“That’s working brilliantly. Exactly like every linguatronic system I’ve ever encountered. Total disobedience!” – Jeremy Clarkson
TONIGHT, on new Darkly Defending; I practice the most artful way to drown while my head makes a spirited attempt to kill me; another electronic bitch decides she doesn’t want to listen to a man; and my Irish ancestry is indulged with its favourite velvet liquor.
John Farnham may have most recently appeared on TV advertising Ford’s partnership with Microsoft to produce Sync for their car range, but I have decided that Sync Woman is a bitch and is just like every other voice recognition software out there; i.e. doesn’t work. Early last month, I retired the Commodore to happier pastures – a Ford dealership – and while it was screaming blue murder and making vivid and colourful threats about how it was going to call its GM brothers and beat the crap out of me with Detroit steel for the utter betrayal I’d just inflicted on it, I slipped a set of keys into a brand spanking new Ford Focus and toddled off into the sunset. Alright, it was mid afternoon, but let’s not bring logic into the argument this early in the day.
The Ford’s first big trip involved taking a mate and I to Cairns via Sydney Airport, where the Focus got to spend a holiday bopping around in valet parking, which was rather considerately on special at the time. At some point on the road down there, while my iPhone was happily sponging electricity from the car’s battery via the USB port, I decided to show off by using voice control to set the iPhone playing. I pulled the voice recognition lever like a boss, confidently said “USB Device, Play All”, to which the car promptly responded “I’m sorry, I can’t call anyone. There is no phone connected, but I can try to connect one for you – connecting your last paired phone.” While my friend was busy laughing at the car upstaging me, a message flashed up to tell me that my iPhone had successfully paired with the car, and was happily displaying battery and signal strength information. Happily for me, it did redeem itself when one of the hotels in Cairns called during the trip, and I had the distinctly weird experience of listening to the GPS bitch that it couldn’t find a satellite while I was talking quite clearly in the M5 Tunnel on the way to Sydney Airport.
The trip itself up to Cairns was fairly uneventful insofar as getting to the airport, complaining bitterly that my ticket was issued second by the machine when I made the booking, skulking around the airport terminal and stuffing my face with food before sidling onto the plane and sitting there for three hours feeling my arse going numb as the plane made its way up to the tropics, and feeling mildly spaced out on the Travacalm that was stopping me from showing my friend what digestion does to a pepper steak pie. Everything on that first day was basically administrative in nature; finding a hotel, finding somewhere to eat – and then finding out that “Churrasco experience” translates loosely from Brazilian into “Best Fucking Meal Ever Invented Ever”, before heading back to the hotel in preparation for the morning’s scuba stuff.
After having a mild freak out experience underwater as I learned scuba stuff, namely that I panic unnecessarily when I have no air, and that for a 90kg man made mostly from lard I am surprisingly buoyant, which is a bitch when you’re trying to do scuba skills like take off a BCD underwater. At any rate I managed to blunder through everything like a greased seal and bought myself some fantastic snorkelling gear for when I went out onto the Great Barrier Reef the next day, which I was rather looking forwards to. Everything was going fine as I packed for the Reef – which basically involved going “Fuck it, I’ll just take the big suitcase” and scrambling vaguely for Travacalm pills and booze – and we set off uneventfully in the morning with me dosed up on the anti-hurling medications, so all was fine.
As luck would have it, two days after passing my dive medical and telling the doctor “Yes, I have had sinusitis before, but I went through a full course of antibiotics for it and I’m fine now”, about two hours out from the Reef, guess which medical condition reared its ugly head? I didn’t show everyone my breakfast or what I’d had for lunch just five minutes ago, but instead I just got very tired very quickly and virtually hit the deck with a huge headache; I pretty much rested my forearms on the nearest table and put my head down while I whimpered like a bitch, not to put too fine a point on it. A few people came past and asked if I was feeling like I was going to hurl, in which case I should direct my vomit over the back of the boat into the ocean rather than into the boat’s carpet – and I had to explain that no, this wasn’t travel sickness, I had no idea what the hell it was but I felt half-dead. My mate suggested that since we had berths available downstairs on the boat I may as well use them, and muttering something along the lines of that he’d espoused a sensible idea, I went to lie down for a bit. It was frigging awful – I didn’t mind the fact the boat was rocking from side to side, that was fine – but I started sweating the instant I laid down, then cooled back to normal, and then went way too far in the opposite direction when I stared to freeze and was shivering. I vaguely remember my friend coming down to see if I was alright, by which time I was wrapped up in blankets and sweating, with a thundering headache. He asked if I would be right to go scuba diving, to which I quickly established the answer would probably be no – I couldn’t get my own temperature right and my face was swollen as the sinusitis attack I’d somehow managed to get lucky with blocked an entire side of my face and racked me with pain, including a horrible pulsing pain that ran from my nose all the way down my jawline as whatever had triggered the infection on the right hand side of my face got to my trigeminal nerve and fucked everything up. I said I’d let him know, and the next thing I remember one of the instructors was talking to me; I recall saying I felt worse and I couldn’t equalise at all.
Equalisation is of course important with scuba diving – I had somehow enough sense to realise that diving with a complete inability to adjust to changes in pressure inside my head would, at worst, result in ruptured eardrums on descent as the pressure differential forced my eardrums apart; if I was lucky enough to descend without injury, an air bubble inside my sinuses on the way back up would give me a fractured skull if I couldn’t equalise; I’d quite literally blow my face apart, which would be rather inconvenient. I explained that it may not be the best idea for me to dive, and I promptly fell asleep after that, waking up only in time for dinner when my friend came to tell me it was ready (to his credit, he did make a point of checking up on me). I surfaced with a bottle of beer, since I felt vaguely human, got told I looked better than I did earlier and that when the instructor had come down to talk to me earlier I basically looked like shit, although he’d phrased it as “you looked pretty ill”. Being sick and drinking a single bottle of beer raised some eyebrows, to which I dismissed suggestions that it wasn’t a good move by saying I felt vaguely human, but I paid for it the next day as it turns out the first day was just an amuse-bouché for Sinusitis A La Marine.
The next day, I was totally fucked over for sinus trouble and after staggering out of bed for breakfast with a splitting headache, sweating and having a rough night generally, I fell straight back asleep and slept until lunch – only waking up because the chef came down to see if I wanted anything to eat for lunch, which I refused – and then ten minutes later, when my friend came down and asked exactly the same question. I slept fitfully until dinner, ate, stayed up for a few hours and went straight to bed again. It was horrible that day, it really was – and the one thing I hate, being caught unawares, kept happening, especially when my friend came in to ask me a question and I didn’t even hear the first part, snapping into semi-alertness with an embarrassed “Shit! Sorry, mate, miles away” as I realised he was there – the clue being he was calling out “Hello?”. That was singularly the most unpleasant day of illness, especially when I was laying there in a moment of wakefulness on my back, and felt my pulse pounding through my temple and all sorts of other weird feelings, plus the out-of-all-proportion pain that I had whenever I brushed my hand against my face, or anything touched my face at all.
Happily enough, it started recovering on the third day, and although I was too unwell to dive, I was well enough to be very frustrated, and spent a lot more time moving around on the boat while I felt well enough to move around, and lying down when I didn’t feel well. By the time we’d got back to dry land, I was feeling passable, and went out to dinner with the people from the boat after a quick convalescence lie-down at the hotel. I decided I’d be damned if sinusitis ruined my night out and stunned the buggers into silence with alcohol, matching my mate beer for beer over dinner, which got rid of the headache I’d had, and I actually felt good for the first time in days and I didn’t half enjoy the night. Of course, I saw Guinness on tap and had to slake that thirst just to keep my Irish ancestry happy – but I was having a great night until about 12:30 in the morning, where I just couldn’t keep up (my mate had switched to vodka by this time and he was having a great old time of it), and I made my excuses and went home with seven pints coursing through my system, leaving on good terms. Because I was drunk I couldn’t be arsed walking back to the hotel and decided that some of the money in my pocket would be best placed into a taxi driver’s coffers and got myself driven back to the hotel. After that, it was all plain sailing for the rest of the holiday – which basically involved collapsing into a seat on the plane after watching my shoes set off metal detectors, right until we got to Sydney.
The weather was holding off while I got the car out of the airport and straight onto Sydney’s favourite traffic jam, the M5, where my plan was to whisk along the M5, join the M7 and finally spear off onto the M4, following that along the Blue Mountains and then out on the Great Western Highway to home. 2 hours after I’d set off, the traffic had barely crawled out of Mascot and I’d cursed myself for forgetting that the M4 runs past Olympic Park and I could have jumped off the cursed bloody M5 at that point. Fortunately, a faint shade of memory suggested that the M4 also ran past Parramatta; even though Parramatta Road is also a huge frigging traffic jam at times, the M4 at this time of night would at least be moving. Seeing signs to Bankstown and with a dim memory that Metroad 6 cut through that and Auburn on the way to Parramatta, I hit the Detour button on the GPS, kicked the Focus into manual shift mode, and floored it up the offramp into sweet freedom and moving traffic, flowing beautifully all the way to the M4. It had started raining by this time, but I didn’t care as I made my way onto the M4 and out into the west. I was so happy that I was in moving traffic I even filled the car up with petrol, but as I drove further west the weather got progressively worse. It got so bad that I called it off at Bathurst – a good two hours drive earlier than I was supposed to stop, and booked a hotel room overnight while the storm raged on.
Normally, I’d have just kept driving, but it was so bad that I couldn’t see more than about three metres ahead of me with the lights on full beam and the Focus’ wiper blades on full Dalek blitzkrieg mode, so making the decision to fork over an ungodly amount of money was probably the better decision in the long run to ensure that I got home safely the next morning, when it was still raining but at least I could see where the fuck I was going. The greatest irony of the whole trip is that while I had driven well over 800 kilometres without any insect life smashing into my windscreen, over my few trips to work in the next major town, so many things have died on my car it looks like the poor thing has been to Beirut and back. Even more disturbing for when I next bust out the Autoglym and clean the car is the fact that some of the bugs have left blood trails over the bonnet, so now it looks like it really belongs on an episode of Dexter. Oh well.