Saturday, August 4, 2012

Commuter Chaos/A Father's Warning

On Thursday morning, due to a freakish combination of an impaired driver, a good Samaritan tanker driver and a vegetable truck driver named "Boss Hogg" (you can read all about it on the Dominion Post site, out-of-towners) 23,000 commuters could not make the morning journey into Wellington from the Hutt Valley. The road south was closed and train services suspended.

Well the count for that day of commuter chaos actually totalled 23,001. It's a rare occasion my car leaves the garage, but on this very same morning I needed to get home by five o'clock for my night on the town (see yesterday's post) so was going to drive to school. At the time I would normally be striding off down the street, I was still drinking tea, lolling around in my dressing gown and musing on how pleasant mornings will be once the Lotto comes in. Some time later, I was marveling at the novelty of leaving in actual daylight as I opened the garage and started the car. Well, tried to start the car. Nothing. Just a sick click - not even enough puff from the battery to make an attempt at a start. Nothing for it but to run. And as I ran a conversation from long ago came clearly back to me. As a child I asked my father why we always had clapped out, embarrassing old bangers of cars while others had cool cars like the Humber 80. 

The mighty Humber 80
Although we had quite clear financial constraints on our motoring choices, my father explained to me that we were the lucky ones - the newer cars might look flasher but they lacked a vital component for on-going motoring success. These later models did not have a crank shaft and crank handle. My father predicted their owners would rue the day they decided to forego the cranking option, which our old Peugeot (named Lizette) needed on a regular basis.

In later years my father was too ill to crank a car, so a Hillman Imp replaced old Lizette. We would hold our breath as the motor turned over, knowing our fates were now in the hands of a mere battery and not dear old Dad.


  1. Yes. My dad was an engineer. We grew up in the luxury of having our vehicles maintained and serviced.
    But these days I marvel at the little maintenance cars need. I've never changed spark plugs, batteries never need topping up, and those piston rings moving up and down .... the modern car is a thing to admire!

  2. I had to crank my first car (1948 Austin 8) every time because the weak old 6V battery couldn't turn over the powerful 850cc motor.
    My next car, the Triumph Herald had the new 12V battery (and a 947cc engine) but often needed a crank. Fortunately there was a crank mechanism and a handle so in emergencies was a life saver. My third car, the Hillman Minx ( a far superior version of the Humber 80) actually had a crank access on the front of the engine but some modern thinking designers hadn't accommodated access as the bumper was in the way. They also neglectedtot provide a crank handle.
    The slippery slope of what was to be.
    I do agree with Second that the modern car is a marvel compared to what we knew earlier but somethings have been lost...

    Nowadays when one of the modern marvels breaks down it invariably gets left on the side of the road to become someone else's problem.

    I would have liked your Dad.

    1. Thanks, Big C. Children now would never know about cranking, running boards and chokes. Much like I never understood the talk about 'double de-clutching' . The times they have changed. Modern cars are so reliable that it's a shock when they let you down.