Friday, September 17, 2010

Hanging at the bowser on tight arse Wednesday

The fourth Wangle column - click here for the original story.

I worked with an editor in Melbourne for about five years, who apart from wearing socks and sandles had a rather infuriating habit.

Every Wednesday night he’d drive around the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges to find the cheapest petrol, then buy as much as he could while the going was good. I’m talking jerry cans, the works.

Good on him for wanting to save a few dollars to fill up, but what price all the driving around and wear-and-tear on his car?

Let’s not even start about the carbon footprint he was leaving as he stomped around the suburbs in search of that elusive two cent saving.

I’d forgotten about this behaviour until just last week when I pulled into the servo with a flat back tyre and a petrol tank drier than a dead dingo’s proverbial.

I’d left my run to the last gasp and was urging the hail-pocked Mazda onwards to the finish line. If I was a jockey, I’d be using the whip.

But the finish line was blocked. My run had been thwarted by a line of at least 15 cars queuing for petrol.

What in hell’s name was going on here? Were petrol prices about to soar?

As the Mazda farted its empty discontent, it suddenly dawned on me… it was a Wednesday, the cheapest day in the fuel price cycle. These people were lining up as they would do every Wednesday to save themselves a few bob at the bowser.

And indeed it’s true. If you check out the FuelWatch price trend graph, the chart looks like the heart rate of an AFL player who’s been eating the No Doz like Tic Tacs.

But is it worth waiting in line for 30 minutes chewing through the gas to get one over the oil companies? And why does it seem that everyone waits until after 5.00pm to join the line?

Surely the pensioners would be better off buying their petrol during work hours when there’s less traffic and less demand?

When I finally limped up to the bowser, I understood that this was a special club and these people had made the whole tight-arse petrol Wednesday trip into something of a ritual.

People were wandering from car to car for a chat, sharing a joke over a coolant top-up and generally behaving like they were in the crowd at an Andre Riue concert.

One middle aged gent thought a quick buttock grope was in order, while he gathered his betrothed in a ULP embrace. Betrothed? No, not on your nelly. The lucky gropee scampered off shortly after to attend to the diesel pump hanging out of her Patrol.

What was this madness? Had I been consumed by fumes?

Some 40 minutes after first joining that conga-line of price conscious, socially gregarious fuel fanatics, it was time to hit the road.

I looked over to the designated air and water area in hope that I might get a clear run to fill my flaccid Goodyear, but my hopes were cruelly dashed.

From what I could see and hear a bloke called Ted was running a workshop on tyre pressures and the best time of day to achieve the most satisfactory result. I do believe he was even running a tea and coffee service out of his boot.

The point of this rant? The source of my anger? To be honest, I no longer recall.

I’m too busy planning my run for Wednesday arvo and hoping that Ted has some feedback on the best type of lubricant to ease my creaking ball joints.

F*@K OFF! WE'RE FULL (of racists)

The third of my Wangle columns - click here to visit the original story.

Bumper stickers say a lot about the person who drives the car.

For example, the other day I was wandering back to the car from a family event, enjoying the Sunday sunshine with the kids, when something caught my eye.

It was a bumper sticker on the rear of a blown-out SUV that was half blocking the footpath – a map of Australia with the words printed inside, ‘F*** Off, We’re Full!’

It’s a message we’ve all seen many times and it’s nothing new, but on this day Mr 10 noticed it too. He cocked his head to one side, furrowed his brow, and asked me, “Are people allowed to have the F word on the backs of their cars?”

I responded, “Only very small minded nuff-nuffs son. People who are proud to put their hands up and say I’m a racist – check me out.”

In a flash I’d made an addition to the message thanks to the dust that covered the back window. The message now read, ‘F*** Off We’re Full – of Racist Pricks Like Me!’ If it was your car, I’m sorry. Sorry I didn’t let your tyres down while I was at it.

The saddest thing about this encounter wasn’t having to explain to my son that some people feel threatened by people of non anglo-saxon origin coming to our country. It was knowing that this was a family vehicle and all the occupants, right down to the toddler in the booster seat, would be tainted by this attitude in some way.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for free speech. I had a chuckle at a sticker on a ute this morning that read, ‘Cheer up Emo Kids!’ I winced at the ‘I Fish With a Stiff Rod!’ sticker and was bemused as to why you’d advertise the fact that you’re a big Bundy drinker, but I wasn’t offended.

Not so with the ‘FOWF’ sticker. I don’t appreciate my kids having to read this sort of crap on the backs of your cars, on t-shirts, caps or novelty boxer shorts.

Knock yourself out when you’re at your own dinner table or down the pub with your like-minded mates, but sharing the message in public is just dumb. And offensive. What, you think we’re gonna come up and shake your hand, maybe make you PM for a day so you can turn back the boats single-handedly armed with nothing but a pointy white hood?

No, most of us just cringe, shake our heads and hope our kids don’t see it. Peel them off, please.

Digging up the grass

This is the second of my Wangle posts - click here for the original yarn.

Okay, I opened a can of worms by reintroducing the daylight saving debate, so why not go the double by suggesting we dig up Perth’s front lawn?

I might just point out before you start with the ‘if you don’t like it, leave’ mantra, that I was born in Perth, my parents were born here and so were their parents. We’ve all had close connections with the Swan River throughout our lives and I’d be the first one to say it makes Melbourne’s Yarra seem like a roadside drainage ditch in comparison.

But like many West Australians, I think the city would be a far more appealing place to visit when we have a greater range of amenities along the waterfront. At present we have a Bell Tower, The Lucky Shag and a bloody great big, underutilised front lawn.

Now, the idea of a ferris wheel on the Swan never really floated my ferry, but then it wasn’t really about a ferris wheel was it? It could have been a giant model of a dog poo and still made the same point… the Perth foreshore is boring and is crying out for more than just beer and bells. Hardly anyone ever uses all that ‘beautiful, wide open space’ as I once heard it described.

No, the ferris wheel was all about plonking something large and distracting into an area that is grossly underutilised in order to make people sit up and think, ‘okay, if we’ve got room to install an oversized fairground attraction, maybe we could so something even better in that space?’

You see, us Perthites suffer from a rare and degenerative condition known as ‘Lawnus-idioticus’… in common terms, a desperate need to install large tracts of lawn at the front of our homes that run from the front door to the road and are rarely used except for parking.

Take a run through leafy Floreat or Wembley one day and you’ll get the picture. These days the disease is on the wane, but only because developers are cramming as many dwellings as possible on what were once single home blocks.

So what’s this got to do with Perth City?

Well, just as our suburbs were infected with this disease, so was the city itself. All that parkland stretching from the front door mat of our city, right down to Riverside Drive and beyond, to meet the uninspiring limestone retaining wall on the river’s edge, are our city’s very own front lawn.

Sure, a few office workers wander down there to eat lunch and there’s a few games of softball hosted over the weekend, but tell me, when was the last time you made use of the city’s front lawn? Did you stand there on Australia Day, draped in the Aussie flag, tapping your toes to “You’re the Voice” while you watched the fireworks?

Our city waterfront needs a makeover and I very much hope that plans currently on the table will do our city and the Swan River the justice they deserve after many years of neglect. Sure, we have one of the world’s best views from Kings Park, but it’s only a view. How long can you stand there looking at the Perth city skyline before you think, ‘oh well, back to the suburbs, there’s the lawn to be watered…’

There are plenty of good things happening in the City of Perth and Lisa Scaffidi is a powerful force of change who should be applauded for her work.

But now that the ferris wheel is rolling-on to some other destination in need of a landmark, let’s give up our grass habit, get a bit creative and dig up the front lawn once and for all.

Thanks for nothing folks!

Apologies for being such a poor correspondent, but of late I've been sharing my ideas, thoughts and feelings with the good people at Wangle.

Here's the first of those posts and you can check out the original story by clicking here.

These dark winter mornings and watching the miserable light fading from my workplace window at 5.00pm of late has put me back into a funk about the fate of daylight saving in Western Australia.

After 11 years enjoying daylight saving while living in Melbourne, I returned to Perth with my young family just in time to see DLS re-introduced and then cruelly snatched back from my grasp three short years later.

Yes Perth, you Indian givers, you have decreed that daylight saving is officially dead in the water in WA for the forseeable future. I now hear there are plans afoot to bring back roster petrol stations.

WA, one hour and 57 years behind the rest of Australia. Would the last person to leave Perth please turn out the lights? Were they ever on?

But it’s okay, this summer I’ll be bringing the kids around when they wake up at 4.45am every day and we’ll have a nice play on your front lawn. At about the same time that every species of bird gathers outside my bedroom window for a good chat about how dandy it is to see the sun up so early.

All I wanted was a bit of time in the afternoons to get out of the house with the kids when I came home from work… maybe a barbie, go to the beach, or kick the footy. But no, you lot wouldn’t have that.

According to you, normal people should be eating dinner by 5.30pm and tucked up in bed with Fat Cat before the hour reaches double digits.

I’m mad as hell. While you early morning dog walkers, tradies and sports enthusiasts are no doubt salivating about the prospect of blazing sunlight at 5.00am, think about those of us with small children who have no good use of the morning hours.

Thanks for nothing folks and keep an eye out for me this summer – I’ll be the one driving around honking his horn at the first sign of daylight, making sure you ‘NO’ voters really are awake to enjoy this most ‘precious’ time of the day.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to love about living in Perth. It was my decision to return from Melbourne and choose this city as the place to raise my kids, but do we really have to endure this ‘if it aint broke, don’t fix it’ mentality forever?

Fair suck of the sauce bottle people!