I believe we live in an age of unnecessary guidance. Suddenly we’re not trusted in running our own lives, but the road we’re on will lead us to micromanaged ruin.
I was seventeen going eighteen, driving back to Sydney for the weekend from my first job as an announcer at a country radio station, when I was pulled over by a policeman in a ute.
It was all a misunderstanding really.
I didn’t know he was a policeman because, from my then limited experience, policemen didn’t usually act in an official capacity while driving their personal pickup trucks.
In fact, I didn’t realise he was a policeman even though he was following close behind and indicating for me to pull over, until he put his policeman hat on.
Apparently, he thought I had been exceeding the speed limit although it would have been my contention the only way to get the Volkswagen Bug I had at the time moving faster than 110 kph would be to drop it off a cliff.
He didn’t book me by the way, but did lecture me on the error of my ways.
I think the unwritten rule of the era was you got a lecture or a ticket, but not both.
During the course of our conversation, he asked me what I did for a living.
When I told him I was a radio announcer he said: “Oh, so you’re one of those people who get on the air and tell people to drive safely?” (Implied: and then you don’t practice what you preach?).
I said, “No. I don’t do that.”
And I never have.
I’m not saying there’s no place for traffic information.
If a white van has a flat tyre in a traffic lane on Sydney’s ridiculously inadequate roads and it means everyone’s going to be late home for dinner again, I think it’s useful for us all to know that.
But when some announcer in search of an ad lib can only come up with “Drive safely” or “Take it easy on the roads”, you know it’s not really because he cares but because he can’t think of anything else.
At least “Toime for another forty minutes of non-stop” means a promise that most of the hour will be ad free.
“No more calls, the proize has been won” speaks for itself and may persuade the prize pigs to stop ringing.
But when I’m told “Droive safely now” I don’t think “Oh, I’m glad you reminded me to do that.”
It’s not as if up to that point I was planning to be like Mick Jagger when he sings about the girl with the far away eyes.
If you recall, after hearing on the gospel radio station that he’d “always have the Lord by [his] side”, Mick “ran 20 red lights in His honour. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord.”
I was discussing this with a friend. His theory is that it’s generational. The snowflakes who need trigger warnings and safe spaces and counsellors on call after all that helicopter parenting probably need constant guidance just to get through the day. Soon we’ll have public service announcements to breathe in and out.
BTW, do they still play that song on the radio?
It would have to come with a trigger warning for the obvious reason that someone, somewhere would be offended by the religious reference.
Also, although Mick made it through the 20 red lights safely, this could not be guaranteed for all; the song would have to come with a caveat like the ones in the vitamin supplement commercials: “Results may vary”.
But it’s not enough that radio announcers who feel they should say something while having nothing to say fall back on this meaningless finger wagging, now cars give you the same sort of instruction when you start them up.
I was driving a dear little Corolla for a while and whenever I turned the key a screen would light up on the dashboard instructing me to observe the road regulations and – strange irony here – telling me not to look at the screen while driving.
What if I forgot to observe the road regulations and needed reminding?
And why tell me not to look at the screen after demanding my attention and obedience in the first place?
It’s not like we don’t have enough illuminated signs with low-to-no-impact banalities like “The road is there to share” or “Drive safely to arrive”.
Once again, if the signs tell me that some kind of road incident means I should take an alternative route (if there is one) or better yet, just stay home, I can see some point to using electricity at the taxpayer’s expense.
Otherwise, why not turn the things off and save the juice for when something is actually worth saying?
I was discussing this with a friend who is also a radio announcer and of some similar vintage.
His theory is that it’s a generational thing.
The snowflakes who need trigger warnings and safe spaces and counsellors on call after all that helicopter parenting probably need constant guidance just to get through the day.
Pretty soon we’ll have road signs and public service announcements telling us to breathe in and then out.
In the meantime, could we have the car for anarchists?
Or at least individuals who are willing to take responsibility for their own actions?
The little screen could light with a message that says “How you drive is up to you – after all, I’m only a car and not really qualified to give advice to a supposedly higher intelligence.”
In the other example given, just substitute “car” with “radio announcer” and I think we’ll have it covered.