Adventures in the Passenger Seat

My driver’s licence is gathering dust – metaphorically speaking. Not because I’m not allowed to drive here – it’s valid, and Aussies drive on the same side of the road as Indians. However, a student budget doesn’t allow for a car, and so my driving adventures in Perth have all been in the passenger seat.

Over the past year, I’ve had quite a few generous chauffeurs and a variety of wheels. There’s Bill and Judy, the couple who often give me a lift from church. A Scottish teddy bear perches on the dashboard. Not quite Top Gear – Jeremy Clarkson wouldn’t be impressed by slow and steady Bill or the green ford that’s obviously been around a while. I still feel like a princess though. A sedate one. 

Most of my road trips though, have been with Alana. Her trusty Toyota has safely whisked me off to Hillary’s Boat Harbour, numerous malls, and once to King’s Park. Our biggest adventure, however, was a trip to Margaret River. “Look out for kangaroos,” she said, as she successfully navigated her way past Friday night traffic at Mandurah. I nodded dutifully (inside I’m Nicole Kidman in Australia, screaming after a kangaroo is shot). I’m sure my eyelids were peeled right to the back of my head that night.

The speed limit on the highway is a 110km/h. I cringe every time we hit a fog bank. What kind of country is this where you can look up and see stars, while fog drifts across your windscreen? None of the lurching lorries and bumbling bullock carts that you cross on Indian highways though. This is better than the Mumbai-Pune expressway – or is it worse? Alana is a law-abiding driver, but I’ve never done over 60 km/h on Marine Drive…how fast does an F1 car go? A nifty gadget on her dash beeps every time she crosses a 105…which is about every five minutes. The kangaroos steer clear of the highway (and Alana).

WA licence plates

Should I include my neighbour from Darwin? His wheels are what I mentally term ‘jeep’ – I still don’t know the difference between a SUV and a CRV. Not a jeep, he corrects me, but a Suzuki. Darwin is a skilled driver. I stop sneaking glances at the speedometer. The real adventure is inside the vehicle. A squishy ball sits on the dashboard – is it a globe? I pick up an extraordinary brown leather object.

“That’s a crocodile’s foot,” says Darwin. His friend has a crocodile farm.

Inside, I’m screaming and having a girly fit. Outside, I’m the perfect lady – my driver would probably not appreciate my throwing the said reptilian appendage into the back seat. I’m not sure my Namibian friend who’s sitting in the back would enjoy it either. I carefully put the foot back on the dash.

 There’s a spade and rope under the seat. I wonder if a mob killer would have similar items, but keep the thought to myself. Never offend the driver. No doubt the steel trunk in the back has more useful items. My respect for Darwin’s practical mind wars with puzzlement. Why would anyone keep a crocodile farm?

My most eventful ride is probably with my friend Robyn. “Keep your raincoat on,” she warns me as belt myself in. Her back seat is a treasure trove that I haven’t time to explore. She has a manual gear shift – this is the kind of car I’m used to. Robyn puts the car into reverse and treats me to an impromptu shower. I’m shrieking…as dignifiedly as possible…because her sunroof is obviously a rainwater catchment area. We’re both slightly damp by the time we reach our destination. I tell Robyn that I’ve never been in a raining car before.

“I suppose this is going into your blog,” she says.

Well, I think, why not?

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