Before going any further, I must start this article by thanking Ruth and Brian, the incredibly pleasant and kindly couple who came and purchased my recently retired BMW on Tuesday night. Despite – for reasons known only to itself – it suddenly refusing to go without the aid of a ‘Hillcrest Special’ gravity assisted bump start they still went through with the purchase and were polite, kind and incredibly well humoured throughout.
This was in sharp contrast to my own mood last Thursday when the current Mrs Grimley’s car became the second victim of cooling issues in the space of a week. Whilst queuing for the Northcote Road on-ramp, the radiator decided that it fancied a career change and promptly became a colander. Lots of steam and an incredibly tentative limp to a tame mechanic later and I was faced with a predicament I haven’t known since my 17th birthday. Being totally car-less.
This sorry situation meant surrendering my personal ability to select direction of travel and entrusting my safe passage to the various meandering loser cruisers that criss-cross Super City.
Not that this overly annoyed me; unlike a lot of motoring hacks I hold public transport in pretty high regard. My own personal theory is that if a journey requires background music to make it tolerable, you’re not getting sufficient enjoyment from driving and it is therefore best left to someone else.
I also don’t hold a lot of truck with the argument that public transport is inconvenient. Yes, there may be a bit of walking involved, but there aren’t many of us who couldn’t do with stretching their legs a bit more frequently and should it be raining then you simply a) use an umbrella and b) harden up.
The trips themselves are not bad either –Aucklandis a pretty picturesque city and certain bits of it are nothing short of spectacular. The train ride across Oraki Basinand the ferries to North Shore must rank as some of the nicest commutes anywhere.
But unfortunately I discovered there is one overwhelming factor that will hold not only our own, but all municipal transit systems back until the end of time.
When I say ‘you’, I really mean the great unwashed masses that put the ‘public’ in ‘public transport’. I’ve had plenty of rude things to say about a whole raft of inadequate cars over the years, but one thing I can say in the defence of even my least favourite vehicle – the Jaguar X-Type, in case you were interested – is that it would never come to an enforced halt in the centre of Glen Innes to allow a man who smells of composting hoki to get in and sit next to me.
No matter how dynamically abysmal a car has been I have, to date, never had to make a journey in one in an enforced standing position, six inches away from the armpit of a portly and perspiring employee of Air New Zealand. And car stereos are never interrupted by the aural miasma emanating from seventeen dropkicks with their I-pods turned up to a setting that would make Lemmy cringe.
The simple fact is that when entrusting your journey to mass transit there is simply too high a risk of being forced into close proximity with someone whose hygienic, intellectual or social habits – possibly all three – are several leagues lower than your own. And the fact this has been picked up by a man who thinks turning underpants inside out is an acceptable laundering technique shows the scale of the problem.
With a better class of public, things would be entirely different. If I could step on board a bus and be guaranteed erudite banter with Stephen Fry throughout my journey then I wouldn’t care if it dropped me at the wrong end of Fox Glacier. And if I could get a seat next to Stana Katic, I’d simply stay until I died of dehydration. Which probably wouldn’t take very long.
But even if you aren’t an intellectual colossus or a heavenly vision of beauty, you could still make a significant contribution to the social development of public transport. Every day millions of people post interesting comments, share fascinating insights and display wonderful photos on the myriad of social networking sites that litter the interweb. There’s every chance you are one of them, so why not get out from behind the monitor and into the real world? And there is absolutely nowhere better to start than on public transport – herds of people continually hopping on and off presents a genuine chance to make a cornucopia of acquaintances and use all that is good and interesting about your own lot to brighten the day of others.
So why not get out there, and get interacting with your fellow commuters? I’m convinced that if we all make an effort to socially better ourselves, public transport could become something that everyone would really ‘Like’.
Just don’t forget the deodorant.