December 11, 2012

More rules more often

If you've read about my recent travels to Far North Queensland, you'll have seen this sign before, but I love it. It would never have occurred to me to remove a coconut until I saw it.

I've written about the plethora of rules in Australia before (Aussie rules, November 2010, and Darn crazy Aussie rule of the week, March 2012), and I daresay this won't be the last. Because sometimes I find I am affected by them to such an extent that I either have to lie down in a darkened room; scream or curse loudly; laugh; or write about them.

Last Saturday we went to a company 'do' at a venue in The Valley. We were with friends and my particular friend went up to the bar to replenish our drinks. He asked for a bottle of red wine, but was informed by the barman that licensing laws did not permit him to serve a bottle. So my friend asked for four glasses of red wine. The glasses were not small and the barman realised as he poured that between them they held the equivalent of a bottle of wine. So, is it an elves and safety law? No, it can't be. It was much riskier for my friend to wend his way across the dance floor and negotiate an almost imperceptible little step carrying four full glasses than a bottle. Perhaps it's so he wouldn't leave the premises and try to peddle liquor in The Valley?

The following day we went for a walk along the cliffs beyond Kangaroo Point. It was very warm and eventually we fancied an ice cream. You could choose either one or two scoops in a cone or two scoops in a little tub. Not being fond of cones, I asked if I could have one scoop in a tub. That wasn't possible, the girl behind the counter in the cafe explained. 'Oh, in that case I'd better have one scoop in a cone, if that's the rule,' I said, my words dripping with sarcasm. But it was wasted on her, and I didn't get what I wanted.

Sometimes I miss initiative and discretion (as in, the faculty of discerning).

We must have only walked for about half an hour but in that time came across two do-and-don't signs.
The 'park assets' I assume are the railings between the path and the cliffs and around the little rock promontories. But I am unsure about 'the proper recreational use of the cliffs'. That's open to all sorts of misinterpretation I would imagine, but I think Council means abseiling.

In the need-to-lie-down category of frustration at Aussie rules are parking fines. A friend told me recently that her husband had gained two in one relatively short journey. I can quite believe it. I'm sure he isn't a particularly reckless driver, but he is from England, a country of gloriously consistent speed limits. There, wherever you drive on a motorway, the maximum permitted speed is always, always, always 70 miles/hour. Here, it varies enormously, often without apparent rhyme or reason.

I was 'done' a few weeks ago, coming down from Mt Coot-tha, where I was showing visitors the view. Notice I say 'down'. It's always a nice little earner, isn't it, catching people out as their speed creeps up on a gradual downward slope? The speed limit is generally 50 km/hr in built-up areas: this is out of town, in a forest. It's gently winding and sloping, with no obvious hazards. It never occurred to me it would only be 50, but I was probably concentrating more on my passengers than the signs. 

I was fined more than $200 so I get a special treat: I can pay in instalments. I'm sure you can imagine the paperwork. First off; the car is registered in my friend's name, so he has to declare he wasn't driving, and identify the person who was. In Australia, a stat dec has to be witnessed by a justice of the peace. Luckily, he knows one at work so we didn't have to spend the entire weekend tracking one down. Then, payment: my friend, as financial administrator of the household, arranges the first payment by internet banking. Then, we have to return the infringement notice, duly filled in at Section C, sub-box Voluntary Instalment Plan, so that 'the balance of your fine will be referred to the State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER) who will forward you an Instalment Payment Notice'. Doesn't this seem a tad overcomplicated to you, not to mention the toll on the trees?

I went into an online forum and discovered the speed limit on Mt Coot-tha used to be 70 km/hr, which is probably the least you'd expect in that location. Several contributors described how they'd been caught there by highway patrols. 'Obviously the Queensland government needed extra income,' one of them concluded drily. I found one reference to the fact that Mt Coot-tha is a recreation reserve and 'for visitor safety the road speed limit is 50 km/hr', but this must be a random restriction. I can find no mention of it in Queensland road rules.

When it comes to signs about rules, there's an awful lot of tautology and repetition about (as well as the odd spelling mistake).
Some signs are very worthy, of course, but who is going to plough through all of this before resuming their sublime walk along the shore? Unless they're about to purchase a block (plot) and start building. And why does the text get smaller as you go down? Does it double as an eye test? 
There are so many instructional signs I would love to see but unfortunately never do. 
'Hooning* is totally prohibited in this district' 
'Circular work** is prohibited on this beach. Protected species inhabit this National Park. Offenders will be prosecuted'
'Please consider noise nuisance to residents when exercising your dog in this dog off-leash area'
'Please restrict noise on this riverside walkway between 10 pm and 
7 am'
'Please park with consideration for other users'
'The use of powered gadgets is restricted in this residential area to between the hours of 8 am and 4 pm Monday to Friday'

In my dreams.

*   to hoon – usually of young males, to drive extremely recklessly and with bravado
** the practice of continually turning a vehicle, usually a ute, in a circle 

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