Friday, May 14, 2010


Last Saturday I went to Mount Lawley to attend the wedding of a friend from work. On the way there I had to drive through the gentrifying suburb of Carlisle, in which the original noisy taverns and grubby shops are gradually being replaced by boutique bakeries and smart cafes. At the end of Archer Street there is a set of traffic lights with two lanes; one to turn left towards the city, and one to turn right towards the outer suburbs. The lights turned red just as I arrived, so I duly stopped, and in so doing I had an encounter.

Allow me to set the scene:

In the lane turning left was me, wearing a crisp blue shirt, blue silk tie, and a light grey lambswool suit which, as it turned out, perfectly matched my glossy convertible. My iPod, set on shuffle, had thrown up a minor but lovely Mozart piano concerto. The roof was down and I was enjoying the warm kiss of the autumn sun.

In the lane turning right was an assembly of bogans, in a dirty and battered old Daihatsu Charade. A woman with bleached hair left too long between re-bleachings was driving. In the passenger seat was a ruffled man with teeth so crooked that one of them held a position in the exact centre of his mouth, having shoved itself out in front of the others like a pushy chorus girl making a bid for the spotlight. The back seat was filled with as many carseats as the back seat of a Daihatsu Charade can handle, although the children in them were visible only as a couple of thatches of dirty blonde hair.

"Excuse me," the driver called out.

I looked across and smiled, assuming that she was looking for directions.

"Do you want him?"

"Er... sorry?"

"Do you want him?" she jerked her head at her companion, who was giving me a feral grin.

She wasn't looking for directions. She was looking for a new focus in some simmering domestic dispute that had been bubbling over the length of Archer Street.

I gave a accomodating laugh. "No, thank you."

"Go on. I'm sick of him."

I smiled and looked away, having dealt with as much as a stranger should be expected to in these situations.

"Nah, take her," the man piped up. I flicked my eyes at him to let him know that I'd heard him, but that I wasn't going to be drawn into their bickering.

There followed a few more bursts of aggressive offers that I studiously ignored, before she said, "Well, what about a couple of kids?"

I had to laugh despite myself. "Ah, no."

"Why not?"

I nodded at the fact that my car is a two-seater. "I don't have anywhere to put them."

"Look at you," said the man suddenly, in an odd tone that was halfway between a sneer and an envious whine. "You look like you don't have a care in the world."

That threw me so much that I actually had to consider it for a few seconds. "Close enough."


"I said, close enough."

Then the lights finally changed, and I didn't waste any time in driving off. I turned left, toward a beautiful church in an elite suburb. They turned right, toward whatever squalid outer suburban ditch they called home.


Anonymous JanineV said...

That is why I will never own or drive a convertible. I like the illusion of security that comes from being able to close the window and pretend the people in the car next to me just aren't there.

9:31 AM  

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