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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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 Highway Or My Way

I live near a highway. Not an interstate or intercity one – one that just feeds along a metro corridor from the airport and rail freight terminals to the seaport – servicing suburbs rich and poor along the way. There is a little commercial activity in one suburb where it grazes an industrial area but very little else for its length – it is even hard to get petrol along the Leach Highway.

It is, however, easy to get stuck.

Stuck behind container trucks feeding from rail to seaport and back again. 2:00 PM is tag-a-truck hour and you can spend the best part of 90 minutes getting from one end to the other. Best is not really the word you are looking for, but WordPress doesn’t want me to use the appropriate ones.

Stuck in lines of tradesmen early in the morning and late in the afternoon. They are patient and kindly drivers, in the same way that fulminate of mercury is a docile chemical.

Stuck in equally long lines of Mercedes, Audi, Jaguar, Lexus, and similar expensive sedans as the managerial suburbs of Leeming and Winthrop empty and fill. As soon as the stream dwindles, the managerial spouses take over in the 4WD SUV versions of the luxury sedans. If anything, they are even more arrogant, entitled, and impatient. I put it down to the MSG and the designer sunglasses…

Stuck at road works. ” Expect Delay ” is an odd phrase – it does not promise anything good, but it wants you to be patient so that you can be annoyed slowly and carefully. I am retired, and rarely have to be anywhere quickly – but what must the effect of ” Expect Delay ” be for the managerial suburbanites…

Stuck at the road junctions. If, worse luck, the firm that you wish to deal with has a shop on the other side of a divider strip, you must travel to the next intersection, go round a block, re-enter the road from the other way, and hopefully catch a break in the traffic. It can be 10 minutes waiting to cross the three lanes of solid vehicles and then another 10 after your shopping trip to get back onto the highway.

We were once promised a diminution of the truck traffic – but that faded at the last state election. The problem is set to become worse in the next 5 years, and there may come a time when I have to give up dealing with the other side of the highway. It will become a land of fable and I will restrict myself to my own little village.

That’s what a motor car will do for you – confine you to your own home…

Park Between The Mercedes And The BMW

I am a pragmatic man. I used to be pragmanual, but I got tired of downshifting and double de-clutching. Particularly when it was a question of one argument or another in the middle of winter and you had to put on tyre chains.

But back to the pragmatism. I have long realised that the neighbourhood I live in has a high percentage of emigrants as residents. I am one of them. Many others are people of my own age who have come to Australia on business visas, and have the requisite skills and abilities to succeed. They also have the requisite finances…this is something that the Australian government makes sure of before they arrive.

In their native lands a great deal is attached socially to the possession of wealth. Part of this possession is the ownership of motor cars. In some places the price of even a small car is astronomical, and the more expensive cars proportionally more. It is a real staus symbol.

Not so here in Australia, unless the car is indeed expensive. Thus, to carry over their status here, they purchase large and expensive cars – Mercedes, Audis, BMW’s etc. Unfortunately there may be a disparity between the wealth necessary to purchase this status and the ability to drive it. Or to put it in crude terms, they drive like newbies.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. A careful learner or cautious probationary driver can be as safe as anyone else on the road – perhaps more so if they are not inclined to be entitled or domineering.

On the road unfortunately also includes in the carpark; next to other people, and dodging down small lanes to get into the parking spots. Many things can be taught by feel – reading, sex, and a pot-throwing come to mind. It would appear that parking may also be one of the skills.

I have learned not to park next to maroon Nissans, old Commodores, and Chery cars. The problem is not the cars – it is the drivers. I do not think that they mean to be savage and  destructive, but it comes upon them unbidden. I shudder to think what they could do with a Kenworth and a wet road…

I’ve learned to slot in between the Mercedes and the BMW. The owners may be arrogant and entitled, but they are also protective of their own door edges, and that protects me. Short of bolting a length of 5-inch channel iron on the outside of the Suzuki ( And don’t think that I haven’t considered it…) This is the only way to protect the paint.

The bumpers have to take their own chances…

The Nose To Tailer

Having just written a humorous Facebook post about nose-to-tail car accidents in morning rush hour…and that will tell you a lot about my behaviour on social media when they let me loose…I have dived for the editorial keys to vindicate myself.

Let me say at the outset that I am against such accidents – both on principle and in practice. I think they should be avoided. I have so far managed to not be there when they have happened.

But unfortunately I suspect that I don’t really have a say in the matter anyway. The behaviour of the drivers of the large SUV and tray-top vehicles seems to determine when these will occur, and they are getting more desperate by the day.

My life currently allows me to be off the road during morning and afternoon crushes, and sometimes to be on public transport for the average town journey. It is heaven not to have to worry about the driving and parking, and makes a journey into our main city shops actually worthwhile. I am also able to access at least two major suburban shopping complexes on the bus or train, so as long as I am not buying a refrigerator I can do my shopping on foot.

Nose-to-tail has no winners. Everyone accuses everyone else and everyone and authority blames them all. It only wants one link in a crash chain to have no insurance or license to delay any repairs or settlement, and the meat in the sandwich cars can sometimes be written off with horrifying ease.

Let’s hope that winter eases up in a month or so and we can get back to dry roads and small comfortable motor crashes…

Shoe Two – The Ford That Makes Me Nervous

I get it. I really do. I was puzzled at first but I’ve seen enough now to say that I do get it. But it makes me nervous.

The rat thing. The Baxter Basics movement in the hot rod world that thinks it remembers what rodding was like in the late 1940’s and wants to suggest that it is bad to the bone. And who am I to say they are not…?

 I am a spectator – a photographer and gawker at the hot rod shows. I can be amazed and amused and no harm comes of either experience. The rodding enthusiasts and custom builders are marvellous artists as far as I am concerned and I applaud nearly all I see. I know that I could never display a hundredth part of the car-building skills that they show.

But I am also not a police motor vehicle inspector or a patrolman on the roads. And the fact that I admire the rodders and ratters counts for nothing, if one of these officials takes a dislike to a car or driver.

I’m not accusing the police of bad behaviour. They may be executing their duty in a perfect manner. But sometimes there are temptations placed in front of them that would be nearly impossible to resist. It must be a very finely run thing for them to look at a vehicle on the road and make a snap decision about whether it should be driven over the pits…or into one.

The artistry of the rat is a very strange mixture of dilapidation and deliberate provocation. Some of the local cars in this style seem to be works of low-brow art – so much so that you wonder if they have not been made as a parody of themselves. Others, like this NSW shoebox Ford – have a genuine air about them. The authenticity is the thing that would trigger the vehicle squad…and I would be afraid that if they ever started in on this car they might not let it escape their clutches.

 Like every car, it is a work in progress – heck, my standard suburban sedan is that, as is every car on the road. But mine would be less likely to get a sticker on the windscreen as it does not advertise itself.

Well, I hope it all comes out well in the end. If there is a gleaming 16 cylinder Hispano-Suiza engine and a racing car chassis under the Ford skin, all might still be well at the Vehicle Inspection Centre. I didn’t see under the bonnet, so, like the US Navy and nuclear bombs, I can neither confirm nor deny. Let’s just hope the NSW cops do not fiddle with the fuse.

Imperial Purple

I have reported some years ago about another purple car seen frequently at car shows. It is still making an appearance – I saw it just a month ago at the WA Hot Rod Show and it had the familiar ” For Sale ” sticker on it. At least it is a reliable vehicle – if not an immediate seller.

The car in today’s post did not have a ” For Sale ” sticker that I could see. I daresay it might in the future – kit cars like this are as salable as any hot rod or restored vehicle and if they possess the coveted license plate they can be driven as much as the owner dares.

The driver of this car might need a bit of daring, as it really does have an engine under that long bonnet- a large one. The styling of the engine compartment has been taken a bit from that of a big Mercedes of the 30’s, and they probably had in-line engines. Hence the bonnet line has had to be widened a little to fit the V-shaped engine. And there has been some imaginative and busy shoe-horning to get the exhaust manifold to approximate that of the Mercedes. I have no idea how functional the side pipes are, but I volunteer someone else to put their lips on them to see if they get hot.

The wider engine bay may also mean that the interior tub space is a little wider. The dash seems quite rectangular in shape – probably because the cowl is too. In any case, it is wooden in there, with what look to be 70’s North American appointments. At least there would be power enough under that bonnet for the A/C. I wonder what the top and side sealing arrangements are to contain the cool or warm air?

 The suspension is a straightforward adaptation of a modern unit, which is wise given the stresses the engine on one side and the tyres on the other would generate. I rather like the horn.

Altogether, I do admire it. I was a little taken aback by the tubular nature of the front bumper with the orange plastic ends…but I daresay a few weeks consultation and work with a good hot rod shop and chromer would change that.

I wonder…were Mercedes ever painted this colour? Perhaps for the playboys of the period they were.