How Many Zones? Live as though each day were your last

Karen Eastland

Marge spent a lot of time putting together briefing papers and incident statements, many from some very anxious drivers. She could tell from their body language that they didn’t really want to talk about their working conditions, but some of the old fella’s could see the danger ahead if change was not implemented now.

They told all, without fear of loss of job, citing ‘what are they going to do to me, fire me?’

They would all laugh because most of them were well past retirement age and were kind of looking forward to a nice rest.

Old Bill came forward with a tale that scared him so much that he quit in the days after it happened. He had been driving for 7 days straight, carting people from one zone to another and he knew of several other older drivers who had also worked the same shifts as he had. Many of them speak about times when they fell asleep at the wheel.’

‘Shoddy bloody workmanship by the mechanics,’ was the popular complaint.

It was peak hour in the centre of the city. Everyone was impatiently trying to get home. Cars were zipping in and out of lanes trying to get ahead of the pack without making any headway at all. An angry driver began beeping his horn whilst weaving in and out of the traffic. He was flipping the bird and calling everyone, wankers and Bastards, amongst other things.

Passing every car he still copped a red light, with most of the cars he was abusing, turning at the green arrow just right of his car. Many repaid the favour and went on to quickly inform him just how to perform all those sex act’s he had been screaming at other drivers. One driver was stopped right next to him and seemed to be a master shadow puppeteer, as the many different shadows he cast in the angry drivers direction seemed endless.  Just as the arrow turned orange, Mike Whistleburra was approaching the long line of cars held up behind the angry driver.

Mike had a bus load, people were almost hanging out of the windows. Two cars quickly pulled in front of Mikes bus, reducing his stopping distance by around twenty metres. Mike hit the brakes but they were soft, so soft that they might as well have been jelly cups underfoot. His foot hit the floor but the bus was not slowing down. Mike hit the stop brake, it was a dangerous thing to do with a load of people on board, as it opens the back doors and the bus should slow to an almost immediate stop, but it didn’t work. He tried to run down through the gears, but they were slipping and not engaging at all. Everyone knew that Bus was dead on its well polished wheels, but you know the old saying: you can slap lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig… Mike just got the raw end of the stick, it could have been any one of us, and now he needed to find away to stop the bus.

He had nowhere to take the bus that would limit the loss of life, Mike was in the centre of a five lane highway, if he turned the wheel to the right he would run through several cars and into a pedestrian  busy strip of shop fronts, just opening for the night-time trade. If he turned the bus to the left, he would run through several cars and drive the bus full of people into the deep waters of the Oasis river. If Mike continued forward, he would run through, and maybe over several cars, but he could aim the bus towards a large tree in the centre of the road ahead and should come to a dead stop.

With all options being bad, Mike decided to keep the bus on a steady course, beeping the horn and flashing the lights in the hopes of warning the drivers ahead to get out of the cars, to run away. Most did not hear him. Old Bills bus was pulled over in the right lane about six cars back and wiping a tear from his eye, and steadying the shake of his body, Bill described the incident.

Mikes Bus steamed through at about 50 kilometers an hour. Pushed on by its heavy load, the bus first drove straight over the top of a small car, rammed the back end of the next, hooked the buses bumper to the bumper of the car and the car flipped into the air and landed on the car in front,  the driver of the car ahead of that one became aware of what was happening and got out of his car and onto the foreshore just as the bus drove over the top of his car, crushing it. The bus had picked up a bounce and the angry driver and his sex educated to his right, never saw what was coming. The front of the bus bounced upwards and landed on both cars, crushing the drivers in their seats. The bus had begun to lose a bit of momentum when Mike aimed it for the tree to bring it to a stop.

Bill was shaking terribly in retelling what had happened, but continued barely holding back the tears.

‘Six people were killed, forty people badly injured on the bus, ten were outside. Seventeen cars were damaged or totaled and Mike died at the scene of a heart attack. He died from the shock.’

Bill continued, tears were streaming down his face.

‘Mike was a bloody hero for saving so many lives, but those bastards blamed him for it all. The accident, and all those lives lost. He isn’t here to defend himself, Marge, so I’ll do it for him.’

Marge handed Bill a tissue and grabbed a couple for herself.

‘Yeah, Mike had a long week, an he was tired, we all are, but if the fuckin’ company stopped cost cutting, if those bloody mechanics did their job,’ Bill stopped to collect himself. ‘Mike would still be here.’

Bill, openly weeping continues his story, Mikes story, to its end; all through that entire incident..

‘Hah, incident,’ he scoffed, ‘through it all, the company never once mentioned the bad brakes, they let what happened that day fall on Mike’s shoulders. Bastards!’

Bill raised a well worn hanky and a handful of tissues and wiped his eyes. His hands shook violently, then he choked the words, ‘They got away with it, Marge, they got away with it… but I won’t let ’em… Do you hear me, Mike… I won’t let them.’

Bill wiped his eyes and then looked straight into mine, and said, ‘Live as though each day is your last, Marge, cause on this job, it just might be.’