Inside the Mitsubishi Triton
What is one word to describe the Aussie temperament you ask? Really? Just one? Well, if I had to pick just one I would say “affable”. They just don’t get their panties in a twist—“no worries” or “she’ll be right” are favorite phrases. Even though I live in the “Washington DC” of Australia which translates to an overabundance of type A personalities concentrated in one place and an over educated populace, the ease with which they handle calamitous events bears remarking upon, hence this blog post.
Recently a friend and I went on “walkabout” (not really a walkabout but I just like using the term) from Canberra to Adelaide (by way of the Barossa Valley) to Kangaroo Island, along the Great Ocean Road and then back to Canberra. It was a spectacular journey but not without its challenges. We had a flat tire on our second day out. This was not just any flat tire, this was shredded strips of rubber that wrapped itself around the axle. Simply amazing we did not roll the motor home. Everyone we dealt with was friendly, sympathetic, and helpful. “No worries, we’ll get you back on the road.” Of course, they were not middle aged women driving in a foreign land, on the wrong side of the road and vehicle, and in a motor home that would easily sleep a family of 6. A bit over kill for two women but there you have it.
Three quarters of the world’s population drive on the right side of the road, on the left side of the car, give or take a billion. What happened to the other quarter? Were they not listening? Did they not get the memo? (The reason for this is quite elaborate and fodder for another blog so I will drop it for now.) Well, duh, of course the Aussie’s drive on the left side of the road and on the right side of the car. They are still part of the British Commonwealth—a rather tenuous alliance but one with monumental fallout. But does this automotive backwardness have implications for the Aussie way of life? This is a ponderous question that I confess I am not qualified to answer—that does not, however keep me from asking and pontificating upon an answer.
My experiences with the Australian denizens has been nothing but friendly, cordial, and helpful (with the exception of our next door neighbor but that is more fodder for yet another story). When driving, they are quite content to allow people to merge into their lanes and easily give way to people as the roads narrow frequently to one lane. There is no stepping on the gas to prohibit the neighboring vehicle from merging, no tailgating to speak of, and people actually check on you after you have been run off the road (This happened to me a couple of months ago. I drove right up into the median heading for the opposing traffic. We avoided a collision and a bicycle rider came by to check on me.) I really don’t know why they put horns in Aussie cars because they so rarely use them. Why all this ease on the highway? Could it be BECAUSE of the reverse driving conditions (right side of the car, left side of the road)? Here me out and then decide.
Most of the world is right handed. When driving in the US and most of the rest of the world, that translates to a driver occupying the seat on the left side of the car. Thus positioned, the important machinations of the vehicle are accomplished with the right hand—shifting gears (if necessary), rear view mirror, AC/heat knobs, and, of course, the radio (unless of course this is on the steering wheel). When backing up, you turn to the right to look out the back and all seems right with the world view (this is probably the most difficult aspect of driving in Australia). All this is to say, the right side is dominant throughout most of the world and driving from the left side of the car accommodates this.
BUT, in Australia, where the majority is also right handed, the left brain of the driver gets the workout—the radio, the AC, the gear shift, the GPS, everything requires the left hand to operate. (Thankfully the pedals are the same!) Does this affect the brain of the driver, his personality, his temperament? Is the Aussie brain getting a better work out which leads to a more even handed and affable driver? Yes? No? Well it was just a thought. You might say if that were the case, how do you explain Britain? Of all the adjectives, affable is not what comes to mind when contemplating the temperament of a Pom. Exercising the left side of the brain while enduring endless cloudy and rainy days will make anyone cranky. With that in mind, maybe it’s the weather…yes, that’s right, fodder for another blog.
The bottom line—I guess there isn’t one, just the ramblings of a middle aged Yank thinking outside the box.