Sometimes I wish my ute would break down so that I can watch the reactions of the folk in my town. Today, the run-around-like-an-emu-on-heat deadline day, was not a time when I thought about indulging in whimsical anthropological experiments.
But my Nissan fancied some fun.
It happened as I approached the busiest intersection in town. I stopped obediently at the give way sign and was mid-glance, needlessly checking for traffic, when the engine shuddered, coughed, spat and died. It was an all-over sensation for my truck, which rocked from side to side like spring-loaded pretend sheep in a children’s playground. I know Alfred street, Charleville is no Champs Elysees, but it’s still the busiest intersection in town and there were plenty of folk kicking around to stare at my cranky car.
It was a fine moment, people everywhere, a useless ute and a deadline hanging over me as a badly cut fringe would.
Luckily I have been in this situation many times before. I have a deep-seated history with mechanically inept cars.
I should have known better, frankly. The same incident happened last Tuesday, in the same car, but on the second-biggest intersection in town. Last week I had called my mechanic brother in a fluster when the ute conked out. It was a Tuesday last week too, as I struggled with the same deadline that causes the bags under my eyes to sag like the bottom of an old cossie. My brother Rob works miracles with cars. Just being on the phone to him last week cured the issue with the choke and the car rose from the dead.
I believe in miracle fixes. It’s part of my mechanical knowledge – problems go away if you give them time. And never go to the mechanic before you have to, that’s another of my favourite car adages.
But despite the fact that I was sitting in a defunct car in the middle of an intersection, this situation really shines. I flicked on the hazards, alerting the handful of other motorists that I was in trouble and watched them cruise past me at a snails pace, checking out all the gory details as they passed. I could tell my ute’s mechanical failures would be laughed at over a bottle of Pinot for many afternoons. I adopted a maniacal laugh and desperately tried to start the car again.
There was no aggression from the cars I was inconveniencing. No one honked their horns and most cars waited behind me for at least two minutes before they even bothered to lazily reverse and move past. As they were checking me out a few said ‘are you oh-kay’ with wide mouths. It was quite touching.
I reckon a gang of scooters would have mowed me down if the same thing happened in the city.
Someone even opened my passenger door and asked me if I needed a push around the corner. Of course I don’t want a bloody push, I want this thing to drive around the corner, I would have taken the bike if I wanted to push something, I quietly ranted in my head.
In fact I had been within a whisper of taking the bike when I realised it has an over-inflated front tyre and that was all the excuse I needed to avoid saddle soreness. If I had of tried harder to recaptur the love of riding I possessed when exploring the karst mountains in southern China I would not have ended up at the corner of Alred and Wills streets with a crowd of onlookers thanking their lucky stars that they weren’t me.
The idea of calling my Jesus-like brother occurred to me again, but I defied the thought in a moment of determined independence, recalling how I had fixed the issue with the battery the week before last without consulting either of my brothers.
Although my oldest brother is fairly useless mechanically so he would have only been good for telling me it’s ok to break a detox in times like these.
I worked the key again, flogging the starter motor while I provided a little comedy show for the crew gathered in the main street. Finally, after a 15 minute interval that passed slower than an ice-cap melt I spluttered around the corner and moved down the street with the ute’s revs bouncing about like a camel being chased by a kangaroo.
As I shuddered up the street the blokes outside the barber’s shop clapped and cheered as if I was approaching the finish line after a gruelling triathlon. I mentally bowed to them, feeling as if I’d contributed a street-theatre vibe to the quiet Tuesday streetscape. I honked the horn for good measure, in case any of the local businesses were unaware of the local journo’s mechanical issues.
Next time I’ll take the bike and I’ll let you know how the town reacts when I fall off and graze my elbow.