I was driving to the newsagent yesterday to get the paper – I usually walk, but it was Sunday.
There's got to be a day off.
As I turned into the carpark at the front of the shopping centre, I followed a twenty-year old BMW 5 series, with a flat rear tyre. The car looked like it came from the bush, with a well-crafted aluminium roo-bar. The driver emerged – a tall elderly bloke who had the appearance of an ex-grazier. (I can pick them a mile off, and there are many retired cockies living in our part of Toowoomba. I think they feel at home on the edge of the escarpment.)
I pointed out the tyre, which he hadn't noticed. He looked at a loss, and mumbled something about getting his son. It was apparent he wasn't up to changing the tyre himself. He also looked embarrassed – probably not a bloke who enjoyed needing help. I asked him if he had a spare, and offered to help when he said he did. Between us we began to change the tyre. He was able to help, but I don't know if he would have been able to do the job independently.
The BMW was well-equipped with a fold-down tool tray, and a very sophisticated jack. The car was obviously treasured, as all the kit was as original despite the fact that it was at least twenty years old. He told me that he was seventy years older than the car, which meant he was ninety. He said "I've slowed down a bit since I've turned ninety". I hope I'm as fit as he is at that age.
We chatted a bit as I changed the tyre. It turned out that he was a veteran of the Bougainville campaign in WW2, and that his son was in 5RAR on its first tour of Vietnam in 1967. He's also lost a brother in New Guinea, who had also served in the Middle East. He'd owned a property near Goondiwindi, so I was right about him being a cockie. I explained that I was a Vietnam veteran, and that my dad had also served in New Guinea. I'd also started teaching in Goondiwindi and been called up from there.
In fact, there were a lot of connections between us – mostly related to life experience and geography.
The BMW reminded me of the two Volkswagens I'd owned, in that the road wheels were attached using studs rather than bolts, and the detail engineering was top quality. In five minutes the job was done. We shook hands and drove away. It occurred to me that it took a sixty-year old to help a ninety year-old whilst heaps of younger bods walked on by.
They don't make them like that anymore – and the same applies to the old digger. I hope he enjoys many more days of happy motoring.