Thank You, Tourist Driver

And I am not being sarcastic when I  write this – thank you indeed for being who you are, doing what you do, on our freeways.

You are slower than the rest of the entitled aristocrats in their Audis and angry tradies in their tray top Toyotas. You are in the left-hand lane, and about 10 KPH below the speed limit. You are doing the sort of speed I want to drive at, and you are a convenient haven.

I can tuck in behind you and look as if I am caught by your slow speed. In reality, I am slipstreaming you and would not pull out to overtake for quids. You are doing what I want to do. If you are driving a Bayswater Hire Car, so much the better. Your inexpertise advertises itself and takes the blame off me.

Please continue. I shall not flash my lights or toot my horn.

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Random Fandom

If you are playing to an audience you generally want to see their reaction. I can only think this to be the case when I see some of the vanity license plates on the road. The owners who have paid a stiff price for these plates want an audience to applaud them as they drive by.

But everyone is busy with the steering wheel and gear lever…or at least with their mobile phones and stubbies of beer – there are no hands free to clap. And so few people toot their horns or flash their lights. It must eventually be a source of the deepest frustration for the performers.

Tuesday’s random was a large SUV with I  AM  AD as the plate. Either someone is named Adam or someone runs an advertising agency. Either would be valid.

Some plates are fun. THE MOOCHER on a Mini is a clever cultural joke. PAYD 4 is another. KILLER or DV8 are not – they are a tin revelation of what is behind the wheel. Rather like an E plate* that someone paid $ 400 for but is in no hurry to lose.

I plan to ask for the heading image when I buy my gold-plated Maserati.

 

*  Our local Plate’O Shame that marks the convicted drunk driver who has been able to cozen a magistrate into special dispensation from becoming a pedestrian for a year.

 

The Mobile Billboard

I was passed one day, on the inside, in rainy weather and heavy traffic, on a notoriously busy road by a person who used the old ploy of zooming up the road shoulder and then lurching into the lane. You’ve all had that at some stage of the game and cursed the fool who did it.

In this case the fool had an advertising screen attached to the back of her hatchback car – the type that are see-through but can carry signs and telephone numbers on the outside. I observed that it was one of the belly dancers that I take pictures of at dance shows.

I’m afraid this is probably another case of  the first-day-of-wet-weather syndrome in Perth. Edmonton and Calgary used to have a first-snow-day show of about the same sort. It paid to leave the car at home and take the bus that day.

Perhaps I can persuade this lady to take up driving in Alberta instead of here.

You Look Pretty When You Smile

But smiling doesn’t get you through the morning traffic on the Mitchell freeway, does it? Not even when you are driving a large silver car with LED lights gleaming at the front.

Mind you, snarling doesn’t seem to do it either – even if those LED lights are arranged in the form of a boar’s tusks or a glaring demon’s eyebrows, that righthand lane is still not going to magically clear for you. You could try a bout of horn-blowing or smashing your hands on the steering wheel to see if that helps.

I have sympathy for you. You’ve done all you could to let the foolish person in the large silver car ahead of you ( the one with the LED lights and the snarling driver ) know that a very important person is behind them. Goodness, if they had bothered to see you flashing your lights or driving half a metre behind them they should have taken the hint. I mean, it’s not like you are driving a poor person’s car, is it?

Look, would it help if I waved? I could put my book down and wave to you…or to the person in front of you…at least as long as the train keeps pace with your car. I’ve got both hands free. Actually everything about the train is free – I have a seniors card and it doesn’t cost a cent to ride all…Oops. Sorry, the train just pulled away from you and you’re disappearing back down into the line of cars.

Have you ever considered working from home? You could still have the big silver car to go to the Supa -Valu.

Fast And Furious

The Fast And Furious  title seems to appear on a number of things – motion pictures, toys, models, appearances, etc. It heralds motor car chases, firearms, and gasoline explosions. I should imagine that a number of the participants will wear revealing clothing – which may be offered for sale at licensed establishments. I don’t know whether it is associated with a snack food or chain of restaurants, but it is still early days.

I do encounter F&F enthusiasts on the streets and freeways of Perth, however. They are distinctive in their grey and black cars that look all alike and their driving style: Zoom up behind someone, flash the high beams, honk, and dive around them…to then slow down to the same speed as the rest of the slow lane.

I don’t think that they have road rage. I think they just have rage, and it is probably evident everywhere they go and in everything they do. They are probably fast and furious in the grocery store, at the post office, and in the toilet. That would explain the sounds of the explosions in there…

What I’m really hoping for is a series of popular movies and commercial spin-offs entitled The Slow And Considerate. It could still have very small explosions but the motor cars need not tumble end over end. No-one need be covered in oil. They get to wear comfortable garments and use thee air conditioner. And the behaviour of the S&C fans on the freeway would take place mostly in the left lane, but not during rush hour. There would be courteous merging.

 

The Last Half Century On The Road

It is always a shock to the system to realise how old you are. I don’t mean when you are very young – a little kid knows exactly how old they are because they count the time in months and years. They have a great deal more time between the events of their lives – the birthdays, Christmases, and school years – and they feel it acutely.

As a retired coot, I feel it as well, but the sense of disconnection is not present. I go from one year to the next with hardly a blink. I went to a post-Christmas barbeque with three friends…two of whom I had not seen since last Boxing Day, and I could still recall the conversations around the table 2 or three years prior to that on similar occasions.

All this as lead-up to the speculation that I have been driving steadily in a private capacity for over half a century . I started at 17, I’m 69 now. I hope to be competent and licensed for driving for at least another decade, as I have places I want to go and people I want to see. I agree that I will need to stop driving some day, but hope to have gotten all the dirty deeds done by then.

Note that currently I am allowed to use public transport in my home city free of charge on account of age. I’m close to a bus route, and it is close to the train system. I’ve been exploring the use of these facilities in the last two years and am pleased with the efficiency. If you keep out of rush hours and off the lines that run to horrible suburbs it really is pleasant.

On the road, I have long passed the boy racer stage. I also seem to have passed the suburban tank and/or ute stage as well, though I do long for a good old station wagon sometimes. But that longing goes away when I pull up at the petrol pump – my hatchback is just perfect for city travel.

The really interesting thing I note is the disappearance of the need for intensive service and maintenance on the average little car. Mine’s 7 years old now, and bids fair to go another 7 if I am careful. The first five years only saw service for it at the dealer’s once a year. Even now, it is only every 6 months. The constant oil, grease, and fluid maintenance of the 50’s and 60’s cars is now sealed in. Even the battery just sits there for most of its long life and charges and discharges without asking for much.

I wish the laissez-faire attitude to design would come inside the modern car – particularly onto the instrument panel. My car has as much in the way of tits and clocks as I ever want to deal with, but I notice that newer and more prestigious vehicles owned by other members of the family are tricked out with video, LED, screens, sensors, and music players that frankly defy understanding. When I travel with them I keep fingers off the buttons and try to concentrate on the outside world.

I hope that we do not see further silliness on the roads like driverless car stunts and cameras snooping from every vehicle – and that we gain a little relief from the traffic congestion. I suppose my best way of aiding this is to use the bus and train or just stay home. Or take to doing my driving after midnight.

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.