An expedition through city traffic
The winter was drawing in and the days becoming shorter. It was now or never. I gathered the men round and broke the news they had been dreading: tomorrow we would attempt the Montreal St traverse.
After a fitful night's sleep we struck out from our Moorhouse Ave base camp before the sun's first rays caressed the tip of the Calendar Girls building. Our trusty Toyota Yaris was fuelled and watered and started eagerly, but I could tell that even it sensed the enormity of the task ahead.
I took the first driving shift, with Carruthers ready to take the wheel if fatigue overcame me. Jobling, our navigator, perched in the back with our provisions: jumbo sausage rolls, a tray of extra-shot flat whites and a selection of empty plastic bottles, our insurance should the call of nature prove irresistible.
The first few dozen metres passed curiously easily. Then, abruptly, the traffic slowed as the lanes around us dwindled to a single, narrow, constricted passage, trapping us as if in some giant beast's digestive system. There was nothing to do but watch the fuel gauge creep ever downwards, the airconditioning serving only to draw in the fug that swirled around the car, a heady mix of combusted hydrocarbons and despair.
South of Cashel St we came to a complete standstill for what seemed like an eternity. In the distance I spied a brace of approaching parking wardens. Thinking quickly, I crawled out my driver's window and fastened an old parking ticket under the windscreen wipers. The ruse worked and our would-be tormentors moved on to easier pickings.
Throughout that long morning we inched forward, all around us the sounds of appointments breaking and grown adults weeping into their steering wheels. And the cones, always there were the cones, never-changing sentinels silently mocking our futile attempts at progress.
As we edged across Worcester Blvd I looked round to discover Jobling curled up in a ball whimpering "The horror! The horror!" There was no choice but to end his misery. I took out my service revolver and put two bullets into the car stereo. Even the most hardened of us can only listen to Jay-Jay, Mike and Dom's Morning Madness for so long.
At Cranmer Square a green vista opened up before us, mirage- like, unobstructed by digger or chain-link fence. It was too much for Carruthers who, flinging open his door, sprang out. "Dammit man - stay in the car!" I remonstrated, but to no avail. We later learned he made it all the way to Hagley Park where, half-naked and babbling, he was mistaken for an overstayer from the Buskers Festival.
As for Jobling and me, the last few blocks were a nightmarish slow-motion blur. Somehow we fetched up in the little frontier town of North Victoria St. A kindly legal firm took us in and revived us with latte, in return asking for nothing save our solemn promise to be more careful and $375+GST.
Then and there I resolved that my days of seeking out danger and deprivation and all the wild extremes that Man and Nature could throw at me were at an end. After too long away it was time to retire to the quiet, uneventful life in my bungalow in Flockton St.