had to be parked on the left of the street. This seems to have changed.

On days that see tradesmen working in the street – house repairers or lawn mowing men, etc. there is no problem – they follow the old rules and you can navigate around them as you go along. They are never loud or unruly and do not speed in the street. They may be different when they get out on the open highway, but at least they are exemplary here. The residents, however, have taken to parking every which way on both sides of the street – even when their own driveways are unoccupied. Their travelling guests follow suit, and often will stop opposite a car that is properly parked on the left hand side. This narrows the street’s passageway to door-wrenching size.

Please note that our house is base to four cars – Two big ones, one medium-sized sporter, and my little Suzuki. We park on our own drive and lawn and do not encumber the rest of the way.

The bottleneck is next door, and I am starting to think that there might have to be some creative thinking to solve it. I do not want to make enemies of the neighbours but I also do not want be barricaded into my yard. It might be too much to hope that a Sherman tank with a mine plow will come down the street and shove the Mazdas aside, but I may have to resort to driving over the next door’s council nature strip to bypass their visitor’s bus. Perhaps the council garbage truck will loosen their doors a little at about 5:00 AM. I’ll listen out…

Note: Apparently they also drive on the left side of the road in England, North England, West England, and Even Further West England. I’m glad they have followed our lead.

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Holding Facebook’s Beer

I was mildly amused when a Facebook game came by asking me to score points for admitting to foolish/sad/criminal behaviour in my past. And making it public to the entire planet. I mean, how could one resist the temptation to fill in the little chinks in the information brick wall. I’m just a little surprised they didn’t include a section that asked for sexual fantasies and credit card numbers…

Well, here at the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia we feel that this sort of blatant attempt at coercion is all very well, but should not be done on an amateur basis. If you are going to ask people to condemn themselves publicly, you need to give them more tempting chances. If they’re going down the sewer, make it a big one.

To this end, we have devised the following quiz for social media. There are no points scored, unless you count the knowing looks that people will give you at your next party.

Have you ever…

a. Shot a police cruiser in the grill work with a 17 pounder anti-tank gun from a camouflaged position?

b. Flayed an Albigensian heretic?

c. Written a song about your feelings and then played it to people at a party, accompanying yourself on guitar? All 15 verses?

d. Served week-old warm runny egg salad sandwiches from a service station cabinet to people at a church social?

e. Counterfeited a draft card to allow your underage classmates to buy beer at the local liquor store? Then phoned ahead to alert the local police?

f. Removed a ladder from an attic access hatch while someone was up there and then gone quietly home and had a good dinner?

g. Switched tops on the spray-paint cans in the local Bunnings store cabinet?

h. Put salt in the plaster mix of someone who is trying to invest a casting?

i. Invited a religious caller in to tell you their entire story by using an accent rich in unidentifiably foreign sounds, mixed with blatant grammatical error –  and then insisted that they sit down and drink toasts to your country? Used water tumblers full of hard liquor and cooking oil?

j. If they lasted the course, showed them the Albigensian skin…?

 

Old Coot On The Road

Old Coot here. How ya going?

I’m the maddening character in the little car at the front of the traffic queue going very slightly less than the sign-posted speed limit. The one in the hat with both hands on the wheel. If you’re polite to me I’ll be in the left-hand lane for most of the journey.

Note: I write from Perth, in Western Australia, where the left-hand lane is the curb-side slow lane. The middle and right-hand lanes are for the people who wish to go faster and I wouldn’t dream of interfering with them as they do.

My little car is bright hi-vis green so that you can see it and dodge round it when you are racing toward your next amphetamine delivery. Don’t worry about me racing you for it…I hate to wear rubber off the tyres needlessly. And there is no need to flip fingers or scream obscenities out of the windows. I am perfectly willing to regard you as obscene under any circumstances.

No good looming up behind me to terrify me. I’ve worked retail for years – I can stand a looming that would crush a battlecruiser. I won’t speed up at all for tyrants, whether they are at a counter or a steering wheel. Being retired, I rarely need to get anywhere on my own time, let alone anyone else’s. And I like to use the exercise of driving to give me time to think. Time to think of my Super-Power…Old Coot Super Power.

Old Coots have been here before – sometimes here was better before, and sometimes it was worse – we have a comparison to go by. If it is worse now we are prepared to do something to make it better, and if it is better now we are prepared to take the time to be grateful.

We have seen better people than you do worse things, and as we are still here driving, we know how to cope with it. As conceited as you may want to be, you are not our worst nightmare. In fact a lot of us have taken up the nightmare business ourselves and we know how to do a lot with very small resources. And we are always looking for something to fill the day in between the morning radio serial and the cocktail hour.

Old Coots know that one day it is all going to end. And we’ve generally racked up enough time already to free us from regret if the one day turns out to be next Tuesday. Threatening us may seem all gangsta until you find out that we don’t care – and the man who doesn’t care is a floating sea mine with one bent horn. Steer clear.

Old Coots also can be very kind. We will change tyres for the helpless, guide the lost, and provide lunch for anyone. There is a price – we will talk while we do it. And the topic may not be apposite to the problem at hand. Don’t feel that you can ignore us – there will be a quiz later, and half your year’s marks will depend upon it.

Old Coots will rarely cuss you out, and if they do the terms they use will most likely sound quaint. They’re not. If an Old Coot calls you cowardly son of a bitch, he means it, and you are. Old Coots operate on simpler vocabularies.

If an Old Coot thanks you or praises you they also mean that sincerely.

 

The Sniper Team

Recent events have made this a parlous sort of title for my weblog column but read on and you’ll see why I wrote it.

On my Facebook today a post prompted a series of exchanges – between people with whom I am familiar and people who are complete strangers. I hasten to add that I did not intrude into the exchange. The root cause of the fight, as it will be of many others, was the reports we received of the events of the recent hotel shootings in Las Vegas.

There was a great deal of anguish shown by the various people involved in the discussion and eventually it started to spill over into sexual politics, cross-accusation, and nastiness. The person who originated the thing then called an end to the discussion. One of the participants claimed a sort of victory. It’s an occurance that happens frequently on Facebook.

I could not help being drawn to compare it to some of the practices outlined in a book written by a Captain C. Shore about British army sniping in the world wars. Not the Las Vegas thing…that is yet to be seen for what it may well prove to be…but the use of the spotter, shooter, and decoy system in scoring victories on social media.

Why this should be seen as desirable, in what is supposed to be an on-line community, is sometimes not clear, but the thing that is evident is that there are frequent occasions where a person sets up a tempting post to invite comments and one of their friends sits waiting until a target reacts. Then there is a brief flurry of outraged and biased virtue-scoring posted to dominate the unwary target.

If the person caught in this barrage responds with a counterattack that seems to answer the question or puts the sniper in a bad light, the spotter – acting as originator of the whole sequence – shuts it down by declaring an end. In some cases they can weave back and edit out the target’s posts. The sniper team is left to publicly do the little dance of victory of whichever social army they fight for.

Happened on the computer today to someone else – happened to me some time ago with a different sniping team. The only remedy I could see at the time was to defriend the spotter – the sniper was not on my list.

I’m warier these days about what I say to whom. I rarely defriend anyone, but I do sometimes switch them to the unseen track. And when I meet them in person I am careful to restrict my speech to ” Yay Yay” and ” Nay Nay ” as per biblical instructions. Because all the rest is bound to be sin and sorrow.

The Creepy Clown Phenomenon

A recent remake of a horror movie has also repeated a strange cultural phenomenon – the amateur creepy clown menacing the local suburbs.

We’ve seen internet posts threatening various areas of the city, followed by defiance from the residents and officially stern warnings from the police that this sort of activity is going to get the teenagers who do it into trouble. This is all to be expected – it is the foolish response to a commercial promotion and the official reaction to it. Predictable.

The Guild takes no stance on this – neither do I personally. While I think it is just one of those things – like presidential elections – that is beneath contempt, I do retain at least small interest in watching and waiting for the inevitable.

Perth has a number of outer-metropolitan suburbs that are still semi-rural. Many of the properties in them are owned by small-plot users, and some of the small plots are used for fruit-growing, wine making, and other activities. The people who own them and engage in these lucrative activities are varied…but many of them have a European migrant background – Italy, Greece, the Balkans, Poland…etc. Lovely decent people who like to live their lives undisturbed by officialdom or by private troublemakers. They often strike me as people who value their privacy, and who are prepared to take vigorous action to preserve it.

I would hesitate to use the term Moustache Pete as it may be a little pejorative. Moustache Piotr or Moustache Petros likewise. But you get my drift.

Could it be possible that some wisenheimer teenager will put on a creepy clown mask and hide along the roadside in one of our outer suburbs. Might they pop out and try to terrify these citizens as they go along the street?

Can you say ” double barreled 12 gauge Boito hammer gun  “? Can you say it in Italian, Greek, or Serbo-Croatian? The sound it makes is remarkably similar in all three languages…

Best to just go back to your video games, children.

The Unwanted Gift – An Exercise For The Mind

We’ve all had it happen – a guest to our house presents us with a gift. Carefully chosen, cleverly wrapped, it is meant to represent the epitome of good manners and show us how much the presenter wishes to be friendly toward us. We open it and find ourselves staring down into The Pit. The present is a problem.

a. It is actually offensive. If you are a member of a religion that disdains pork, a glazed presentation ham is just not going to make it. Even with pineapple rings and a ribbon around the bone.

Staring at it, you need to make some fast decisions. Did the giver realise that you don’t eat ham – that you can’t eat ham? If they have no idea of your dietary laws, perhaps not. On the other hand, if they are normally in the next seat to you at the schul or next rug to you at the mosque, you can be sure that there is an ulterior message. Do you refuse it? Do you fling it? Do you express effusive thanks and say that you will save it for a special occasion? Only you can judge what effect your actions will have on the giver. Good luck.

b. It is gauche, kitsch, trite, and durable. This gift will last for YEARS…and if the person who has given it to you is going to return repeatedly during those years, they are going to expect to see it. Make no mistake – a mother bear shows no greater solicitude and concern for her cub than your Auntie does for that knitted brown sweater with the flower on it. You don’t get rid of the brown flower sweater this side of the grave.

c. It is horribly, horribly expensive. You can see at a glance that the giver has starved themselves and deprived their children to buy it. If you accept it you will be taking away a decade of their working life…can you do it? Should you do it? What will they want in exchange?

d. It is nasty and cheap. The price of a gift should have no bearing upon the gratitude that you express, but let’s face it – we are but human. If it is a gew-gaw obviously picked up in a transit lounge or local servo, and if it still has the Caltex price tag attached, are you obliged to praise it and dissolve in happy tears?

e. You have exactly the same thing on display on the hall table beside the unwrapped present. No-one can object to having another 10 Kg gold bar as a present, but yet another stuffed aardvark is a different matter.

f. It is the same thing that you gave to the giver last holiday. Not a similar one…the SAME one. Even the gift card is the same card, with their name covered over in White-out and yours substituted.

This is great. Accept it, coo over it, hug it and kiss it and call it George. Then give it back to them on your next visit to their place. White-out the card.

You Won’t Believe What They Found When…

When they clicked on the next 15 links after the original bait. At least we hope you won’t believe it. Because if you do we’re all screwed.

If you really are as stupid as this we have been wasting half our time here in Macedonia. Not that we haven’t been paid  – a bit of money, a bit of hash, a few drinks, etc. No, that’s fine. We are happy to make up bullshit for the rest of the world on that basis. It saves us from trying to go out and rescue the country from our parents.

What we are really worried about is whether we have spent too much time with well crafted semi-plausible come-ons and conspiracy stories when we could have just thrown out memes with cats and bat children in caves. Have we spent our time making good-quality bullshit when we could have gotten the same pay with poor-quality stuff? It’s a maddening thought.

Fake news and propaganda is not as easy to concoct as you might think – particularly when government agencies are engaged in the very same process. They have access to actual fresh facts, which they can distort in a far more convincing fashion. We’re limited to wild stories and bigotry, and while this is good reliable stuff, it lacks the finish and detail of the official lies. You can’t fake fake.

Of course we are grateful to the Weather Bureau for delivering a hot end to summer in the northern hemisphere. And with the bonus of a hurricane through a heavily armed section of North America. We are hoping that the Texans do not disappoint us in regards to shooting looters on sight. In fact, we count upon it, and have prepared the outrage vats in anticipation. Let ‘er pour, Baby.

Likewise we would like to express our deep appreciation to the under 30’s of the western world who raise howls of protest against anything that they do not understand or have experience of. It is heartening to have such a resource on hand to offer to our backers. We need quality raw material to do good work. And we have some of the stupidest and easily led resources since the 16th century.

Watch this space.