Tuesday, 24 January 2006

Spare a thought for the spare wheel

Just in case you were thinking that car manufacturers should adapt BMW's policy of flat free tyres, here are two stories exemplifying the virtues of the good old fashioned way.
I assume you are aware of the fact that the Honda CR-V carries its spare on the back door. Weird, I know; quite inefficient, and overall a pain to use and maintain, too. And with that in mind, let's start with the harsher story of the two...

On Saturday noon, while the temperature was still below 30 (it got to 43 in the afternoon), we went out looking for a piece of foam that we can use in order to permanently install our mobile air-conditioner for this summer (Melbourne's hottest month, February, is not here yet but it's already a scorcher of a summer).
I slowly reversed out of the driveway as usual. I saw a blur in the right side mirror (driver's side), and before I was able to react heard a low level bumping noise and felt a bit of a thud.
Realizing that it could only be a pedestrian of some sorts and fearing that I just knocked a baby's trolley, I immediately put the Canyonero in park and jumped out to see this kid that was knocked of his bike.
Luckily, the ~10 year old wasn't hurt. He was dazed and confused, but he wasn't even scratched. I cannot stress how lucky that fact was: Was he to get injured we would have had to call the police and things would have been different; I don't want to even think about it.
Anyway, him and his brother kept apologizing despite our attempts to calm them down and see if they were ok. With a little help they soon pedalled along.
Lucky? Yes, but there's more to it than luck. Two factors helped here: First and foremost, the fact I was reversing really slowly. Second: That spare wheel, with it's soft plastic cover, was the point of impact; instead of getting the full grunt of the Canyonero, the boy got a padded blow.

The main problem is that this type of an accident is not preventable. Between the various fences hiding the coming pedestrian traffic and the fact the footpath is right at the edge of the driveway, bumping into someone while getting out of our driveway is a statistical certainty.
Not much can be done; reversing into the driveway so that I have a better view on my way out is a challenge on its own. All I can do is pretty much use the horn for a few warning shots (the Canyonero is an awfully silent car) and just drive carefully.
Now I know that I used to drive as madly as anyone, but I really do try to drive carefully now. I truly think that sports cars belong on the track and not in the street, where they're the equivalent of loaded guns for people that need to prove something to themselves or have something to compensate for (and yes, I was one of them).
While I am not so delicately telling you that I think I you we all should be driving carefully, note I am not saying “don’t go over the speed limit”. Sadly, Australia is similar to most other countries in that there is a significant lack of correlation between the speed limit and the actual speed people should be going. It’s not always on the slower side of things: There are plenty of roads here where the limit is 100km/h and you’d be crazy if you went faster than 40. It’s another case where politics got the better of things, and in the case of Victoria and many other places too it has a lot to do with money. With the way speeding is monitored in the state of Victoria you’d expect Stalin to send members of his secret police to learn how to do things right.
What I am trying to say here is that we should all take some significant safety margins when driving. Yes, it’s very entertaining to drive like a lunatic, and I did it for most of my driving career, but the price you pay in case something does happen is simply not worthwhile. It requires some rational thinking and some maturity to realize that, but I suspect this is something that one can handle as long as one is aware of it.

For the second spare wheel adventure I first have to explain the very Australian phenomenon of bull bars. Bull bars are those metallic contraptions people used to install at the front of their cars while driving at the outback so that when they happen to hit a kangaroo (far from improbable during dusk) or just a tree while off-roading their car wouldn’t be a total loss.
However, with your average wanker now getting himself a 4wd with no chance of it ever seeing a dusty road (present company included even if the CR-V is not really a 4wd), bull bars are no longer just for the crocodile hunters amongst us; they’re also for those trying to impress others and compensate for their short members. Everyone seems to have them. They’re everywhere. They’re a fashion statement. My theory is that they go along with the John Howard way of being an Australian: A fun and relaxed people until it comes to their own backyard where they’d happily drive a tank to “defend themselves” regardless of the consequences.
Talking consequences, I can think of a few. Yes, it would help your car in the case of a small rub (the rubberee will pay a hefty price, though). I do suspect that since it is bolted directly to the chassis it would also increase the chance of a warp if the rub is more than just a mere rub. Worst of all, I don’t want to think about what is going to happen to a pedestrian rammed by a bull barred car.
One of the things I am proud about the CR-V is that it was designed to be soft on pedestrians. Besides the fact it makes me feel so nice to be such a humanitarian towards the pedestrians I’m going to smash, I think that preventing serious injury to them gives me direct benefits – less court time, less worrying, and most importantly, less of a burden on my conscience.
Without further ado, on to the story itself. As you may remember, we were on our way to the rubber shop to get some rubber. For the air-conditioner. We parked, we had a look, and got ourselves a nice $9 piece of foam that fit exactly between our window and our mobile air-conditioner’s schnozzle.
The catch was when we came back to the car: we were locked between a Ford at the front and a bull barred Nissan 4wd tank at the back, both just a few centimetres away from our precious Canyonero. Now, for any place other than Australia, that is called standard parking; however, in here that is very rare. In fact, it’s the first time it happened to me in this continent. Anecdote wise, Australian law states that you need to leave a space at least a meter long between cars when parking, so what those guys did to me was illegal. More than that, it was senseless: There was virtually infinite parking just 10 meters ahead of us. We were obviously caught in that most famous of Australian habits, the “we have to park with 6 meters of our destination”. You see this often in this society that is not used to parking space shortages: Shopping malls’ parking lots have huge traffic jams near the entrances, but go 100m ahead and you have enough parking for an entire division (and their armoured vehicles).
Anyway, to conclude the story: Our lucky spare wheel jumped into action for the second time that day, padding our encounter with that idiot Nissan’s bull bar.

To conclude, here are Saturday’s scores:
Scratches on that kid – 0.
Scratches on the Canyonero – 0.
IQ in that Nissan owner’s head – 0.

1 comment:

K-Factor said...

Well Moshe, I can only feel for you and agree on how lucky you were with that boy being knocked by your spare wheel...

I wholeheartedly agree on your advice with regards to speed limits and the pleasure of driving. What we perceive as pleasure (also encouraged by the proliferation of male anatomy extender cars suxh as SS, XR8 and the likes) takes only a second to convert to a complete nightmare for at least two families.

From a parent's point of view, all of you out there who can;t be stuffed slowing down to the school zone limit, I can only hope that your kids are safe as I would like mine to be!...

On bull bars, the UK was (and I am sure still is) of the same mentality. Let's go for the whole hog - front and back bars and 4 Hella lights to add to the extension. And we'll only drive the 4WD over the weekend, to go shopping from Swiss Cottage to Brent Cross (fellow ex-pats, you know what that driving challeng involves).

MR, this is my first reply to your blog. Keep it up, you're touching all the right nerves!