There is something shockingly sepulchral about watching what you love die, even if it was never strictly alive in the first place. Sometimes journalism holds up a mirror to life, and it’s been very much the case as I’ve watched, and written about, people enduring factory closures at Ford, Toyota and Holden.
People who’ve spent their livelihoods doing something they loved, a job they perhaps once thought their children would do, blown away by the cold and careless winds of change.
It’s an ill wind that’s also blown through my chosen career, as literally thousands of people who once were word warriors have joined the dull queue of job hunters.
The comparison is perhaps overly maudlin from my side, as there are still some jobs in journalism, and Wheels magazine, in particular, goes from strength to strength, but as the number of print publications starts to mirror the number of video-rental shops, I can certainly see the parallels.
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It really doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do – be it screwing together doors or welding together words – if no one is willing to pay you to do it any more.
In a more immediate sense, this has meant a reduction in circumstances, and not one for which I expect you, dear reader, to feel great sympathy. For many moons now, I have had access to fleets of press cars, and even long-termers, always with the right-sized vehicle for any job. A family holiday meant borrowing something capacious with seats for seven and luggage space for 100.
More recently, though, I spent an extended period of time with nothing to drive but our family Hyundai Elantra. It’s a fine car, as I’ve said before, but it’s not always the perfect tool.
Climbing mountains, storming beaches, bashing over dirt roads – none of these are its special subject, yet all are things I might attempt from time to time.
And so it finally makes sense to me why so many families are possessed of more than one car. I always thought it was greed, or showing off, but the fact is that one vehicle, for a family of four or more, is sometimes not enough.
Not everyone, of course, can afford to go the extra mile and buy a second, or a third, which has made me realise, and ponder deeply, how one can choose The One. A single car to make you happy and satisfy your needs, on not just a daily but a monthly, and yearly, basis.
Were I forced to make such a choice, I’m not sure the Elantra would be it. Chosen as a spare car, a Hyundai of the overflow, it was the perfect tool for the job, but if it’s to be one Swiss Army knife for all occasions, I fear it might fall short.
Which has led me to ponder some more. If one vehicle could meet all of my motoring needs, what would it be? Certainly not an SUV, because I despise them. And not a Toyota Hilux or one of its pick-up truck competitors that everyone seems to love, either.
A final silent show of solidarity for my fellow Australians, out here on the scrap heap, but going out with dignity. And plenty of noise.
Quite honestly, I can’t read about the new ‘sporty’ ZB Commodore, with its 3.6-litre six, no V8 option, all-wheel drive and Euro innards, without feeling like I’m in the Twilight Zone. It’s like discovering that Steve Smith is actually South African. It might still be quite good, but it just won’t feel right.