Proctor : April 2018
59 PROCTOR | April 2018 The space race can wait Can’t we build a waterproof bus? You may be keen to keep up with events on the ‘humanity going into spacefront’ – asIam(Iamkeento keepuponit,Imean,notthatIam going into space). If so, you will have noticed that, not so long ago, Elon Musk sent his Tesla roadster into heliocentric orbit (‘heliocentric’ is the word scientists use to describe things that orbit the sun; they don’t simply say ‘things that orbit the sun’ for very important scientific reasons – they enjoy making laypeople feel stupid. Scientists don’t get out much). Many people have been critical of this move, partly because it adds to the amount of space junk out there, partly because it turns out Elon left all his tax records for the past 15 years in the glovebox, but mostly because a mannequin known as ‘Starman’ was placed in the driver’s seat, despite. Musk’s motives remain unclear, although he has begun pointing out that his car has now travelled several million kilometres without having to recharge. Of course, going into space by luxury car is certainly better than the current option, which involves hitching a ride on the Soyuz rockets. Keep in mind that these were built by engineers from the country that lost the Cold War to Ronald Reagan, despite the fact that when questioned at the Contra enquiry, Reagan identified Russia as “a kind of mammal”. In fact, going into space by car is probably too cramped – I prefer the Star Trek style of space travel, where your spacecraft is larger than many European countries, you are allowed to hang out in your pyjamas all day, and avoiding death is simply a matter of not wearing a red shirt when leaving the ship. It certainly beats my most frequent method of transport these days, which is by bus. It isn’t that I don’t like the bus per se, because that would involve knowing what ‘per se’ means, but it doesn’t make for an ideal experience in the same sense that George Christensen doesn’t make for an ideal personal trainer. To be fair, the ideal personal trainer would be one that was in the boot of Musk’s Tesla, because if there is one thing the world doesn’t need any more of – apart from sushi bars – it is personal trainers; but I digress. A big part of the problem is the bus shelter itself, which is about as effective as the NSW defensive line while being far more likely to harm you. Indeed, I am conflicted about calling it a shelter, similar to the way I would be conflicted about calling Tom Cruise well-adjusted. This is because the shelter was apparently designed by engineers that the Russians considered too stupid to be involved in the Cold War. For example, the shelter doesn’t have a roof so much as a primitive ‘proto-roof’, such as might have been constructed by our ancestors on the African savannah, assuming they were particularly stupid examples of our ancestors and had been hitting the fermented Mastodon blood pretty hard the night before. The consequence of this is that during rainy periods, the roof does a sterling job of keeping the upper half of the rear wall of the shelter dry, while leaving the rest of the shelter (and anyone in it) as wet as Prince Charles taking a shower in a submarine. That wouldn’t be so bad if, at the time of writing, the weather gods hadn’t dumped enough rain on Brisbane to float Clive Palmer’s Titanic 2 and maybe even Palmer himself at a pinch. You might think that the arrival of the bus itself would provide some relief, but it turns out the buses were put together by the same crew responsible for the shelters, meaning that they are about as waterproof as fairy floss. Had any of the passengers managed to stay dry before getting on the bus, they would have been pretty peeved – so I guess it is possible that the shelters are deliberately ineffective in order to lower expectations and reduce complaints. On the plus side, when I do get on the bus I get the chance to feel exactly the way John Wayne did when he walked through the swinging doors to a saloon in one of his westerns (assuming he had just taken a shower in his clothes). There is a hushed silence, and fearful whispers among youngsters. Young person number 1: “Look! It’s the dude with the thing!” Young person number 2: “I looked it up, it’s called a ... a ... book!” Young person number 1 (crying): “I want my mum!” Yes, that is the kind of fear and respect you can inspire by being the only person on the bus reading an actual book, rather than using a smart device to post pictures of your breakfast on Snapchat, Facebook or Instagram (I am assuming here that these are not all the same thing). The only time I have experienced such awe previously was back in my student days, on those occasions in lectures when the lecturers expressed their open admiration for my achievements (“Shane! You turned up! Did you find the room all by yourself?”). The upshot is that I think Elon Musk should stop mucking about in space and focus on more useful priorities, such as creating a driverless waterproof bus powered by fermented mastodon blood, which gives off zero carbon emissions and is free for people who actually read books. Also, I point out that ‘Fermented Mastodon Blood’ would be a great name for one of those energy drinks parents feed their kids to exact revenge on teachers; if anyone wants the rights I’ll swap them for a Tesla, presuming Elon doesn’t fling them all into space. Suburban cowboy by Shane Budden © Shane Budden 2018. Shane Budden is a Queensland Law Society ethics solicitor.