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Bonzer Words!: Changing Horses

Alan Wheatley remembers the day when his pleasure in driving a car evaporated.

Alan is the editor of Bonzer! magazine. For more enjoyable reading visit www.bonzer.org.au

Looking back now, I think it must have been the accident that changed the habit of my adult years.
One evening in late January, my wife Orietta and I were preparing to leave home to celebrate our two birthdays (which are close enough in the same month to persuade the children that one evening out at a restaurant should satisfy both of us).

We'd decided to take my car, which is a hatch, and Orietta had opened the door to load some wooden garden planter boxes for my eldest daughter. I was in the driver's seat and for once didn't check the hatch before moving the car out of the garage.

There was an almighty crash as the hatch hit the edge of the horizontal garage door. Suddenly there were shards of toughened glass everywhere, a slightly scratched hatch and a very bent garage door. We drove to the restaurant, much shaken, in Orietta's car.

Fortunately, insurance picked up the tab to fix the glass screen and both doors. And although I continued to drive, somehow my heart wasn't in it. I'd bought the car as a demonstration model six years ago and had driven it since then almost without incident and mostly with pleasure. It was a Peugeot 306 a real driver's car. But the pleasure had somehow evaporated. It was now just a vehicle to get me from point A to point B.

Some weeks later I noticed an ad for electric scooters. In former times I would have passed over such an item with barely enough interest to register what it was. But something drew me back. As I read through the ad I reflected on what a financial bottomless pit my car had become, with constantly rising fuel, service and insurance costs, not to mention the annual registration fee and depreciation. I knew that most of the time it sat in the garage. I only used it to go shopping and on very occasional trips either to visit the doctor, or go to the city to see my dentist. Weekends we mostly used Orietta's car. Frankly, mine wasn't viable.

I began to visualise myself riding a four-wheel scooter, zipping around like a kid. I would use it to go shopping, to see my doctor, to get to the bank. And, as I'd discovered was possible, take it on the train to the city. No more parking problems. No more hobbling from parking spots to my destination, no more hefty insurance premiums, no more petrol price hikes, virtually no maintenance, just overnight re-charging of the batteries. And what a relief it would be to avoid the endless road works, traffic jams and crazy drivers. But and it was here that I hesitated there inevitably had to be a downside.

The only disadvantage I could think of was the open-air nature of riding on a scooter. I would need to choose my outings carefully. Fortunately, Melbourne has a relatively benign climate. Its winters are mild, with no snow. The summer heat can be oppressive at times, but since I'm an early bird and like to get to the shops as soon as possible after they open, I reckoned I could mostly beat the heat. I would need to listen to the weather forecasts carefully and plan my trips to avoid rain. Beyond that, it was looking like a really good proposition.

* *

Next Saturday . . . how Alan disposed of his car and bought a scooter . . . and what happened next.

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