BULLGOOSE: Alice refuses to back up or back down

 Gutsy Motorists #41 Alice Stands her Ground
Jeannie Piddens, mother of Wes, was an excellent driver and a safe one. She learned to drive during the war and was very much looking forward to participating in the Baby Boom, so she did everything she could to keep the roads safe for everyone.
Jeannie was safely motoring north on the Pacific Highway towing a hired 16-foot caravan when the entire van body reared up like a furious taipan, tore from the chassis, hinged over backwards and commenced its own interpretive dance of the Battle of Culodden, with the Ford Falcon an unwilling partner.
Remarking to her sleeping passenger spouse, “Lovey, that casogras (term of indeterminate meaning from the Jeannie lexicon) has gone rogue”, she adopted a Lismore Speedway grip on the steering wheel and brought the whole apocalypse to a tidy halt, the only casualties being three guide posts. There would have been more posts obliterated, but Jeannie had slalomed around the first three before deciding it could be seen by some as showing off.
“Well, that’s that.” she announced to Lovey and the settling dust before marching off to find a broom to sweep the highway.
Jeannie did race a train once in the old Chev ute, declaring afterwards that, “Everyone is entitled to an aberration, but we should aberrate in moderation”, words that Wes did not understand at all but tried to live by anyway.
Wes made an early start behind the wheel, releasing the handbrake on the old Chev ute and heading off down the road at the age of three.

He was amused to see Daddy, who looked funny with his face all red, running alongside.

He waved. Lovey didn’t wave back, but he did reach in through the window and yank the handbrake on before lying down on the footpath for a while.
Wes made a legitimate start to driving on the farm at about nine. Lovey wouldn’t let any of the kids drive forwards until they could drive competently in reverse. Anyone who complained of a stiff neck after a full hour of reversing would be told, “You’ll thank me. One day you will thank me. As you go through life, what’s going to be behind you? Stumps, logs, cows, Mercedes-Benzes, Nissan Cedrics, little old ladies, bald-headed babies, Jacaranda Queens, luckless pedestrians, agents of the law, and tiny parking spaces. How would you feel if you backed over Leonard Teale because you couldn’t reverse properly? You’ll thank me. Now, go ask your mother for some Dencorub.”

Wes wasn’t quite so strict with his boys when the time came for them to do a bit of driving.

Big Minch was allowed to sit on his lap and steer the Bedford from an early age. For some reason he preferred to look out the side windows rather than the windscreen, and trees were treated as targets rather than obstacles to be avoided. He had his own style, for sure.
One pitch black night, while tutoring Big Minch for his truck licence test, Wes made him reverse up a one-lane road at the back of Mallanganee, forever.
“Right, back her up. I’ll tell you when to stop.”
After about 3km, Big Minch ventured, “They won’t ask me to reverse this far, will they?”
“Nope, but you’ll thank me. There’ll always be trouble lurking behind you. Lamborghini Countachs, Nissan Cedrics, bald babies, old geezers, narrow loading bays, poddy calves, luckless pedestrians … Leonard Teale…”
“Leonard Teale?”
“Detective Senior Sergeant Mackay, Russell Street. Homicide. A Reg Grundy production.”
“You don’t have to know who he is. Just don’t back over him.”
Wes came to own a succession of over-rusted and under-braked vehicles, so it was important that his Life Partner was a good driver. Alice fitted the bill admirably. The fact that she also unilaterally added Life Coach, Moral Compass, Fashion Arbiter and Ministry of War to the bill was the price Wes paid for getting a responsible chauffeur.

Alice had driving peeves. Of course, she did.

Most of them were common or garden: speeding P-platers; drivers who forgot to speed up when the roadworks finished; people who drove with their feet out the window; people with belligerent bumper stickers, and drivers eating chicken or chickens. But Alice saved max scorn and loathing for parking attendants at mass gatherings, with their hi-vis and their torches and their haughty gesturing. And, although she was a loyal Rural Fire Service volunteer, for some reason Alice loathed RFS parking attendants, loathed them with the abiding obduracy of a Balkan blood-feuder.
Little Minch was playing with the school band, The Giant Rat of Sumatra, in a massive concert at Casino Showground. Wes had trucked the instruments and gear in with the Bedford and Alice drove in later. When Wes spotted her, she was white hot.
“What’s up?”
“That parking attendant. You’re in the RFS, you oughta report him.”
“Which one? What did he do?”
“He was rude and shouting and abusive. He was completely mad!”
“He called me a stupid, fruitin’, dumb beach!”
“Told me to reverse through the mud into this tiny space, and there was already a ute there taking up most of the room.”
“What sort of ute?”
“I don’t bloody know … Nissan Cedric or something.”
“Can’t have been. They didn’t make Cedric utes.”
“Well, Mr Top Gear, it had that ugly gold and silver badgework you’re always goin’ on about.”
“Hmm, somebody’s done a conversion. Bold.”
“I told him there was no way I’d be reversing in there, and he started up with the fruitin’ and beachin’ and torch waving again. So, I picked myself another spot and parked there.”
“So, problem solved.”
“I’ll problem solve you. Hurry up, the show’s starting!”
The Giant Rats cranked out a smoking set of toe-tappers that left the crowd jabbering in their joy.  When the hubbub had unbubbed, Wes escorted Alice and the Minches to her car.
“There he is! That one over there.”
“He does look a bit antsy.”
“Well …” Wes was about to say, “Well what?” but he pulled up just in time.
He knew what. Alice had been insulted and abused.

And, worse still, she’d nearly had to reverse.

She had demanded satisfaction, and he’d have to get it for her.
“Well, I’ll have a word.”
Wes spotted Crunchy Trimmings, the head parking honcho, and sought permission to interview the manic attendant. Crunchy was cool. “OK, his name’s Darrien. Just leave me out of it.”
Although peaceful by nature, Wes often found that his hulking presence, crushing handshake and incongruously broad smile got things off to a good start.
“Darrien? Wes Piddens (grip, crush, pump, hulking loom). Mate, I’m RFS too.”
“Yeah, all these people, everyone in a hurry. They don’t know the chaos they’re causing, eh?”
“Now I’m not sayin’ my wife’s an easy person to get along with. Far from it. But we’ve gotta be courteous with the public, even when we want to spifflicate them, yeah?”
“Yeahyeahyeahyeah. IknowIknowIknowIknow!”
“I, I, I gave up smokin’ on Monday and I ran out of fruitin’ bloody patches three hours ago!” (falls to the ground, sobbing).
“OK, mate. (gentler handshake) You take it easy, yeah?”
Wes reported back. “All sorted. Darrien has been fighting addiction.”
“You didn’t have to break his hand, idiot! All I wanted was an apology.”
Yep, Alice was proud of her man.
A lesson to us all.

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