Mondays Column – Aroundabout Here

Hi all, a bit late with this weeks’ post; have just returned from ‘down south’ and am now unpacked, cleaned and refreshed.  Enjoy! 

In my travels I got chatting to a bloke who revealed that he had recently visited our fair city, and his eyes misted over as he described his offshore fishing trip, the friendly locals, and the great weather.  Even an unplanned side trip to Awoonga Dam, where the big barramundi had avoided his line like the plague, was described in glowing terms.  We were getting along quite well until he said, “I reckon Gladstone has too many roundabouts.”

After coughing into my beer I replied, “You’re joking aren’t you?”  Apparently he wasn’t.  “Don’t they wreck your tyres?” he asked, “And, honestly, are they really that efficient at dealing with traffic?”  In my mind, a reel of footage replayed the long lines of stalled traffic at the Kin Kora roundabout, but then I recalled driving through Brisbane, and the never ending string of red lights which stretched to the horizon, and it dawned on me that I was talking with an idiot.   

I like roundabouts, and would be delighted to see more of them scattered around town, because the few traffic lights we have in Gladstone are all programmed to go red when they see me approaching.  In fact, I’ve become so used to stopping at the lights on Phillip Street that I once came to a halt at a green light one afternoon; which really upset the truckie following me. 

And we’ve all heard the legend; where the mate of a mate, had a mate who had heard of a bloke who had managed to drive the length of Hanson Road, all the way through to the duck ponds, and got every green light.  Well, recently I was travelling in a car driven by my brother-in-law when I personally saw it happen.  Honest to God.  I was so astonished at the time that I was struck speechless for at least three or four minutes, which in itself was an event so rare that it is still talked about in tones of amazement by family and friends.  

Look, I’ll admit that roundabouts aren’t perfect, but surely their good points must outweigh the bad?  Especially when compared to traffic lights.  If I have to wait at an intersection, then I’d prefer to see trees, shrubs, and neat little garden beds than unsightly metal poles, wires and glaring red lights.  I’ve never sat, seething with frustration, at an empty roundabout late at night, waiting for the lights to change, and I’ve never been delayed at a roundabout because of a blackout or electrical malfunction. 

Plus there are other benefits that the architects of our roundabouts didn’t count on.  Early in the morning they are brilliant for waking up drowsy shift workers when their cars slip sideways through the spray of sprinklers.  ‘Boy Racers’ on motorcycles are able to practice their cornering skills, leaning over so far that their foot pegs trail sparks behind them; why we don’t have a local in the World Motorcycle Grand Prix is beyond me, surely they can’t all be lying in hospital beds? 

But best of all, roundabouts are a fantastic source of free hardware.  Over the years, along with the copious screws, nails, rivets and staples that I’ve found in my pushbike tyres, I’ve also picked up several unopened tubes of silicon, tins of paint, buckets of plaster, and a brand new lump hammer. 

However, amongst all the loot I’ve collected so far, I’m yet to find the Holy Grail of Roundabouts; a box containing an unmarked power tool, with assorted attachments, which has slid off the back of some careless builders’ truck. 

Sure, the chances of me finding one, and getting to it first, are rarer than a run of green lights along Hanson Road, but just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it can’t, because I did once meet a bloke, who knew a bloke, who had heard of a bloke…

Greg Bray (Printed in the Gladstone Observer 30/11/09)

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