Posted On 23 Feb 2024
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This entry is part 20 of 25 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#23



It’s been said that the other Great Apes out there, a category which includes gorillas, chimpanzees and orang-utans, are loaded with almost 95% of the Naked Ape’s human DNA, which is of some concern to us all; or at least, it should be. It’s also been stated that these furry critters are smarter than their naked cousins (that’s us) in many ways, because they don’t start wars and can subsist on just about anything they may stumble across which is bright green, sometimes yellow, or sometimes bright red. They don’t need to fire up the family car, or their bike, to zip off to the local Supermarket and spend good money to collect their own bright green, yellow, red, or multi-coloured, often-packaged produce.

As far as is known, there is no written or oral examination of the Great Apes in existence which has been put in place to elicit their intellectual capacity in relation to ours – whether that matters to them or not, which I doubt – or to check their qualifications to be in control of any form of motor vehicle. This is without doubt a Very Good Thing Indeed, for the roads of this nation seem to be crammed with humans who – using the simple yardstick of driving (in)competence – apparently exhibit an IQ somewhat approaching that of the average( Celsius) room temperature of a balmy, autumnal evening; which I believe to be about 24 -26 or so. Our furry Fellow Apes are surely somewhat brighter than that – at least one would hope so!

Having said all that, I am just now reminded of a troupe of four or five chimpanzees who regularly appeared at Sydney’s Tivoli Theatre back in the early fifties. The unintentionally-funny little critters were to be seen riding their under-powered, tiny fold-up Corgi machines ( I won’t call those things motorcycles!) about the Theatre’s stage without running into each other – or at least only now and again, and then often with hilarious results. The shocking little 50cc one-geared Corgi was a half- baked civilian version of the Welbike, a machine which was dropped by parachute in some numbers to be used as very basic transport by paratroopers, who flung the frightful little things into nearby creeks or old barns in Europe whenever the unsprung, and equally under-braked, vehicles ran out of the fuel in their pre- filled tanks several kilometres after they were push-started. Oh, yes, naturally they employed no kick-starter and no clutch either!

Whenever they were in town, the performing chimpanzees’ troupe’s manager/trainer would have the little bikes serviced by the Triumph/Norton importers, Hazell and Moore, for whom I was working at the time. The company’s store was in Campbell Street, almost directly opposite the Tivoli Theatre’s stage door, so it enjoyed the priceless geographic advantage of being just a casual stroll away.

On one noteworthy occasion the manager, an odd, twitchy little man who spoke with an entirely unintelligible European accent, brought with him one of the larger chimps, who suddenly detached himself from his master’s grasp and leapt, gibbering and screaming with ill-concealed delight, along and upon a large series of full sized motorcycles which lined the large workshop, the size and shape of which he had probably never seen before. It seemed the little bloke(s) – both the chimp and his manager – couldn’t be easily calmed, whereupon a large Police sergeant, who was having his near new 1949 Triumph Tiger 100 pursuit motorcycle serviced, offered to quieten the little ‘monkey’ (as he so erroneously called the ape) by shooting the poor thing with his service revolver!

Suddenly the chimp settled himself down, which I thought – as a young kid at the time – might have been at the sight of the Policeman subtly unclipping the strap on his weapon’s holster.

Then again, it may simply have been the end of the novelty of jumping up and down on a large number of what would be by now several serried rows of Classic motorcycles. Then again, his master’s screamed commands might have done the job: unhappily we will never know, for the chimp then shuffled shame-faced back to his handler and they quietly left the workshop, to the enormous relief of all of us; if not to the “THE MOST ENHANCING FEATURE OF THESE IMMEDIATE POST-WAR SCOOTERS WAS THAT THEY WOULDN’T GO, WOULDN’T STOP, AND THEY BOTH HANDLED LIKE COUNTRY FARM GATES WITH LOOSE, WORN-OUT HINGES” clearly disappointed, large Police officer, whose trigger finger appeared (at least me) to be twitching visibly!

Which brings me, after that long winded pre-amble, to the three incidents which occurred within the space of about two hours a few weeks ago, in the same day, and which clearly indicated the lack of native intelligence which the three disparate car drivers displayed to all of us who were on the spot as ‘innocent bystanders’ whether we wanted to be there or not. No ape (licenced or not) would ever have been guilty of the terminally idiotic driving habits which were shown by the inept trio.

The great librettist, William Schwenk Gilbert probably summed their performances up perfectly when, in his Opera ‘Princess Ida’, he had one of his singers declare that “Darwinian Man, though well behaved, at best is only a monkey shaved”

The first, potentially disastrous incident occurred on Sydney’s Seven Hills Road, where the elderly, flat capped and scarfed driver of a near new BMW sports convertible was driving along the inside lane of the four-lane road. He suddenly turned his left blinker on, clearly indicating that he was to turn into a driveway which he was approaching. I signalled to move into the ‘fast’ lane to overtake him, whereupon he swung the steering wheel hard to the right to ease his turn, the left fl asher still on, the man clearly holding the switch in position to stop the self-cancelling device from cutting out. I am sure no well-trained,self-respecting chimpanzee would ever have attempted such a ridiculous manoeuvre, for fear of being kicked out of the show!

I was half into the near-vacant lane and had to brake to avoid the car, when a motorcyclist coming up astern swept past, crossed the ‘dotted’ centre-line for an instant and swept back again, continuing on his way, the while closely avoiding an un-laded semi-trailer which was coming the other way. The motorcycle rider was obviously very experienced, which was evident by the fact that he didn’t look back, shrug his shoulders or angrily blew the bike’s horn. I imagine he simply accepted the scenario as just another one of his daily ‘close shaves.’ But the trailer driver let loose with a deafening blast from the two, meter-long air horns which adorned the top of his cabin. He was rewarded for this indiscretion by receiving an arrogant road rage signal from the ageing imbecile in the BMW.

I wanted to go back and have a quiet chat with the errant BMW driver, but my wife Lyn forbade me from doing so, pointing out that the trailer driver had pulled up anyway, apparently to have an enlightening conversation with the man himself, for he was even now trotting across the road to give the BMW driver the benefit of some much needed advice.

The second incident occurred in the parking lot of a nearby shopping centre, and only about a half-hour later. I had just parked the family Yaris, and alongside us was another narrow parking spot, which was clearly being approached by a car a level below us.

The parking spot had also been spotted by the driver of a large Mercedes, who suddenly spurted violently along the parking lane, fl ashed his left blinker to indicate that he claimed the parking spot as his, then – just as the BMW driver had done so recently – he swung his steering wheel violently on full lock to the right (his hand for a change wrapped round the normally self cancelling blinker) then proceeded to slowly back into the confined space. It took him all of three attempts to do so, his mouth agape, his head swivelling about from window to rear mirror, just like one of those gaping clowns in the local country showground, down whose open mouths one rolls a series of ping-pong balls, hoping to score some game-winning points: and, hopefully, to then be issued with a ten-cent, curly haired celluloid Kewpie doll affixed by a twinkling ribbon to a short, thin walking cane with a curved handle.

That clown scored no points at all from the other car driver, who shook his head sadly and waited patiently for the bloke who had pinched his parking spot to finish buggerising about. It has always been beyond my limited grasp of consciousness to understand why any driver would back into a confined space when it would be easier to slot into a small parking space head-on and in one hit, which then leaves a great deal more room to back out into the much larger spaces outside the parking area.

Perhaps that’s just the way I am, which would be no surprise, because a lot of other people seem to park arse about like that.

If I had been a Magistrate and those two jackasses had been booked for the serious crime of Advanced Ridiculousness and arraigned to appear before me, I would have sentenced them both to a year’s riding of a 1947 Type-A Lambretta scooter – if anyone could find one, or a 1950 Douglas Vespa if they couldn’t. The former was an unsprung little device with seven-inch (7”) wheels, ultra-fl exible handlebars and jam-tin sized brakes, the latter featured short-travel, un damped suspension, and an engine hanging out to the right-hand side some ten inches or more from the machine’s centre line. The most enhancing feature of these immediate post-war scooters was that they wouldn’t go, wouldn’t stop, and they both handled like country farm gates with loose, worn-out hinges. Please don’t ask me about their worst features!

After about two or three weeks of riding either of those grim two-wheeled devices about, these two buffoons would have learned more about road sense than they had learned in their entire lives while being ferreted about on four wheels, the while clearly avoiding accidents by the skill(s) of other road users.

And the third incident? I thought you’d never ask! It was the worst of the lot, and it occurred just outside yet another narrow parking spot into which I had recently shoehorned the little Yaris. Lyn had at last made her purchases and we climbed into the car, fired it up and edged our way out of the spot, to turn broadside on before slotting into gear to drive happily away.

Suddenly we felt a fearful crunch, which turned out to be a large Prado SUV, whose inept owner had heartily backed the vehicle into us from a parking spot opposite where I had stopped. Lyn (very) forcefully told me to stay put (which is just as well!) and leapt out of the passenger’s seat to confront the woman who had so efficiently backed into us, earnestly writing off our rear bumper, dinging the boot lid and plucking out the entire left-hand tail-light assembly. She also crunched over the shards of the light’s plastic lenses as an encore, and shoved us half a meter sideways as well!

“I suppose she didn’t see us?” I enquired pithily, and with no little sarcasm, to the closed window. I wound the window down as Lyn came back to the car to proffer the driver’s excuse/ explanation. “She says she didn’t see us,” she exclaimed. Why was I not surprised?

The Prado has two external rear vision mirrors fitted as standard ware, each of them about the size of tennis racquet heads, and one interior one the size of a business-letter envelope, so I venture to say that the dumbest nursing orang utan, perhaps even while battling with a pair of squalling babes, could easily have seen us, if the orange ape had deigned to glance for a second into either (or better still all three!) of those huge mirrors. To make the absurd even more so, I noted a small hole just above the Prado’s rear number plate, which was capped by a small, clear dome: evidence, no doubt, of a reversing camera which should have been utilised along with the mirrors – allied to that essential look over a right shoulder – to be sure no-one lurked within any of the large vehicle’s rear blind-spots.

Clearly the driver had not looked into any of the safety features with which the over-sized vehicle was so cleverly endowed. Just as well we weren’t seated upon a two-wheeled vehicle, I suggested to her through tightly clenched teeth, otherwise we would assuredly have had a series of deeply-studded tyre marks etched forever all over what was left of us.

Served her right, I say, that she had to pay a couple of thousand dollars to have our car effectively repaired; it would have been very much better for her than lurching about for twelve months being battered from pillar to post while fearfully riding a 70-year old, low-powered, ill handling two-wheeler I wish I had thought to mention that to her!

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