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25 June 2003

Tinku Does Appin

According to Whereis, this is the distance and driving time for a one-way drive from Hornsby to Appin.

Total travel distance: 80.86 km, Estimated travel time: 1 Hr 39 Mins

Yesterday morning Howie invited me to have lunch with him and Tinku at the food court. It was 1pm. I'd had a hard morning at work, having been at my desk since before midday. Jane and I had gone out for some coffee and foccacia, and then we'd gone to visit grandma. Grandma was in such a good mood that we agreed to sew back on some of her gowns buttons. According to her it had been about 18 months since they'd fallen off, leaving her exposed to all the world for all that time, so we figured it was probably a fair enough request. I searched around for some thread strong enough to satisfy her - she demands the very best thread.

So you think you've had an adventure
Grandma also told us about her aging underpants. How she'd had several pairs of underpants for over 25 years. Their longevity can no doubt be ascribed to the use of strong thread. She asked us to re-sew the elastic in her underpants, but neither Jane nor I felt we were up to challenge. Perhaps Grandma won't live for another 25 years. But if she did, and she outlived the elastics we'd sown, we'd never be welcome in her unit again. We knew the risks involved, so took the easy way out and changed the subject to the difficulties of pooing. In general.

I thought I'd had an adventurous morning, running around a retirement village looking for thread and having the gall to sow buttons on the gown of a woman with 25-year-old underpants. But it turned out that my morning had been nothing in comparison to Tinku's glorious adventure.

Tinku had got up that morning, earlier than I think he'd ever got up in his life, to take Jo to Liverpool. This would be a selfless act for any normal human being, but for someone like Tinku - who can never wash his sheets because his waking hours and Australia's clothes-drying hours never seem to match up - this is a sacrifice worthy of note. Anyone who might have in any way doubted his absolute passion and commitment to Jo has been silenced. He'd got up at 7:15AM. Yes, you heard me right. That's before midday.

First Steps
So the dear boy sets out at 7:15 to take Jo to Liverpool. By all accounts they get there without incident. Jo is dropped off in time for work. She gives him some pointers on how to get home, since he hasn't been in Sydney very long. She tells him to take the Hume Hwy to get back to Hornsby. Now I've lived in Hornsby my entire life, and I don't know where Ryde is, let alone the Hume Hwy. Fortunately Ryde is well sign-posted so if I ever, for some reason, had to go there I'd probably make it. But the Hume Hwy is a whole other kettle. For instance, there's no Humesville, though intuition would suggest that there was. No Hume Station. No Hume Rd. Only a highway and some dead Australia explorer. I think Tinku actually making it to the Hume Hwy at all - which he did - is amazing. I've heard the path he took was actually quite efficient.

He hit the Hume Hwy, wherever it is, and "took it". Meaning he headed south. NB. For not Sydney people, Hornsby is north of pretty much everything, and south of nothing much except Mt Colah Pizza Hut. So heading south to get north, when you are already very far south, is not something most experienced Sydney drivers would do. I myself would be an obvious exception to this generality.

Heading south he "took" a left. And therein is the problem. Tinku no doubt uses dictionary.com to brush up on his informal English. However, dictionary.com uses The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language as it's primary source. For starters, hardly. If you call what's in that dictionary English then we may as well let the Macquarie into our schools. More importantly, Americans have quite distinct meanings for the terms "take" and "hang", whereas is Australia we use them interchangeably. Please refer to Figure 1 for details. Jo suggested he "take" the Hume Hwy, assuming he would use his initiative when he arrived as to which direction he would take. Tinku on the otherhand, with his imported American slang, understandably assumed she was telling him to turn left, otherwise surely she would have said "hang a right at the Hume Hwy".

I can only guess at this, since I have no idea where the Hume Hwy is in relation to Liverpool. However, the end result is the same. Tinku started heading south. Not being from around these parts, passing suburbs with names like Campbelltown and Rosemeadow would ring few bells for Tinku. I personally thought Rosemeadow was out near Richmond and Mulgoa, so I don't blame him. So it wasn't until he started to notice the cows on either side of the road that he started to suspect that something was wrong. A glance over his shoulder at signs in the opposite direction stating that Sydney was 78km behind him must only have confirmed these suspicions.

U-turns and the One True Journey
Various people have asked him why he didn't turn around as soon as he realised. Why did he continue some 40-50 kilometres down the road before turning around. After a conversation with Jane that very morning, that coincedentily was about this very issue, I think I have an explanation. Wrong turns are a fact of life. Getting to Newcastle on your school holiday trip before remembering that Canberra is south-east, happens to the best of us. It's how one deals with these unexpected adventures that gives us a real insight into one's soul. Simply making a U-turn as soon as you realise, implies that travel in any direction apart from your intended one, is wasted. The true traveller knows that this is not the case. The One True Journey is about petrol gallons and speedo miles. It's not about superficial things like destination and punctuality. By adamantly following the set path amateur journeymen can be led astray, at least figuratively.

Tinku, being a seasoned and thoughtful traveller, knew not to subvert the beauty of the One True Journey, by making some gaudy U-turn across the highway. Instead he continued gently onward until he could gracefully and inconspicuously replot his course at a round-a-bout or town. Appin was such a town. And though the people there may not have been aware of the significance or length of his journey there, they couldn't help but be sub-consciously moved by this fine young man's sensitivity, and demonstration of the core principles of journeymanship.

Bangladesh is a small country with even smaller people
To understand this better, a bit of background on Tinku is needed. It's for all those people who haven't read Tinku's, Tom's or Howie's blog, or who haven't met Tinku in the flesh, or who haven't spoken to Jo, who discusses Tinku quite freely. Most people probably don't need this Tinku FAQ, but it gives me a chance to make some rude generalisations about Tinku and his homeland.

Tinku is small, let's get that out of the way right now. He's skinny and brown. He's easy-going but knows what he likes - eg. Jo, sleeping and butter chicken. He's the sort of bloke that takes 10 minutes to befriend, but a lifetime to comprehend. He's an all round top bloke, with a shaky grasp of Sydney geography but a fine understanding of the One True Journey to compensate.

Bangladesh is also small. This Tuesday morning Tinku drove at least 160km. At it's widest point, Bangladesh is about 210km from East to West. People from countries as small as Tinku's have no need for maps or locational awareness. Your best guide are the borders surrounding you. In Bangladesh, you know that if you hit the Indian border you've gone too far. In Australia we don't have this luxury. In our great land you could starve to death before you hit a national border, so it's very hard to get handles on where you are. Anywhere in Bangladesh you can say "I know at least that I'm in Bangladesh," and you will know pretty precisely where you are. The country just isn't big enough for there to be many options. Australia on the other hand. Saying "At least I know I'm in Australia" is like saying "At least I know I'm somewhere in Texas or Florida or the top bit of Mexico." Interesting, but not very useful if you need to get somewhere quickly. This I think goes right to the heart of what happened on Tuesday.

Joanna the Fearless Navigator
Jo deserves a special mention. Her navigational skills have improved dramatically over the past few months. It wasn't long ago, that with me driving and Jo navigating we could make a half hour drive last for over an hour. We were still far speedier than I would have been alone, but it wasn't great. However, recently her UBD recall and geographical problem solving abilities seem to have made a quantum leap. And Tinku's story is testimony to that. Look at the difference between the route of the French car with Jo's aid, and it's route after she disembarked. I think the rather large increase in the return trip time speaks for itself.

Recommendations/Conclusion
You may be asking "How can we as a society stop this from happening again?" Perhaps not. I don't have any concrete answers, I wish I did. Perhaps in-car GPS is the solution. Perhaps mandatory education of immigrants about the Sydney street-scape is it. Perhaps simply having more round-a-bouts on highways would mitigate the impact on confused drivers to the extent that the point became moot. There are deeper issues at work here, and we can't possibly hope to solve them all in a post as short as this.

Appendices

Figure 1
take    ( P )  (tk)
v. took, (tk) tak·en, (tkn) tak·ing, takes
v. tr.
  1. To get into one's possession by force, skill, or artifice.
  2. To grasp with the hands; grip: Take your partner's hand.
  3. To turn, typically to the left. Take a left into the ALDI carpark.
hang   ( P )    (hng)
v. hung, (hng) hang�ing, hangs
v. tr.
  1. To fasten from above with no support from below; suspend.
  2. To suspend or fasten so as to allow free movement at or about the point of suspension: hang a door.
  3. To turn, typically to the right. They hung an intrepid right across 3 lanes of oncoming traffic.

15 June 2003

What I Want

  • To be a father I want to be a father who loves his kids desperately. I want them to be aware of that sub-consciously every day, but not ever consciously.
  • To be a husband I want to be easy to be married to. I don't want my partner to ever have any reason to think I'll cheat on them. Cheating sucks big time.
  • To be tangibly useful I'm going to study economics and development stuff, because I think that all the nice things you get from intangibles you get from tangibles as well. But not the other way around. I doubt want my faith in my own usefulness to be matter of how I'm feeling on a given day.
  • To be soft I don't want to become a capitalist or a right-wing person or a conservative with the answers. I don't want justice to be my only yardstick for morality. I don't want to blame people for not being more in control of their lives.

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