CAR conversationalist should be a real trait.
It should be mandatory on your Tinder profile if not your Linkedin bio. Either you are one or you’re not.
There are some people who don’t like to talk while in the driver’s seat; yet others will happily drive you or themselves to complete distraction.
I once worked with a newspaper photographer who did the latter.
She would laugh at jokes using her whole body; she would face-plant the steering wheel of a fast-moving car, over and over again, until all of the funny had fizzled out.
I feared for my life in that car as it lurched across the freeway.
While there was nothing to stop her from laughing at her own jokes, I soon learnt to keep any of my own moderately amusing stories to myself out on the back roads of central Victoria.
It was simply a case of “survival of the fittest” or “safe arrival of the unfunniest”.
I had almost forgotten this whole episode in my early career until new Australian TV comedy Squinters screened on the ABC this month.
Trent O'Donnell and Adam Zwar’s novel six-part series features some household names like Jackie Weaver, Tim Minchin and Andrea Demetriades doing the weekday commute to and from their work in peak-hour traffic.
The title refers to the fact that the commuters are facing the sun as they head east from Sydney's western suburbs in the mornings, and then also face into the sun in the afternoons on the way back to the western suburbs.
Five carloads of commuters share their fears, joys and insecurities on a sedan-sized stage.
Most Border parents pulling into the school kiss and drop zone five mornings a week are probably experiencing the same high-level drama albeit over a shorter distance.
It’s Squinters on speed.
Even if you aim to leave home at the same time each day to avoid the five minutes of peak traffic on East Street, there are no guarantees.
When your child wakes up insisting on wearing their unicorn onesie to school, you know you’ll be slow out of the gates.
When they finally get in the car with a single Sharpie and piece of A4 paper but nothing to lean their masterpiece artwork on, this makes for a high-pressure couple of blocks as passengers look for makeshift art easels.
Naturally the car got its yearly cleanout two days ago; there’s not a random picture book anywhere.
When they stir up enough dust to make you sneeze five times, you will be told you’re taking a big risk there.
“Don’t sneeze seven times or it’s bad luck for a whole year!!” you’ll be reliably informed.
“That’s silly!” you say, as you wind down the windows just in case.
When they finally get their book bag out of their school bag to lean their artwork on, we are one block from school.
There is no time to draw now and they know it.
“I have wasted my time packing this Sharpie and paper!” they protest.
With strict instructions not to pull over at the top of the kiss and drop zone queue, you pray to the parking Gods for an opening in the middle. It’s futile.
“Look how close I got you to the school gates today?” you say as they exit sheepishly.
“Well, there’s always the school bus!”