September 05, 2015

Horse 1974 - Tales From Mosman: The Loveliest Vehicle In The World

I work in the insular and very homogeneously white suburb of Mosman. This is a place which I'm sure is unique in Australia in that the local government area (in this case Mosman Municipal Council) contains only one suburb, where there are no chain fast food outlets within its borders, and where the stereotypical image of ladies walking around with yappy dogs inside their handbags actually exists. There are buses and ferries but no trains and the sight of Mercedes-Benz, BMWs and Audis on the streets is so commonplace that you need something like a Ferrari or a McLaren if you want to turn heads. Things just work differently here.
Mosman is a parochial kingdom all to itself. It wouldn't surprise me if you could be charged with vagrancy for taking a nap in a public park because you couldn't produce the necessary documentation, of at least a gold American Express card and several hundred dollars in cash.

It is 1:30pm on a Friday afternoon and I am standing at a bus stop outside of Mosman High School; waiting for a bus to take me back to the office. Being Friday afternoon, many kids are getting off of school for the week and many are just sort of milling around the bus stop. There is a section of road out the front of the school which has been marked off with traffic cones, which I initially assume is for some dignitary like the Governor or perhaps the local MP who just happens to be the Prime Minister, but I am mistaken.

A group of kids walk out through the front gate and because 80s retro fashion is in right now (kids of Mosman High School do not have a school uniform), they kind of look as though they have been in an explosion at the fluorescent paint factory. Coloured pants in unalluring shades of eye bleed hideousness appear to be in vogue right now and because I am more than double the age of these students and very quickly approaching my curmudgeonly years, I start to wish that the bus comes so that I can get out of there as soon as possible.
Except I don't.
A tired looking man in a tweed jacket and a lady who is also clad in a jacket are holding a sign which reads "Happy 18th Eleanor" (not her real name) and one of these students dressed like a leftover from the 1980s starts to jump up and down and much joy is exhibited. Someone makes a phone call and this is where the fun really begins.

From around the corner a grey BMW 4-Series convertible pulls up and Mr Hyphen-Name (I can only assume that all of these sorts of people have hyphenated names) starts to dangle a set of keys; meanwhile Eleanor starts to throw a tantrum.
"I wanted a white one. I told you to get me a white one. You're so stupid. I hate you."
Please note that this statement is not verbatim, as they actual statement contained at least half a dozen expletives - such a delightful little girl.

As you can imagine, in broad daylight and where the air itself has had blue streaks burned into it, there are many people who are simply staring in stunned silence. The 257 bus to Chatswood arrives and I like about a dozen other people, try to get on as quickly as possible so that we can exit stage left before Eleanor Hyphen-Name starts to drop any more choice bombs.

Suffice it to say, I don't know what it's like to have a $80,000 plus motor car just being given to me as a present. I'm reasonably sure that when I was 18 that if I was given a brown 1974 Datsun 200B wagon as a present, with only one working window and no radio, that I still would have been ecstatic. I'm pretty sure that if I was given a brown 1974 Datsun 200B wagon now, I'd still be ecstatic. I really don't understand the mindset which causes that much rage to build up in someone because the colour, of a convertible that they were given, was wrong. As I said, things just work differently in Mosman.

Human beings have a tremendous capacity to normalise their circumstances. At one end of the spectrum, that includes really horrible conditions such as living through extreme poverty but when you move people into new circumstances the new normal becomes normal. At the very top end of the socioeconomic scale, that normalisation obviously includes a set of expectations which a lot of people would find utterly fantastic. If you were to put Eleanor Hyphen-Name into my house for a week, would she cope? Probably, but I'd doubt she'd be happy about it. I bet that if I were to live in the Hyphen-Name's house for a week, I think it would be like living in a palace.

I have no doubt that when Eleanor finally gets over her tantrum, gets will probably have a really wonderful time. It's not hard to imagine her and her luridly dressed friends driving around on a Friday night with equally obnoxious music blaring from the car stereo, before having the inevitable fight and drama that people like that tend to do.
In that moment though, I just wanted to jam forks through my brain and get as far away as possible and as quickly as possible. I didn’t care how lovely the BMW 4-Series convertible might have been, the best looking vehicle in the world at that point was the 257 bus.

No comments: