The Best of Times Short Story Competition

Autumn 2017 Results

Riding in Cars With Clarks

Copyright © Andrea Wilk 2017

Long have we travelled and much have we seen, and better has the journeying been for the establishment of a few ground rules - a motoring manifesto if you will, a touring treatise, a 'how to for the where to'. It had to be done. We had to get something down on paper and even if we only ever consign it to our memories - our arguably disparate memories, and never actually pull it out of the glove box to check its finer points, oh well. It's nice to have. And so, in no particular order the key components of this policy are as follows:

Furry friends. Any four legged, warm blooded, fur covered creature of God deserves not to be made road kill at the hands of any Clark. Proactive, evasive and often downright creative driving will be undertaken to ensure no loss of mammalian or marsupial life occurs on our watch. We have acute and honed radar for all such creatures and are committed to a zero small warm body count.

Bloody trucks. Whether hitting the highways or stopped at traffic lights, the mere close proximity to any 18 wheeler - or give or take any number of wheels, will ensure the oft heard cry of "bloody trucks!". Trucks are feared and loathed and deserve to be audibly maligned. To be fair John* doesn't fear or loathe them quite so much as Andrea** and it is usually she who will vocally lament their existence. Not one truck will escape Andrea's keen eye and no truck will be spared an impassioned, derogatory slur.

* his real name, although it's a fairly common one.
** her real name too, because it entirely escaped her what she'd rather be called for the purpose of this little 'personal expose'.

Farting and burping. As a time honoured and highly treasured activity of all Clark family members, we each trumpet our 'right' to engage in this pastime even when travelling, and even though the travelling in a car, by definition, sees us confined to a small space without ready means of escape. Sometimes that matters to a greater or lesser extent, depending on who just exercised their right. On the trip, let it rip, we say.

Arguments and all-in brawls. On any long road trip at least one rip roaring argument will be undertaken. The ferocity and duration of said' blue' will be commensurately related to the length of the trip and unfamiliarity of the locale.

McDonalds. On any journey by car the 'golden arches' will be sought for the purposes of providing fast and scant nourishment to the bellies of the Clarks. The relieving of the Clark bladders is also de rigueur at any and all such pit stops. Clamouring back into the car with food wrapped in enough packaging to raise land-fill concerns, eating the fast-food morsels - and it's never called 'fast-food' because they get it to you quickly, rather because it is consumed at warp-speed, and trying to settle back into driving mode, may well result in further exploration of an earlier policy point (see Farting and burping)

Lancaster stories. Often travelling anywhere, a story will want to be told which the teller, usually John, will need to be reminded he has told before. This is known as the Lancaster* Principle and any such story is simply referred to as a 'Lancaster story'. What is it about car trips, captive audiences and ardent story tellers?

*Lancaster is a tiny township near Kyabram in central, northern Victoria. Whilst travelling through Lancaster on more than one occasion in the early days Andrea would tell John that that was where her dad had gone to school. Because that story had been heard before, any other stories which have since been told and retold, are referred to as 'Lancaster stories'.

Power naps. Never heard of them. Never had one. Don't believe in them. Morally opposed. That said, Belle* is free to have one in the back seat. Can't see why she couldn't. In fact she jolly well should, might keep her quiet for a while.

*a real diminutive of the daughter's real name.

Lines from songs or movies. Any word, phrase or line uttered by any occupant of the vehicle is ready material for the bursting into song, usually by Andrea, ok....only Andrea, which best has that word, phrase or line in it. Any words approximating a line from a movie, will set off all family members reciting other lines from that movie, or another movie, or any reference to anything ever said. Repeat. (Note: this isn't just a pastime for the travelling Clarks, this one gets a fair bit of use anytime, anywhere.)

That person looks like. The Clarks, ok....John, will always spot someone who looks like someone else. A person can be walking along the street, in a nearby car, or ordering something at McDonalds and sure enough they will remind John of someone else. The other Clarks don't need to agree of course, and often won't on principle alone, agree with John.

Number plate games. The Clarks don't play number plate games!

Speed limits. Speed limits are of course for other road users, not John - as a matter of habit and sheer bloody mindedness, and only not Andrea when she is distracted by any of the above. Speed limits are also an aid to usher in an earlier mentioned point (refer Arguments and all-in brawls)

Travelling Worldviews. The Clark family members each have their own philosophy on travelling by car. Each is distinct and immutable. With John it's all freeways, cruise control, perfect pre-planned routes and endless stories of trips long taken (refer Lancaster Stories). With Andrea it's about safety first, the destination not the journey, what on earth did we forget this time, and where did I put the wipes? With Belle it's all about are we there yet? Where's the sick bag? Can I sit in the front? When's the next McDonalds? (see McDonalds) and my phone needs charging! Somehow these vastly different views of taking the tour get us all to our mutual destination. We always arrive each time relatively intact....pun probably intended.