"I'm not trying to buy the road … I just wanted to park on it"

Transports of Delight

Last week, a letter entitled ‘My Rejected Parking Appeal Retort’ went viral on Facebook. It was written by a known troublemaker a dear friend of mine, who recently received a hefty parking fine. She appealed the fine, but her appeal was rejected. (When you read the letter, you might figure out why.) Subsequently she wrote this letter to a representative of the City of South Perth – a poor man named Phil – outlining her general feelings on the rejection. This letter is about a parking fine … but it’s so much more than that.

In it, she ranges wildly in tone and philosophy, from questioning the role of government in our daily lives, to oblique (and seemingly irrelevant) Tom Cruise references. She dismisses feminism, endorses privatisation, and accuses South Perth of careening towards an Orwellian dystopia in which Big Brother is always watching. Remember, this started because she parked slightly outside the lines of a parking space.

This letter is hysterical. In every. Sense. Of the word.

I initially took the letter at face value, as just another eccentric thing my friend Jess did. But as more people have read it and discussed it, full-blown arguments have erupted.

“She’s making a valid point! Why do we have to pay to park on roads that we drive on for free?”

“We pay for what we use! We pay so that the City can afford to maintain the roads!”

“Isn’t that why we pay taxes? Why are they punishing us for using roads for which we’re already paying taxes?”

“It’s not punishment, it’s a clear set of consequences that you agree to when you participate in civilisation!”

“Civil liberties, blarrh!”

(And that was just the argument going on inside my own head.)

So, before you read the letter, I want to ask you: what is your opinion on parking fines? Is it reasonable for the City to issue punitive fines when we’re parking on public roads? Are roads something to which we have a right as citizens, or must we pay extra for the privilege? Are parking meters and fines a “revenue raising” scheme, as my friend suggests, or are they in the interests of public safety?

On a broader philosophical note, I would also like to ask: Do we serve the government? Or does the government serve us?

I’m going to copy in my friend’s letter for you, now. By the way, she really did send it. (The addressee’s name has been changed, because I believe in protecting privacy, even if ‘Gov’ doesn’t. Ooh, ideological burn!) After reading it, I suggest punching the air and yelling “WE ARE THE NINETY-NINE PER CENT!”

My Rejected Parking Appeal Retort

Dear Mr McKay, (if that even is your real name)

I understand that you feel that the City of South Perth could really use the $100 from my parking fine – it being “tough times” and all… In fact, I’m pretty sure there is a parking inspector in Greece that is blaming their crisis on being lenient on the Gucci laden women that park so recklessly in their suburban streets. So, how do you even sleep at night? I’m just taking a stab in the dark here Phil, but I’m guessing it’s on thousands of $100 bills that you’ve collected from poor, naive women like me; who just have terrible depth perception and can’t tell if they’re parked in the right space or not.

Surely there is a “women driver” clause that gives us a bit of grace? What about a warning to be more careful, or simply be more attentive? Or issue a forced public apology even? Now I’m all for equality, but I think the feminist movement has a lot to answer for. I’ll be honest, Phil, I don’t like lifting heavy things, or opening doors for myself; they’re just dirty.

Now, I don’t have a clever segue-way for my next point, but did you ever see that film, I think Tom Cruise was in it (shame about the divorce) Minority Report maybe? Anyway, it was about convicting people of crimes before they could commit them? Which in the end turned out to be a terrible idea and I’m pretty stoked we don’t have that kind of technology to enforce that in our society. Japan may be the closest to it – or Germany, for different reasons – but hey, I don’t live there, I live in Australia – quite possibly the greatest nation on this planet, despite it’s petty parking laws and over zealous Rangers – but alas, I digress. We just don’t punish people for victimless crimes these days, Phil! It’s just not hip! Maybe all the cool kids are working at the City of Perth or something, because they’re certainly not hanging out on the south side of the basketball court if you get my drift….

This whole spiel about parking laws being in place for public safety seems like its just bureaucratic jumping-on-a-couch-mumbo-jumbo. As if anyone has been hurt because someone hadn’t parked exactly inside the yellow lines in the first place? Enlighten me, Phil – just how are those solid yellow lines of paint on Mill-Point Road saving lives?

Let’s be honest, it’s not really about safety is it, Phil? It’s simple revenue raising! It always is! And without parking laws, we can’t create over-paid jobs to enforce them, or pay for the office Christmas Party now could we? Gina is keen to import labour from overseas – maybe you should try that to reduce your costs? Perhaps then you could issue more affordable fines, for say, twenty or even forty dollars, whilst still being able to go out for lunch on the corporate credit card. I’m sure Gina would agree that $100 for a parking infringement, in this circumstance, is pretty steep – even with the new carbon tax in place. You know Phil, I’m not actually trying to buy the four meters of road I was parked on – I was just borrowing it for half an hour.

In all seriousness, I find it pretty lowbrow to be issued a fine for parking slightly out of the space, but still within it mind you. Perhaps you should give out vouchers for parking lessons, as it looks like there is a minimum standard of competency that I have missed out on. I don’t believe this violation of your South Perth lore is fair, and I reckon it’s worth appealing.

That said, I would love to see the photos the Ranger took of my car. Please email them to my email address – I most certainly don’t have the resources to come to visit the rangers of the mighty South Perth Civic Centre during work hours to view in person, and I’m sure the photographic evidence is already on your system. Surely your department isn’t still taking snaps with Polaroid’s? Well, it seems there are so many of these wandering Rangers about – can’t one of them just bring the photos over to me? Alternatively I am happy to send you a self-addressed envelope for you to send them to me via post. You already have my address, license plate number, car description etc. – so finding my postal address shouldn’t be too difficult.

It may be worth noting that my blood type is O+ just incase you need me to sign another form with it – I know how you local government types love to see things jump through hoops; whoa, hold up – is that why the City of Perth has a circus camped out on the foreshore?! My God, is that what it’s there for??!!!

I’m not a believer in ponsey appeal processes and I am looking forward to writing to you for the long-term.

Kind Regards,

Jess

 

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This Banana Has Gone Bad

Transports of Delight

I always feel safer on a bus, don’t you?

I mean, when I’m driving, I feel the burdensome weight of responsibility. It’s just me, my frail body locked inside a thin metal shell, hurtling at unnatural speeds through chaos. If I lose concentration for even a second, I could cause immeasurable damage – to myself, to my passengers, to unwitting strangers. Car accidents are horrible, life-altering, and everywhere.

But riding the bus is fun!

I mean, buses just feel safer. They’re bigger, for one thing. There’s something comforting about riding in the biggest thing on the road. And they have have their own lanes. Everything about the bus has this “get outta my way” attitude. They cruise along at their own pace and don’t make room for anyone else on the road. Being on the bus is like being friends with your school’s biggest bully: you’re untouchable.

I used to tell myself that bus drivers are trained and therefore better drivers, but I can no longer follow that particular rainbow. If you’re still holding onto that misty-eyed illusion, just look at this photo again:

(I think they left “don’t read the paper while driving” out of the bus driver exam, because it should be bleeding obvious.) Nonetheless, I love riding the bus. Sitting high up in the back seats, I feel a little detached from everything that’s whizzing by my window. It’s as if all that traffic out on the road is happening to someone else. If I sped around corners and swung dangerously close to traffic light poles in my own car, my passengers would be justifiably anxious. When my bus driver does the same thing, I just think, “WHEEEEE!” Like it’s a fairground ride.

And when I was a kid, the best public fairground ride of all was THE BANANA BUS. Oh, the times we had! I used to love riding on the bendy buses, with the turntable in the middle that would creak and rotate when the bus went around a corner. I remember class excursions on the banana bus, when only the coolest kids would stand in the bendy bit. It was a crazy feeling, like being inside the accordion of an insane accordionist.

But my rosy memory of banana buses has been compromised. While perusing brisbanetimes.com.au this week, I found this:

BANANA BUSES TAKEN OFF THE ROAD

A safety check has ruled 300 articulated buses off Australian roads after a Queensland Transport and Main Roads-ordered audit.

… The bus order followed a dramatic crash on the Pacific Motorway on March 30, when an articulated bus abruptly turned and ended up facing oncoming traffic.

What? Crash? No! This is no good. Another layer of my childhood memories, peeled away like so much banana peel.

It’s as if catching the bus was a large, delicious-looking banana, its perfect yellow skin assuring me of the sweet fruit within. But when I went to peel it, I discovered that this banana was rotten. (Yes, the banana peel was my childhood memories in the last paragraph, but now it represents the act of catching the bus – it’s as if this change in metaphors is a metaphor for the dramatic change in my feelings when I realised that buses are not as safe as I thought.)

If banana buses (the funnest buses!) aren’t safe, then I might have to rethink my entire attitude towards bus travel. Gone are my comfortable illusions of safety. I will now ride the bus with an appropriate sense of barely-contained terror, ready to wedge myself under my seat at the first sign of danger. It’s a mad world we live in. A mad, mad world.

CityCycle

Transports of Delight

So Brisbane has this thing called CityCycle. It’s a kind of augmentation to public transit, with rows of identical bikes stationed all around the city. Each bike is locked to a metal post thingy, and can only be released once you type in your passcode on a computer thingy. (I’m getting technical here, don’t get left behind.) This week I gave CityCycle a try, to see if it could be a cheaper and more whimsical alternative to buses. I imagined the wind whipping through my hair as I cycled through Brisbane! The sun on my face! Oh, the nature!

OK, so the wind couldn’t really whip through my hair, because my hair was stuffed under an aerodynamic yellow helmet. But the sun on my face was lovely.

Mostly, CityCycle has been pretty good  For the price of two bus trips, I got a week’s worth of bike riding. And the bicycles themselves are pretty decent, although I don’t know how to adjust the seat height and therefore mostly feel like a large spider trying to use tiny pedals. The catch to the CityCycle thing is that the first 30 minutes of every journey is free, but if you keep it for more than 30 minutes you start paying dearly. The trick is to keep docking the bike at a CityCycle station every 29 minutes, and then re-hiring it. (Take that, system!) But basically, it’s not for long joyrides.

I rode a CityCycle to the shops yesterday, amid the frenzied Saturday crowds. And I became reacquainted with a rather unattractive side of my personality. See, here’s the thing: when I’m driving a car, I hate cyclists. But when I’m on a bike, I freaking hate motorists. It’s a convenient duality because no matter what I’m doing, the other people are wrong.

Cyclists. If you’re going to be on the road, claiming your status as ‘vehicle’, then you must be able to go the speed limit. If a car went ten kilometres an hour on a busy road and backed up all the traffic behind them, they would be arrested. Or at least, they should be. So, if you want to cycle on the road, at least approach the speed limit! Do this!

Motorists. Four wheels doesn’t mean you can be a douche-bag. Check your blind spots. Hi! That’s me there.

Being on a bicycle does tend to put you at a disadvantage on the road. The risk of injury is massively higher. (Which is why I was fear-mongered into wearing the hideous yellow, aerodynamic bike helmet. I tried to not wear it, but I just kept picturing a TV doctor gesturing to my brains smeared all over the bitumen.) Also, if you’re in Brisbane, there doesn’t seem to be any bicycle lane. Oh, there are cute stencils of bicycles all along the shoulders of the main roads, which seem to be indicating that this space is for cyclists. But the space between the parked cars on the left and the moving cars on the right is exactly the width of, oh, say, an open car door. It’s pretty easy to get ‘doored’. And while it looks hilarious in movies when Emily Blunt gets hit by cars, it is probably not that glamourous in real life. Probably. Maybe.

To surmise: I took a bicycle instead of the bus. I got all sweaty. My hair went weird. I yelled into some lady’s car window. And my groceries were knocked out of the basket by the uneven bitumen on the road’s shoulder. But, good lord, I felt alive! When it is an achievement to just make it home in one piece, your food tastes sweeter and the air seems fresher.

But next time I’m going anywhere where people will see my hair, I’m taking the bus.

 

Emergency Transport

Transports of Delight

Oh no! My dear readers, I have neglected you!

I feel terrible for not posting a story last Sunday, but the reason was that, well, I felt terrible. I’ve been having a heinous bout of illness – poor me, et cetera, et cetera. So here’s what happened last Sunday, when I should have been writing a post for ToD:

It’s Sunday afternoon, and it’s gotten worse. I feel like I’m about to drop. I need to get to a hospital, but it’s gonna be a mission. I don’t have a car, and taxis are hideously expensive. My housemate’s away, and she’s pretty much the only person I know in this town, so no one can drive me. You might be thinking, hey, why not just call for an ambulance? Um, have you ever been in an ambulance? They scare me more than the actual hospital. Anyway, whatever method of transport I use to get there, it’ll be quicker than waiting for an ambulance. I google the closest hospital. It’s actually not far. Shouldn’t be hard to catch a bus there. But wait, there’s something I haven’t factored in.

The Brisbane Roar.

Yes, Brisbane’s A-league soccer team. They are playing Perth Glory in one hour, in the grand final. This worries me for two reasons. Firstly, Glory are the underdogs this year and I really want them to win so I can look these Brisbane bastards in the eye. (Still a Perth girl, through and through. If I have internal damage, I assure you it is bleeding purple.) Secondly, the stadium is right near the hospital. The roads are chaos, and buses are diverting to carry the orange army of Roar supporters to the match. I’m not likely to get a bus anytime soon.

I can’t face walking to the hospital. So, I dial the number for a taxi. The taxi arrives, and takes me to the Emergency Department of the nearest hospital. I limp inside the building, relieved to have made it. But something doesn’t look right.

The waiting area is … empty. The decor is … pleasant. Then the receptionist tells me that they don’t bulk bill, and I go an extra shade of pale. I’ve walked into a private hospital! Run, run for your life! Save your wallet! The lady assures me that, after a Medicare rebate, consultation would only cost a minimum of $200, but I’m already backing away. I find a sympathetic nurse and blurt out my troubles.

“Where is the hospital where the poor people go?”

The nurse directs me to a nearby hospital which does bulk bill. And, she says brightly, it’s only a ten-minute walk … uphill. I groan, and dial for another taxi. I stagger out to the street, feeling demoralised. Each short taxi ride is costing me a day’s worth of meals, and since I’m too sick to work, my income is severely limited. At least I can get to this hospital and get my health sorted out.

I’m on my last legs. I wait outside the hospital entrance, sitting on the concrete steps. A taxi suddenly zooms past. I wave at the driver, scared he might drive off without me. He slows, and crawls up the road at a snail’s pace. Now I’m confused. Is this my taxi? Or is he just sight-seeing? He creeps a bit further up the road, then stops. I pull myself onto my feet and head for the car. It’s an effort to walk, but I walk quickly to show him that I’m his intended passenger. As I get closer, the car suddenly jerks to a start and rolls further up the road. I wave, and try to close the gap between us. He jumps forward again and moves further up the road. It feels like that trick that you play when someone’s about to get in your car. Just when their hand’s almost on the door handle, you drive forward a few metres so they have to run to catch up. “Ha ha ha, so funny! You shoulda seen yo’ face!”

But I’m not amused. I have no idea what this guy is doing. Three times I nearly approach the car, and he creeps forward again. At last, I reach the car and fling the passenger door open.

“Finally caught you!” I wheeze, sliding into the backseat. The taxi driver just nods and says “Where would you like to go?” As if I hadn’t just chased him up the road. Okay.

I tell him which hospital, and we jump away from the kerb. As we pull out into traffic, it dawns on me. He wasn’t trying to play tricks. He’s simply a terrible driver.

This taxi is weaving, jerking and zipping all over the road. He steps on the pedals like a first-timer, speeding up to the backs of other cars, then slamming on the brakes right before we hit them. We swing around corners with reckless abandon. As I slide around in my seat, trying to hold onto my stomach, I’m not comforted to see the taxi driver tugging on his seatbelt. It looks like he’s checking that it will be strong enough. That can’t be good.

Oh well, I think. At least we’ll crash near lots of doctors. (I’ve achieved delerium.)

As we near the hospital, the taxi driver barks, “Whereyouwannago?”

“Emergency,” I get out, through clenched teeth. “Emergency!”

The taxi driver mumbles to himself. He’s probably trying to figure out if I was telling him I wanted to go to Emergency, or if I was just summing up our situation as we plummet through traffic.

Finally, we jerk to a halt in front of the Emergency Department entrance, and I tumble out of the cab. The taxi tears off around the corner, off to terrorise its next customer. As I wobble through the sliding doors, I feel a strange sense of elation. I’m not nervous anymore. I survived that taxi ride, didn’t I? Nothing in this hospital can scare me now. I am invincible!

Thank you, insane taxi driver. Thank you.

Poem: “Driving”

Poems, Posts

I can feel sleep creeping upon me,
threatening with oblivion.
My mind fights it like an ageing despot
refusing to retire, to become irrelevant,
convinced that the world will
fall to pieces in its absence.
I lean back in the passenger’s seat
and my mind whirrs on, unchecked.

Clouds sail on an urgent wind,
in the middle space between
the human scale and the infinite.
A shadow leaps onto a wall,
and for a moment all the lines are clear.
Then it is snatched away, and there is
only the blur of concrete.

We drive until it is dark,
until the street lights wink on.
The river’s black water betrays
the fluorescent inverted world.
Ruby, sapphire strata
stretch down to the depths,
spearing away from the land.

The overhead lights stripe
the dashboard yellow, flicking along
with metronome precision.
At the sound of street rushing
past beneath my feet,
my eyes close and I doze
like a fussing baby held close
by a tired mother.

Between slow, lengthening blinks,
I peer at the scenes swinging past.
A couple weaves its way
towards the city centre,
pinky fingers linked between them.
They have the languid gait of lovers.
Seagulls are wheeling in the air,
rising like a pale cloud
behind the darkness.
A man runs a hand through his hair,
standing with feet apart at the bus stop.

Glancing to my right,
I watch the capable hands
guiding the steering wheel.
Then, just the right song
crosses the radio.
The world eases by outside,
confident in itself.
Reassured by the constant motion,
my mind gives up control, slows,
and finally drifts into oblivion.