Thursday, August 11, 2011

Caveman vs. The Machine

(Caveman notes that this was written in June 2008.)

I went to the local Queensland Transport office to lodge an Application ('please Sir, State of Queensland, please!') for a replacement Driver License. I was appropriately armed with various documents that somehow prove that I am who I am. Two documents from the A-list and one from the B-list or one document from the A-list and two from the B-list. No, I don't have anything with my signature on it except my library card – oh, you don't accept that. No, I don't have a bankcard – I lost it with the rest of my wallet. Yes, that's where my DL  was.

Twenty questions follows: address, previous address, address before that. Infringements. Make, model and registration number of current vehicle. Previous licenses issued in other States, if any.

The public servant reaches the end of the interrogation, turns to the computer and types in the secret code that unlocks the access to NSA global database. NSA are in cahoots with SMERSH, KAOS, CIA , Lloyds of London, the Fed and SPER. SPER have suspended my licence. ( That would explain the unsolicited letters from a nameless entity identified only by the GPO Box number. I Returned them To Sender – for all I know they could have been summonses or something equally ugly.) ( I don't like summonses.) I am unable to proceed further in the matter and walk home.

Later that day I call SPER and threaten the friendly operator with Dark Deeds if he does not immediately, Right Now, suspend the suspension of my license so that I can go Queensland Transport and get a replacement license. He fearfully complies. Ha. Never underestimate the power of the Individual against the Machine. (It's the System you have to watch out for.) (Please don't ask me how I Know.)

The next day I am at Queensland Transport office again. After thirty minutes of avoiding the stupid daytime TV shows that have been muted so as not irritate grumpy old men like me I win the alphanumeric bingo (yes, I actually yelled 'Bingo!' The Sheeple pretended that they heard nothing. That's how I knew they were Sheeple.) and approach counter Three, now Serving Gee Four One Three. I am now well rehearsed in the twenty questions and pass with flying colours. The public servant eyes me suspiciously until I explain to her that I had already passed the test the previous day. Everything is proceeding well until she says that I have to pay. Why didn't the previous day's public servant in any manner allude to this pecuniary requirement? I don't have any real money (silver or gold) on me, will you accept government-issued coupons (you know, so-called 'paper money')? No? Never mind, doesn't seem that I have enough anyway. After a short panic attack that lasted about two deep breaths I remember that I have my wife's VISA card and she has inexplicably trusted me with her PIN. ( I do have some faith in the Generousity of My Fellow Humans.) ( Or maybe it has something to do with me taking her to see 'The Phantom of the Opera' few weeks ago.) I swipe the card in the Financial Transaction Tracking Device and enter my PIN. The public servant takes the card, looks at it and asks to see the statement from the electricity company again. My wife's name is the same on the VISA card and the statement. The public servant is happy to take electronic blips in lieu of Real Money (silver or gold, d'oh).

I finally get to sign my signature on the form from which the said signature will be copied onto my license in digital form. I disdain the common ball point pen offered and produce my fountain pen. The nib catches on the paper and consequently my signature doesn't look like my signature. The public servant indicates that I should move to the end of the counter, where several new licensees are waiting to get their photos taken. I join the queue. Only after a few photographees it is the turn of TMIFOMITQ (The Man In Front Of Me In The Queue). The operator takes his picture, looks at the paperwork. 'Shit, wrong person. Sorry, I didn't mean to say that.' Maybe they are human , after all. Second time around she has the form correctly matched with TMIFOMITQ.

Then it is my turn. I sit down. Please look up. Without adjusting my spine I roll my eyes up. I am going for the Hannibal Lectern look. The operator asks me to lift my head up. I mentally unscrew the two bolts in my neck, grab my ears and extend my arms straight up. In reality I oblige the operator. One two three flash. Please sit down I will call you when It Is Done. What is It and what is being Done to It and if you don't mind I will stand. I wait for TMIFOMITQ to get his license and approach the operator who diligently makes sure that the photo and the face match. I don't trust her and check it myself. It is my license with a Pictorial Two-Dimensional Representation of My Likeness and I shove it into my waistpouch. Thank you Very Much.

Since I didn't have a unsuspended or any other type of license I had left the car home. I walk home. The signature actually doesn't look too bad. If I ever have to explain the discrepancy between my usual signature and the one on the license I'll say it's merely a case of His Nibs.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Caveman floating - Queensland floods Jan 2011

I had dropped the boys off at their mum's place and was on my way back to the mountain -'Mount B.', as I have mentally started referring to it in honour of the B. family. My friends were on a three week overseas trip and I had been asked to look after their place and their two little dogs. The way to Mount B. is fifteen kilometres of increasingly windy road, followed by one and half kilometres of all-terrain gravel road cut into the side of the mountain. The creek crosses the road in maybe a dozen places, some floodways presenting a dip in the road steep enough to warrant a momentary reduction in speed in dry conditions.

I came to the first crossing. The creek flowed over the road with a certain, shall we, say, attack. I stopped the car, a station wagon with a solid six-cylinder engine that had so far served me well on trips to nearby national parks, up and down to Canberra through the New England tablelands and around the hills of Brisbane. After a quick scan of the crossing, I decided to go for it. With a bit of a surge in speed, I pushed the car into the muddy-looking creek. The engine seemed to respond well, giving me confidence even though the water gushed over the bonnet and splattered onto the windscreen. I felt the creek gently nudge the car sideways just before I reached the other side with no more strength than a couple of mates leaning on the car.

'That was probably the worst of it', I said to myself as I picked up a bit of speed. 'Interesting, but nothing to be really worried about'. The windscreen wipers kept up their clacking and squeaking in the heavy rain. 'I must fix those wipers – next time when the rain stops', I promised myself.

I noticed a few branches on the side of the road. It had been windier earlier in the day, but it had not been enough to shift the heavy rainclouds. There had been a few well-covered crossings already on the way down several hours earlier, the spray feathering out from the sides of the car at the crossings as I took the boys down from the mountain. Highlight of the sleepover with Dad, no doubt.

Having negotiated the first crossing gave me sense of achievement. It had definitely been a buzz. The second crossing incorporated a slight bend right in the bottom of the dip. Once again I stopped the car several metres away from the waters edge. I judged the crossing, looking at the length of the road covered by water and the speed of the flow. Seems all right. I drove into the water.

Same thing again: water surging onto the bonnet, splashing on the windscreen, spraying sideways. This is almost fun. Same sense of a gentle sideways nudge – no, wait: this one is stronger. More power. The engine growls in response. I feel the back lifting now I am drifting sideways I am off the road in the creek oh s**t at least I am not sinking can't be that deep the car will just settle down and I will walk out  I am still floating down the creek! This is not good! Calmdowncalmdowncalmdown.

Ok. Breathe. Breathing? Check. I am floating. In a creek. In a car. Do I want to keep floating? Negative. I want to get out. How do I get out? Easy. Open the door and step out. Door won't open. Is it unlocked? Yes. OK. Try again. Ah - water pressing on the door. Now what? I wonder if I can open the tailgate. Water leaking into the footwell. Please God please God |thunck| now climb between the front seats over the back seat over all the stuff in the cargo area that I had left there from my last sleep-in-the-car -stint: the mattress, a backbag with spare clothes, bits and pieces. At least the back end of the car is up, the engine in the front weighing the car down like the 'Titanic' in the early stages of sinking. I push the hatch open. A quick look – still floating downstream at a rate of knots. Not far from the shoreline. I roll into the water, feet first and immediately pushing off the car towards the shore. Not so deep that I have to swim.Half- scramble, half-swim. I can feel the bottom. A bit rocky, mostly heavy gravel. Overgrown bank. Thick scrub. Push through. Mud. Stalks. Leaves. Rain. Nothing that I hadn't met before on my previous excursions off the beaten track. I stand up in the shallow mud and try to identify the direction to high ground. Roughly that way. The jungly bank become less jungly. There is the road. I can see a house. House is good. I am soaked – hang on! Yes - that is a dry patch of T-shirt! However. I am mostly wet, it's rainy and evening approaching. I am tough but Bear Grills I'm not. Besides. No need to be Bear Grills. Besides, I don't know how far that car is going to float. Eventually someone will see it and call the emergency people and I am actually all right, I don't need to be rescued from the car. I hope I can find a landline phone.

Part II ...later. suffice to say that car most likely a write-off, but I am ok.