Proctor : October 2016
63 PROCTOR | October 2016 Changing cars on life’s highway There’s a bonus – free rocks! It has become apparent to me that, at some point in the next year, my wife and I will need to purchase a new car. Not that there is anything seriously wrong with our old car, either mechanically or in appearance – at least from the outside. Unfortunately the inside has been subject to the wear and tear of two young children and, more recently, a dog which has begun showing signs that he shares DNA with horses (or possibly griffins). He has grown from a pup that could have been mistaken for a small rat, one that all the other rats picked on, into a dog that occasionally – in his enthusiasm to meet people – knocks over pot plants, the people he is meeting, and the odd SUV. Suffice to say that his effect on the interior of the car has been sub-optimal, and it is clear that it has been subject to forces never dreamed of by its designers. I am sure it did not occur to them that my children would, from a very young age, collect especially interesting rocks, sticks and shiny things which might appear to the untrained eye to be rubbish, but when examined carefully by experts prove in fact to be shiny rubbish. This means that every trip to the park added around 30kg of weight to the car in sticks and rocks jammed into seats, headrests and the like. You might think that I could simply throw these away, but that just shows you don’t have children (or you have, and you have suppressed the memories in the interests of preserving your sanity). These items need to be carefully collected and stored until you are sure the kids have forgotten them, and then thrown away – which will be the cue for the kids to remember them and demand you produce what has now become their favourite rock/stick/Kit-Kat wrapper. In any event, combined with the enthusiastic exploration of the back seat by Gigzi the wonder dog/horse/griffin, being used as an earthmover has not exactly improved the aesthetic appeal of our car nor – I suspect – its resale or trade value, in the same way that Donald Trump has not exactly improved the image of the Republican Party. Hence (or perhaps thus) I will soon be in the market for a new car. I can only presume that my recognition of the need for a new car on largely aesthetic reasons is an indication of a burgeoning (and let’s face it, seriously overdue) maturity on my part, because back in my student days aesthetics played little part in vehicle selection. When I bought my first car I took my Dad with me, as he knew stuff about cars and I, as a law student, knew stuff about the QIT campus club. A typical car inspection would play out along these lines: Me: It’s brilliant! Let’s buy it! Dad: That’s a ride-on mower. Me: What’s the mileage? I ended up with a 1979 Ford Escort, which had three main points of appeal – it had an engine so simple it would never break down, and if it did it could be repaired by the cleverer members of the mollusca phylum, or possibly even Eddie McGuire; Bodie and Doyle drove an Escort in The Professionals; and one of my mates also had one, so he at least would not give me rubbish about it (this was only partially successful, as my mate decided to pay out on me about the colour; this is how guys express friendship, another reason it surprises and scares me that my gender somehow got control of the planet. Also, young people note that I said ‘pay out on me’; a lot of you say ‘pay me out’, which is a grammatical nightmare, and using it will get you sacked, at least if I have anything to do with it). The Escort was a great car, in that it could goalongwayon$2worthoffuel,andhada stereo loud enough to drown out any engine noises which might otherwise be concerning or indicative of mechanical issues. I can still remember the number plate, 772 PRX. My friends called it ‘The Prix car’ although I suspect in their heads they used different spelling; I will understand at this point if some readers doubt these guys were my friends. Bottom line (clearly a term I use here somewhat disingenuously) is that I did not give much thought to the way the car looked when I bought it, nor throughout my entire ownership of it. From the day I got it until the day I cleaned it up (with the help of my then girlfriend – am I a great date or what?) before trading it in, it would have been hard to swear in a court of law that the car had a carpet or even a floor. At any given time it would have football boots, cricket gear, unwashed jerseys and things my friends had left in there (and which I threw out long ago, which will teach them to make cracks about my car); every student I knew had a car in a similar (or worse) state and none of us regarded it as detracting from the car’s overall value. Back then, if the car ran and had a stereo – even if the stereo had chewed up a Doors tape you had borrowed from a friend and refused to release the tape under any circumstances, not that this ever happened but if Mal is reading this it might clear something up for him – it was perfect, as long as the radio still worked (because back then they played good songs on the radio). Once the driver’s door started to come off during a trip to Lismore but I was able to temporarily repair it with a stick, until such time as I could repair it properly (with a more sturdy stick); this event did not, at that time, indicate any problem with the car as far as I was concerned. Now, however, I will probably have to get another car because I am not keen on the way the old one is looking, plus one of my Indigo Girls CDs is stuck in the player and won’t come out (possibly the CD player will demand the release of Mal’s Doors tape before cooperating). In any event, I’ll let you know how I go unless a better idea for a column presents itself, and if anyone is looking to put in a gravel driveway, I have enough rocks to give you a good start. Suburban cowboy by Shane Budden © Shane Budden 2016. Shane Budden is a Queensland Law Society ethics solicitor.