While this is
a relatively modern phenomenon, the problem of inattentive motorists is as old as the motor vehicle itself. When the Galvin Manufacturing Company perfected an in-car wireless receiver, marketed as the Motorola 5T71 in the early ‘thirties, sales boomed and attention that was previously focussed on the road ahead wandered as drivers thrummed their fingers to the music, fiddled with station frequencies and became increasingly unaware of their surroundings or their responsibilities to other motorists. This led to the coining of another term, “Transistor Tantrum” as tempers rose among non-listeners and traffic snarls burgeoned. In Britain, Bobbies were instructed to act with politeness and dignity and simply tap on drivers’ windows and enquire, “Excuse me sir (or madam). Is there any particular shade of green you are waiting for?” The problem became so acute, particularly in major urban areas, that authorities sought ways to discourage the practice by utilising squads of officers empowered to fine or even arrest offenders. The problem was to be able to identify culprits in order to mount legal prosecutions. Sensing an opportunity, Sir Carruthers Spagforth ordered the construction of a motorcycle specifically designed for this purpose. Fortunately there were many warehouses full of failed Spagforth models that were suitable donors, and engineers set about building a series of prototypes which for marketing reasons were called the Spagforth Spymaster. These carried photographic equipment, restraint devices and sirens for attracting the attention of mesmerised motorists. However in order to gain the necessary commanding view into motor car cockpits, a lofty seat height was required, necessitating the use of leg extensions, or stilts, by the rider. It fell to none other than Spagforth works tester Edgar Jessop to demonstrate the Spymaster to various councils, and he was dispatched on a European tour for appointments with key personnel involved in urban traffic flow management. While the Spagforth performed its task with only minor catastrophes, a new problem emerged as drivers became convulsed with laughter at the sight of Edgar and his machine, and traffic became grid locked. This was only solved when foot policemen told the hysterical drivers Dutch jokes to stop them laughing so they could move their vehicles. Unfortunately Edgar’s tour came to an abrupt halt when he failed to notice a low bridge in Brussels and toppled from his machine, which was promptly flattened by a following steam roller. The remains of the vehicle was gifted to the city council and used as a billboard.
Edgar Jessop on the prototype Spagforth Spymaster, suitably dressed in the uniform of the Polizei Hamburg, threads his way through scores of mesmerised motorists in the German city.