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Byron Shire
May 19, 2022

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: The Road Less Gravelled

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Last week, for the first time in months, I experienced FOMO. A friend of mine pointed out cars with big ‘A’s’ printed and displayed on the dashboard. We wondered what they were for, and why we didn’t have big A’s. Why were the chosen few being given ‘A’s? Is it some sort of secret club? Are they Arseholes, and warning us with a dashboard display? Is it their blood type? Should I have a ‘B+’ on my dash? After some contemplation I suggested that perhaps they were really good drivers – and the police had pulled them over to give them an ‘A’ for the execution of an awesome reverse park, or a seamless merge.
Imagine that world; The government no longer using our refusal to comply with the ‘NO U TURN’ across double lines, or other driving deficits, as a revenue raiser. It doesn’t matter how much they fine people it – behaviour doesn’t seem to change. People still drive like dickheads. I know I do. I can’t help it I guess, because I’m originally from Queensland and I have a merging disorder. It’s how we’re born there – in the right lane. It’s why we vote for people like Pauline and Joh – we are actually scared of merging, just in case those people in the left lane take our jobs.
So let’s get back to my treatise on road reform. It’s clear the punitive system doesn’t work. And it makes us angry. I mean, who pulls up to have a fight with other drivers? Road rage is baffling and, I think, a direct result of a system based on finding fault. Everyone’s a cop. Everyone wants to tell you what you did wrong. But what about what you did right? It’s time they brought in a new system.
What if the police pulled us over to compliment us? ‘Mandy that was a lovely parallel park. The confidence you had in stopping the traffic. The lining up of your vehicle with the mirror of the car parked in front. The four cracks you had at it before you got it right – look there was a little scraping when you ‘nudged’ the car behind, but – I’m giving you a B’. And then he hugs me and gives me a $20 voucher to put toward repairs.
When it comes to effective teaching, they found out a long time ago that punishing bad behaviour just reinforces more bad behaviour. By nature, humans are oppositional. You tell us to do one thing, and fuck you, we’ll do the opposite. That’s why I’m compelled to drive through red lights. I’m not intending to break the law it’s just that I am programed that way. I see the light change and I speed up. I see ‘NO U TURN’ and I think, I’ll do a U-turn. I see ‘KEEP LEFT’ – I move to the right. I see a 60km sign and ‘SPEED CAMERA AHEAD’ and I do 70km.
To encourage positive behaviours you have to ‘ignore’ the bad behaviour and praise and reward positive outcomes. If, every time you passed a speed camera being under the speed limit meant you could win something, I think people might slow down. If I got applause, it would be even better.
I would like to see more engagement by Highway Patrol in helping us to be better drivers. Stop hiding in the bushes like a bunch of weirdos and get involved. If you see me do something good – I’d like a clap FFS. A standing ovation. Imagine a report card system, a bit like they do at school, where, twice a year the driver and their passengers are called in for a meeting to discuss your progress; ‘Mandy, your kids are saying you’re a bit swervy. And jolty. They’d like you to work on a smoother style. This time we’re giving you a C.’ Then I’d have to drive around with a C plate, and people would go – watch out – this one’s swervy. You’d want that A plate. You’d drive well, just to keep your straight A’s. No one would want to be driving around with a big D.
Then I found out that the big ‘A’s are for drivers to get in and out of Queensland. So it does stand for ‘Arsehole’.
I’m still waiting for mine to arrive.

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  1. Hehe! Love this! I was also wondering what the big A signs were for… I thought maybe cR rentals or something but thanks for clarifying Mandy 🙂 enlightening as always!

  2. Hilarious!! It seems China has that idea in their social credits system, which is also dependent on the behaviour of your family, so if they screw up it can affect your rating which starts at the same high point for everyone. You may not be able to buy air flights or get a loan or put a deposit on a house. And once a demerit is there its there to stay. Even if it’s not your fault.

    ‘Every citizen starts off with a score of 1,000. NPR reported the ranking as follows: 960 to 1,000 is an A; 850 to 955 points is a B; 840 to 600 is a C; and any score below that is a D, which designates the score-holder as “untrustworthy.” ‘Nov 2, 2018
    ‘Under the system, both financial behaviors like “frivolous spending” and bad behaviors like lighting up in smoke-free zones can result in stiff consequences. Penalties include loss of employment and educational opportunities, as well as transportation restrictions. Those with high scores get perks, like discounts on utility bills and faster application processes to travel abroad.’


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