Bush telegraph tests country limits
It’s Friday night. The bar is full of rural types, dissecting their working week over a couple of pints as they wait for their fish and chips to be cooked.
It won’t be a late night - just a chance to catch up on the local gossip and have a whinge about the weather before heading home to watch the rugby.
Then the phone rings.
‘‘The cop’s coming up the valley,’’ the barmaid tells those within earshot.
The bush telegraph is in action. Someone further south has declared it their civic duty to inform the town’s casual swillers of the impending doom coming up the main road.
I’m sure it happens in small towns all over the country.
It doesn’t take long for the word to get around.
Pints are chopped and there’s a mad rush to get out the door from those living north of the town.
Cars are put into ‘sneak mode’ as the drivers try to fly under the radar. They’re probably not over the limit - they’ve stuck to the ‘three pints and we’re out of here’ rule or drunk the pigswill low alcohol brew - but better to be safe than sorry.
Those that have had a few aren’t allowed to leave, but some are stoic and remain.
Inquiries are made about hitching a ride home in the courtesy coach before ordering another drink.
Those who live within walking distance aren’t lamenting the fact that they’re called townies just now.
In walks the local cop, and out walk more customers.
‘‘He can’t ping you if he’s standing next to you at the bar,’’ one explains.
Just being pulled over is embarrassing enough.
Being pinged guarantees you’ll never hear the end of it.
The cop knows the drill and follows one driver outside.
‘‘I was a bit chilly - just getting my jersey,’’ he explains as he locks his ute and walks back inside.
A great escape plan foiled. It’s 20 degrees.
The cop chews the fat with the townies and then he’s off again.
Noses are almost pressed to the window to see what direction he’s heading in, but they can’t tell whether he’s going north or south, or over the back road.
The phone rings again.
He’s pulled over two cars out the way, and one of the locals is off to the station.
A sadness falls over the bar and more drinks are ordered.
Theories are discussed over the outcome and what it’ll mean for the town.
If they’ve caught one they’ll come up and catch more, it’s thought. Others think now that one’s been caught they’ll be left alone for a while.
Someone gets a text.
The driver was under the limit and is on his way back from town, with the cop.
It’s an early closing, the courtesy coach is packed and cars are left abandoned for the night - keys left in them though, in case anyone needs to shift them.
Some cars are left all weekend. It would be rude not to call in and have a pint while you’re picking your wheels up.
Just being pulled over for suspected drink driving is embarrassing enough.