Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Musings at 14000 Feet

It doesn’t take much to understand the size of a town, city, or even a country. However, to put the globe into perspective you must either travel. For instance, Dunedin can be traversed in less than an hour – Mosgiel to Palmerston takes less than the full sixty, as does North East Valley to Milton. Christchurch; New Zealand’s second largest city takes longer, and to travel through it takes a while longer, but to fly over it? A few minutes. However, when you start getting into the largest cities in the world; even “small” large cities like Melbourne, it becomes painfully clear how small New Zealand is in comparison. You could spend an entire day driving from Frankston to Werribee, and an hour is not uncommon for a 20km commute to work, yet Victorian think of this as normal. In New Zealand, a trip of an hour to travel 20 kilometers – let me put that in perspective: an hour from The Octagon in Dunedin to Mosgiel; from Timaru to Pleasant Point, or from Belfast into the centre of Christchurch; is unacceptable. Perhaps that is why New Zealand drivers are so impatient: there is no precedent for “traffic jams”, and as such anyone going slightly slower than the speed limit of 100; or indeed 10km/h over the speed limit; deserves to be overtaken at huge risk to both parties. Perhaps us Kiwi’s need to be more focussed on taking our time when commuting as opposed to the “bullet-a-gate” mentality we have instilled in us from the moment we get our Restricted licence.

Returning to the original thesis of this post, as New Zealanders, we have no sense of scale. In less than one day, one could travel from Invercargil to Auckland (if the Ferry was when expected), yet where will 16 hours of travelling get you from Melbourne? Well, it would take one to two hours to actually get out of the city, then perhaps, depending on the time of year, time of day, etc, a few hours stuck in traffic, and sixteen hour would perhaps get you as far as the outskirts of Sydney, if you’re lucky. Scale is not something we any perception of: a trip from Melbourne to Cobram took 3 hours to drive on the freeway, yet three hours would get you close to Christchurch from Dunedin, close to Greymouth from Christchurch, or close to Queenstown from Dunedin – the ability to surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon is quite a possible reckoning in the south island of New Zealand. I am currently over the Tasman Sea – a small sea between New Zealand and Australia – less than 2cm on an atlas – where the globe stretches a couple of A4 pages – and this flight will take me three hours – the only place outside Australia whereby you can reach within such a small timeframe from a major airport (of course I don’t consider Darwin a major airport, what are you smoking?)

I have bought this up time and time again, but it seems to never get old, so I shall bring it up again: why is there no “decent” public transport in New Zealand? We have no metropolitan trains, no regional trains, a very poor bus system (and only in selected areas), and when you do find a piece of pubic transport to sink your teeth into, you find it infested with old people who take up 4 seats with their shopping, trolly, canes, mobility scooters, and the like. You then get on, and get asked to pay a large fare for the displeasure of travelling on such a craft – something which most people will forget – and go and buy a bomb of a car the very same day. The more people there are fed up with the public transport system there are, the more vehicles that are on the road, carrying people (usually just a singular person) to a destination just around the corner – simply because it’s too much effort to walk to McDonalds or the Fish and Chip shop – so not only are we becoming increasingly lazy, but also more and more unhealthy. Last night I had Fish and Chips for dinner – and for one piece of fish and a minimum helping (and I mean minimum – it was one handful (if that)), which cost me nearly $10. The same meal would cost me under $3 in Dunedin, and $4 i5 in a smaller NZ town (such as Timaru). Now, for $10, I could have purchased a more healthy meal – such as a subway sandwich or salad, a Turkish wrap or platter, or some Asian food – all of which price at $6-$9. However, they are priced at $12-$15 in NZ, and with the low cost of Fish and Chips – for a struggling family or individual, I know what I would buy – and then drive to pick up from 3 houses down the road.

Another quarrel I have is the insane price of “good for you” thirst quenchers: yes, water and fruit juice. Today, in the plane, I looked at the menu – water and fruit juice were $4.50, whereas coke/sprite and solo were $3, that is just poor – and quite possibly the reason why I am currently needing $9,000 worth of dental work. It goes without saying that aircraft are incredibly expensive for purchasing food and drink, but the story is the same wherever you go (with the exception of South Yarra train station, where they sell water for $1); water is more expensive than soda. In addition to this, the patronage of soda in cans (especially large cans) implores the consumption of the entire can at once. This just doesn’t follow with me, as, especially with sod, drinking the whole lot in one sitting is not possible – so you end up faced with a difficult decision: throw the rest of it away once you’ve had that first mouthful and tasted the sweetness and had your thirst quenched, or continue to drink it unnecessary, and put more sugar, acid, and caffeine into your body. I’m sure that Starvin’ Marvin from Ethiopia would love that choice, and would not throw it away, but share it among his brethren – an option we don’t have because of this “super disease” known as Meningitis.

When will us “first world “ country inhabitants stop worrying about such petty things? As soon as a bee stings little Johnny, he is instantly wrapped in bubble wrap, kept inside, and sprayed with “cooling” mist so he doesn’t hurt. From that moment on, Johnny is never allowed to go outside without appropriate footwear ever again – jandals are not considered appropriate, so you end up with a generation of children growing up never being stung by a bee, never breaking their bones (because it is un-PC to allow children to jump unsupervised on a trampoline, or to play on monkey bars), and fun activities such as diving and bombing into a pool are prohibited, for what? “Safety” it is more the divine rule of the courts – where injury is the responsibility of the person who owns the property. Like hell it is! If someone is running next to a pool, slips and breaks their arm, how the hell is that the fault of the pool companies fault? And even if it were (as if they allowed slippery moss and mildew to grow beside the pool and then had bullies pushing children onto the concrete), why should they be forced to pay such astronomical sums to the parents? If their son or daughter breaks an arm, or leg, it will heal! They do not deserve a multi-million dollar payout! The upshot to this is that clumsy (which is often synonymous with dumb) people get rich out of hurting themselves – what an unfair world we live in – what is next?

Anyway, enough ranting for now, I believe that we are about to descend into Christchurch. Until next time…

No comments:

Post a Comment