A couple of weeks ago we were heading to Wellington. A stop-off in Auckland for a meeting, then drive to Wellington for a couple of days. A train and bus trip to Greytown on the GoldCard was planned. Then, back to Palmerston North for a 91st birthday, and home for another family birthday. That was the plan 15 days ago - then family intervened.
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We had a long phone lecture. You're over 70 years old and advised to stay home. There's a coronavirus out there and it's aimed at you lot. You are going to spend a day on a train with those other oldies, all of whom are vulnerable like you. We want you around for a while so that you can see your grandchildren flourish.
So we listened, and made it to Auckland and back in the day. My aunt was greeted by her fellow retirement village townhouse residents lining up outside her door- two metres apart- singing her happy birthday, and we joined in from the couch.
You listen to your family. They choose your resthome but didn't want to choose a funeral home just yet.
So here we are in lockdown and the car hasn't left the garage since it got back from Auckland. Supermarket shopping has been done by a family member who lined up for an hour to get into the store, and exercise has been done by Ebike around the neighbourhood. How times have changed.
Our planned trip south had a mix of private car and public transport involved and that's caused a reflection about how things might change beyond the pandemic. Will we still have a love affair with our cars and can we rely on public transport to get us from A to B and back? Will social distancing be part of our future?
During the next months we will have many highly qualified, thoughtful commentators speculating about how this pandemic will change the way we work. I am not in that category, but for what it is worth: Cars will continue to dominate private transport; local public transport will have an uphill battle; many of us will get used to working remotely without the daily need for business travel; and we will get used to walking and cycling more. But so much for philosophising!
For many of us, our car is like a bubble - it's an extension of our home. From the moment we climb into the car in our garage we enter a steel cocoon which allows us to control our daily schedule and gets us exactly to where we want to go.
Many of us value the freedom our car affords us and, as we become older, the continued possession of our drivers licence helps us to maintain our independence. Most of us believe we are better than average drivers and that we feel quite safe out there, even amongst the occasional hoon.
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Right now the prospect of taking the family for a drive is something for the future and, we already have a surfeit of family time with the kids. But, a drive gives us the opportunity to sort out some big issues without creating a threatening environment. The driver, at least, needs to keep the eyes on the road.
Many of us take real pleasure from driving and watching top drivers, whether on a race track, rally driving, or cross country 4WD, with a sense of wonder and aspiration. Right now though, we can take real satisfaction from the way we maintain our car.
Ask any vintage or classic car enthusiast about this type of satisfaction and you'll see their eyes glaze over as they describe what they needed to do to restore their pride and joy.
So, lets affirm the car as a continued transport mode and look forward to that long leisurely Sunday drive.
• John Williamson is chairman of Roadsafe Northland and Northland Road Safety Trust, a former national councillor for NZ Automobile Association and former Whangārei District Council member.