There is no doubt that we love our car. Each Saturday we scan the newspaper for the latest models or look up Mycar.com. on the internet. There is nothing more inviting than strolling past car-sales yards with gleaming vehicles and their yawning bonnets. Flags are fluttering festively and the canny salesman has already spotted a possible customer/client. For those that are into acronyms SUV is ‘sport utility vehicle. Of course, there is also the AWD and other acronymic variations we have bestowed on our much loved, but basically, metal box on round rotating wheels.
It is the car that, originally, made it possible to move away from normal, close-knit communal high density living and gave us freedom to move about and away to the wide open plains of a freshly minted suburb with lovely kerb & guttering. What we also, at first enjoyed hugely, was the luxury of those slow lazy Sunday drives with mum and kids to the Blue Mountains’ Three Lovely Sisters or even Palm Beach . There weren’t as many then as there was awhile ago, the song goes. As the numbers of Sunday drivers increased it became in direct proportion of a decrease in our enjoyment of the drive. Soon, the ‘Sunday Driver’ became a diminutive term for a slack-arsed slow inexperienced driver. It was the beginning of the end for the joy of driving cars.
As the cars and their owners grew in numbers, so did the size of cars. Go to any school during drop-off and pick-ups and huge growling double storey monsters of cars (often painted an AFP like sinister black) will sidle up as close as possible to those institutional gates of little Jane or Jimmy’s school. It’s all part of a well thought out plan by the captains of industry to keep rolling over an economy. This ‘economy’ and our slavish adherence to it seems to increasingly look a bit dodgy, we now have a quality of life which is less than it used to be before the advent of the metal box. Sure, we assuage ourselves that we never had it so good. Why then, does it take an ever increasing number of us to visit the quack and chemist and end up swallowing pills, keeping raw nerves and tempers at bay? What about our ever increasing dependence on alcohol, gambling?
Have any of you ever watched mothers with children and babies getting in and out of cars, loading up the shopping or picking kids up from school? The nightmare of strapping in kids, the folding up of an obstinately arched struggling screaming baby in its car cradle- basket, the packing of saxophone or cello, those huge monstrous Mount Everest school bags. Where is your school hat-drink bottle-school bag-lunch money? Where oh where did I put my daily Mogadon?
Suave salesmen sold us the block out somewhere West and we built our brick veneer with an imposing Juliet balcony held up by presidential looking but fake columns. By car it was only one hour from work and who wouldn’t change the horror of the Redfern semi to a lovely vista of rolling hills and a blue country haze. It seemed the right thing to do. The rolling hills are now rolling suburbs, the blue haze black smog; the hours’ drive a two hour nightmare. More and more incidents of road rage. You run the risk of getting knifed or clubbed to death by driving in the wrong lane or even just looking at another driver who might well be sky high on meth, or diazepam.
There is an answer to all this, and again it is the suave salesman who is leading the way out. The fringe dweller is selling out and opting for the cozy and intimate apartment with balcony and roof-top garden. A ‘back to Redfern’ movement has started in earnest. The SUV is losing out to the more frugal little Citroen, Peugeot or the very competitive diesel Holden Cruze our national flag-bearing iconic treasure. Best of all, transport on two feet or bicycle, the bus and train.
It seems the height of irresponsible planning to keep on nibbling at the outer edges of our endlessly suburbanized cities, isolating people even further and further from infrastructures and above all, each other. All those forlorn suburbs with all the concreted driveways, the double or triple garages will just be become parking places for giant SUV’s with their owners driving& parking and driving& parking, God knows where to. Probably, some de-hydrated Shopping mall and those infernally addictive food courts with the entire population of suburban fringe dwellers, and with each mouthful, growing fatter and thus a need for even larger SUV’s cars.
It’s just a hopeless way of living.