Round and Around

Not long before I left the city to drive south and live forever, I stopped at a roundabout to let a chap go on before me.

He had been there first and, although I had right of way, I decided to let him move. He refused. As I moved past I waved and he gave me an angry middle finger with a face to match.

Why? I had offered him a pass, out of respect for his patience and his place in the queue. Who gets angry with courtesy?

That’s life in a big, angry, impatient city.

Not where I live, Albany, Great Southern Western Australian.

Yes, indeed, as a friend felt the need to remind me recently, it is also home to a pack of racists. Of course it is, in addition to sexists, misogynists, misandrists, climate deniers and all other sorts of ignoramuses.

But this little rant is not about them, it is about the behaviour around a roundabout.

Last week, as I approached, a woman moved out, saw men, stopped, apologised, I laughed, waved, she laughed, I moved past – two happy faces.

This week, same thing, but roles reversed.

A man approached in a ute, I moved out, realised my mistake, apologised, smiled, he laughed, waved, drove on – two happy faces.

There is another place in this town where such behaviour is regular, and that is at the cities crosswalks.

Yesterday, as I stepped out, a Landcruiser darted in front of me, the driver released I was on the walk, waved an apology, I waved back, laughed – two happy faces.

Why is it do? I like to think it is because of the way this place began its modern life, way back in 1826, with the arrival of Major Edmund Lockyer, representing the Colony of New South Wales.

Onshore he met Mokare, his brother Nakina and their sister Mullet, all from the first people, the Noongar Menang. Those early relationships were imbued with respect and curiosity and matters did not sour until Albany was transferred to the Swan River Colony, under the command of a chap called James Stirling.

Mokare was central to the respectful conduct and when the first resident magistrate, Alexander Collie, died on his way home to Scotland, he insisted on being buried next to his best friend, Mokare.

I have no evidence to support my theory, no one has completed a Phd on the sociological development of the Great Southern, but it is what it is because of reasons that exist and they have developed over the last two hundred years.

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