I make no pretence of being a good driver. I try to be, but I know I upset people. Especially when I’m in a rental vehicle and am exposed as the undercover Volvo driver I really am.
Windscreen wipers and indicators. That is partly the problem. I have never understood why indicators and wipers are on one side of the steering wheel in European cars and on the other side for cars made in Australia. All right, cars that were once made in Australia.
Also, I have started wearing a hat when I drive. I have no idea why. Perhaps it’s a cycle of life thing, but I’ve become one of those drivers my mother used to warn us about: “A drongo in a hat!”
The first time I heard this was on the way to the marvellous old Crystal Palace cinema in Brisbane’s inner north, where I was going to see a Humphrey Bogart double-bill – Casablanca and The Maltese
Falcon. The driver my mother spied had a hat, not unlike the fedora Humphrey wore, and drove a car that was called a Cedric. A Nissan Cedric. From then on all hatted drivers became “Bloody Cedrics”. We also couldn’t believe it when the “Bloody Cedric’’ sat in front of us in the Crystal to watch Humphrey. Wearing his hat.
Now I’m a “Bloody Cedric’’ myself. Whenever I am in a rental car and away from the Scandinavian tank, I soon make new friends. Some just shake their heads. Some send me sign language messages with one or two fingers. Some go on and on with full mime – arms waving and with vigorous mouth movements, like watching Senator Michaelia Cash do an interview with the sound turned down.
Some scream at me like old footy coaches. But never had I been singled out by a fellow driver with a phrase bellowed, mournfully, like he was some ancient prophet: “What don’t you understand?”
Which isn’t that surprising, because he wasn’t a prophet from the Old Testament; he was a tradie in a big, purposeful ute on the clotted arterial that is the Bruce Highway. “What don’t you understand?” he cried out, then stared at me.
I knew I had done something wrong, but had no idea what. I offered a raised hand in supplication and mouthed, in my best Michaelia Cash manner: “Sorry.’’
Old Testament Tradie wasn’t having a bar of it. He pointed to me as we sat motionless in the traffic and cried out again: “What don’t you understand?”
Now that is a question to dwell on. I crawled off an exit ramp and he sat looking up at me from his ute. What don’t I understand? Well, lots of things. I don’t understand fundamentalists. Of any kind. Fundamentalists see the world without complexity and without understanding of the differing layers of humanity.
They don’t see that life isn’t the same for all people and they don’t want to make room for other points of view, ideologies and beliefs. And they don’t seem to value life. I have never understood why people wear drop-crotch pants. Nobody needs that much space in a pair of strides.
I don’t understand why I still get lost driving in the Brisbane CBD and can’t remember which streets are one-way and which aren’t.
I don’t understand why anybody would vote for the Greens, but I do know I am a conservative old fart and am happy that people turn up and cast a vote for anybody they choose. Even if it’s the Greens. I don’t understand why I still buy a Dagwood Dog at the Redcliffe Show, even though I can never eat it. I suppose traditions are important.
I don’t understand why I thought it was a good idea to wear Stubbies and a skivvy to a party in the ’80s – and try to crack on to a young woman who went on to become a rather famous actor (and won’t let me forget it). And I don’t understand what it was I did that seemed so wrong to the Old Testament Tradie in the ute. Still, with all the sincerity that a “Bloody Cedric’’ can muster, I’m sorry.
I have started wearing a hat when I drive ... I’ve become one of those drivers my mother used to warn us about: ‘A drongo in a hat!’