Friday, May 25, 2012

I'm a Man

In 1967 The Spencer Davis Group released "Im a Man", and in 1971 Chicago's cover version - which had originally featurfed on their first album "The Chicago Transit Authority" - scrambled all the way to #48 on the American charts. I knew that would fascinate you.

Actually, at more than 7 minutes long, it's surprising it got that far. It's bloody good, though.

I am now fully licenced, and I've had my first week of one-on-one tutoring. Yes, I have been responsible for the safe commuting of several hundred trusting Aucklanders. My driving abilities will be assessed by two seperate examiners next week - possibly Monday - and I shall be allowed out completely on my own.

I feel nowhere near ready. Actually, I'm confident that I can drive the various vehicles quite safely, and have proven that to myself. But I never knew what bloody hard work it was. And the responsibility of the job is a little terrifying. No matter. My main tool is, actually, my Mother In Law, who turns 93 on the 29th. I simply imagine I have her on board, in one of the middle seats. If I can drive so that a frail little old lady is safe and comfortable, then I'm on a winner.

And what does that have to do with "I'm a Man"? Nothing. What does is this: It puts me into close daily contact with all the regular drivers. Up 'til now I've only really mingled with my fellow trainees. Now we're all rubbing shoulders with the hardened men of the front line.

I chose those words deliberately. I've watched oh, about a thousand war movies. Love 'em. Read about a gazillian war books. Love 'em. And this whole recruitment / training / replacement / meeting the veterans thing reminds me hugely of  the new recruit movies that I'm so familiar with.

The environment in the Drivers Room is unashamedly masculine, despite the fact that around 15 to 20% of the drivers are women. The language would shock such delicate flowers as my friends Gillian, Jo, and Liz: three women I daren't get in the same room together. The combination of three such luminous personalites would cause the sun to go nova. Back on the subject now, Mathews.

The male drivers are split into two groups. The first is a bunch of greying older white men, while the second is a grand mixtures of younger immigrants: the Sikhs, Sri Lankans, Malays, Chinese, Turks, Albanians, Indians, Azbekistanis, and so on. There's a smaller sub-group of middle-aged Chinese and Pakeha men who just shrug when the noise gets too high.

The more men you get together in a confined space the more basic the conversation gets. 10 men might talk sport, barbecues, penises, drinking, and rooting. 20 men and it's just sport, penises, drinking, and rooting. Over 21, and you simply forget about sport and drinking.

Most of it is mocking - self-mockery as well as putting down their colleagues' sexual capabilities. The stench of testosterone is palpable. The malice is non-existant. Everything cutting remark that's made (and I've heard a hundred very witty and very original lines every day) is made in pure jest, and is designed to make the speaker a bigger wit than the target.

Yes, it's competitive. What male endeavour isn't? It's all "I'm A Man". The intellectual contect is nil - while the cleverness quotient is very high. Most of these men aren't, it must be said, well-educated. But there's not a stupid one amongst them.

I know they're all bright, because not a one of them has any time for my friend JohnKey the Donkey. And anyone who agrees with me must be clever. Right?

Listening to: Santana, "Shape Shifter". Extraordinary.

Reading: "Broken Jewel", David L Robbins. A favourite author, and this is his best.


  1. Surely not - language that would shock me? Crikey! Good luck on your first week out, Al. And happy birthday! Bloody hopeless, I missed it... sigh. We'll be trekking through your part of town Friday coming, and will pop in if we get a chance. Much love to you all - and how did you get on with The Devil All the Time?

  2. I'm just all kinds of jealous at your description of your Drivers Room quite frankly. I'm pining for some shocking and offensive language, what with being surrounded by terribly earnest God-fearing aspiring social workers for the better part of the week. They all hate John Key too, by the way. Best of luck for your first week.