Every day seems completely different, like I'm playing a video game with infinite original levels.

I don't know why I'm not thinking more about the car. Is it because I can't sympathise with what it would be like to have your car become worthless by a flood? Is it because I have no powers of sympathy, and so don't care? Is it because I'm a crazy person and managed to convinvce myself that I could fix it by writing letters to politicians? But why am I doing that?

So I wrote this letter, and if anyone were to be so kind then I think I need an honest critique, in order to take measure of my sanity. I'm crazy I think.



Traffic signs operate by basic principles of attention. Including salient appearance (e.g. reflective surface), or pavlovian expectation (e.g. at the end of a street). Their ability to be responded-to can be a matter of life or death. All perception is based on context, and there is an assumption of a common knowledge shared by all license holders. This is a common sense expectation, as illustrated by the senior officer accusing the driver of ignoring a frequently viewed television flood danger ad. The officer was correct in believing that perception is framed by perspective, and that such framing will significantly affect an individual’s conscious experience. In this case however the driver does not watch any television, and was not aware that she was expected to do so. The point being illustrated is that all traffic signals are enforced following a common sense assumption; it is fair to expect that all (competent) persons will react in response to the signage.

A similar point may be made about the the officer expressing an expectation of geographical knowledge. The officer was once again correct in believing that such a framing perspective would enhance the visibility of flood warning, but was incorrect in his larger point and knew nothing about the driver’s life.

The issue at stake is, “What are the expectations implicit in traffic sign laws, and furthermore what duty of care is expected in preventing flood damage?”

It is always difficult to transcribe an experience, nonetheless:


driving along an 80km/h road,

been driving around getting dinner and not seen any signs of trouble,

coming up hill,


see the sign as a dark yellow ambiguous object on the opposite side of the road,

start to try and imagine what the words are,

there is a brief moment of fortuitous angles when the sign is clearly lit up by the car’s lights,

then immediately it is past,

shocking the driver at how close it is,

now the thoughts arrive confused,

have finally become cognizant of the words that were momentarily seen,

driver confused at why a sign would be placed so irresponsibly,

driver is shocked per belief that the sign’s placing would only be the act of malicious vandals,

suddenly the road looks strange,

and suddenly there is water entering the vehicle at an alarming rate.


Having no means of accurately gauging the danger posed by the rising waters as the headlights shone across the surface of endless inky blackness, and fearing for her passenger, the driver immediately dialed 000. As the waters rose over the seats, the driver and her passenger climbed on top of the vehicle through the sunroof.

One might question the difficulty experienced by the police in understanding the car’s location, or perhaps the number of vehicles invoked on the call, or perhaps the “arguably jovial, arguably callous” presentation of the police upon arrival. One might also introduce the points that police should be more proactive in their duty to prevent these sorts of accidents, and certainly less punitively one-track minded.

It took a few moments for the driver to understand that she was being told off for having the car crash into a flooded river. As if it had been done maliciously. And if not malice, it was implied, then it was willful stupidity, because everyone has seen the tv ads. And even if the sign is hard to see, then the driver should have driven slower even before seeing the sign. An officer helpfully explained, that ever since the Toowoomba floods, new legislation means that what the driver had experienced was a finable experience.

After all, the driver did nothing wrong, and therefore the offense was a matter of fate, i.e. chance plus negligence. The driver is not obligated to conform to a particular lifestyle in addition to following the traffic laws. The driver lives a rural lifestyle, but hardly leaves her home, spending most of her time caring for her horses. She does not watch tv.

The sign is (elevated and) underneath the street lights at the turn off of the roundabout that leads to the flooded road, there are barricades blocking off the potentially lethal flood, and there is a second sign a little way further just in case. There is also a police officer on duty.

Would be a good use of the cones and barricades and poles that are otherwise seen so liberally sprinkled around all and any road works.

But actually: low, bad angle, wrong side of road, no lighting, and no cones et al. “Arguably” pathetic.

The police officers were acting as if the driver had chosen to drive into the river and destroy her car. When the driver attempted to (lightly, politely and with respect) communicate her experience to the senior police officer, she was threatened with additional fines carrying portentous names and ambiguous meanings.

If you read this with an attentive mind then you will have noticed more than one path of contemplation on the world’s imperfections. At the very least there are questions about the role of councils, police officers and their ethos, legislation, duty and obligation, and having a fair go.

What are the expectations implicit in traffic sign laws? Common sense
What is the expected role of traffic signs in preventing flood damage? Better than this

What happens when a legal, competent driver is harmed because of institutional misuse of traffic signs?

If the car had only gone a short distance to the right, then it would have been carried by the currents and the driver and her passenger would have certainly died, the police officer informed the driver at the scene. Please recontextualize all of the above with this in mind.


Do you see that river in the image above. Neither did the driver on ANY other occasion she drove through it. It does not have a bridge. The river apparently doesn’t exist except for when it “floods”. Wait what does the word “flood” mean. That wasn’t a flood, that was a river that filled up. And! they! didn’t! block! it! Several days after “the” rain. And after many many* cars have already crashed into the river. And then the police came, breathalysed (level 0.0) and fined the driver.

There is no street lighting in this area, at all, and the speed limit is 80km/h.


* On the way home, wet and despondent, sitting along side the tow-truck driver, I made a voice recording as he told me that he himself had personally towed about 4 cars out of this river over the last few nights, and knew that there was at least one still drowned. He of course, represents only a single member of a single tow-truck company. He confirmed that the sign had been in the same position over that period

I don’t think that this is the only road that floods in queensland. Does society have any duty of care?



Yours sincerely,




“At least you’re alive,” gee thanks, but an hour ago I was alive and I had a car, now I have no car, no way to buy food for myself, my horses, no way to get to the doctor or the pharmacy, oh and great I get to pay a tow truck to give me back my ruined car, oh and the police have decided to be…..

It might also have been discussed how the car was what I bought with my inheritance when my father died. And now it’s just gone.



If you've actually somehow read that. They what I oh so desperately want to know, ignoring its literary validity, does it brainwash the reader into believing this to be an injustice. Especially in a state that 3 years ago published a commissioned report into how to deal better with floods...

Last night we went out for Jill's birthday. She requested a birthday supper at a restaurant that's near my aunt and uncle so I left a message for them if they had room and an inclination to attend. My sister and her husband were there, she didn't tell me he was coming, but we added an extra chair and our server brought us another wine glass so it all worked out. When my sister was younger she worked at an Olive Garden restaurant. A guy she knew named Dan worked with her and they became aquaintances since they worked at the same place while going to the same school. After my sister graduated she went to a furniture store to look at a coffee table. She ran into her friend and tried catching up with him.

While they were in school he had been in a band, had just become a father for the first time, and was planning on marrying the woman who had birthed his daughter. My sister asked how he was doing as a friend you haven't seen for a while would when meeting again. When she asked about his marriage he told her he was getting divorced. She then asked how his daughter was, he replied that he hardly ever got to see her. Thinking these were sad topics for him she mentioned the band, but he was no longer part of the group since his child care resposibilities meant that he couldn't practice and play when they needed him on nights and weekends. My sister was grasping for straws at this point so she said that at least they were young and healthy.

This guy hadn't been able to find a job that would allow him to use his journalism degree so he had taken the job selling furniture to have some income even if it wasn't the field he would have liked to be working, and to top it all off, he had recently been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. My sister left without purchasing anything, this was many years ago, he is doing much better now. I'm not sure how his name came up in conversation, but we went around the table conjuring up horrible scenarios in a conversational setting where we were dining on good food and surrounded by family members on a glorious May Day that was reminiscent of the day my daughter was born. The morning had been very cold, rainy, and gray, but by noon the sun had burned away the chilly fog.

Yesterday I drove out to see if any of the dining room sets would work for what I wanted to accomplish at home and at the condo. It was a longer drive down winding roads that I don't travel frequently. The weather was an odd mix of sun and rain, I needed my windshield wipers, but not the quilted vest I had grabbed for the trip thinking that it would be cold. My mom's husband had said he would meet me there. When I called he said he was running late so I gave him a few extra minutes. I wasn't exactly lost in the small subdivision, but I couldn't find the house either. Finding myself in town I pulled into a gas station and used Google Maps to help me figure out where I had gone wrong. Upon arriving I was greeted by an older man in a green shirt and his equally charming wife.

Inside were some of the healthiest houseplants I had ever encountered. I would have bought the succulent collection, but I was told that someone else was coming for it on Friday. The first table and chairs I saw were disappointing. It was a large oak table and chairs that someone had painted. Bulky, heavy furniture hasn't ever appealed to me and I become less fond of moving it as I age. Inside there were two bright gold chairs that went with a plaid couch. I've seen similar chairs in houses of my relatives and others who lived during whatever era that style was popular. It was in remarkably good condition and I reflected on the tendency of my immediate family to take the things we own for granted.

The second dining room table was not as disappointing as the one that had been out in the garage. Two pedastal feet had some wear, but the top was in good shape. The couple thought the table was cherry, but couldn't be sure. We were also uncertain of its age although we speculated that it was built during the thirties or forties. I could picture the dark red wood in my dining room and knew that the table would fit in the space I had. They wanted four hundred for it and it was hard to tell them that I had to talk to my husband about it. In the bedroom I found a full sized bed that I told them I would take. I should have negotiated on the price, but they were nice and I felt that thirty dollars was a fair price.

I have a hard time with nice people. I know her mother is going into a home and the money will be used to help support her, but why am I putting this elderly woman ahead of my own family and their needs? I bought a Christmas tree with lights since I got rid of the one we had. The top was broken so I said it was time to go. I had been planning on buying a replacement after this upcoming Christmas so I was happy to hand over twenty dollars on a tree that was already strung and was an ideal height and circumference. I found two pillowcases that were edged in pink lace, a Tupperware container that matches one I already own, and I picked up a drying rack for two dollars since our new dryer won't be delivered until next week Tuesday. I have a not so secret love for wooden drying racks, I could have bought two, but now I'm glad that I exercised some restraint even though part of me wishes I had the mate.

There was an old ironing board and iron that I could have bought. For some reason I find myself drawn to older things that seem to be made so much more solidly than they are now. I love to iron and spent considerable money on a nice iron many years ago. I've used it without encountering any problems, but recently I went downstairs to find that someone had broken off the flap where you add water to the reservoir. I was so mad when I saw that, unreasonably so, but my anger seemed justified at the time. Here I had used good money to buy myself a pretty nice iron and someone else who was careless had broken my iron and left it for me to discover when I came downstairs to use it. Not only that, someone had melted red plastic on the plate.

Fuming to myself I scraped off the red as best as I could. The smart thing to do would have been to run the warming iron over an item that didn't matter, but in my rage I grabbed a new towel. I'm fortunate there was no color transfer, and this is why I wanted to write about the broken iron and my free ironing board. It was either my husband's, or came with the house when we bought it. We've lived here since 1998, it has always serviced me well and I use this as an illustration of why I need better strategies. Instead of being grateful that I have an ironing board that has served me well since it became mine, I'm upset that an iron I've had for probably ten or fifteen years is missing a flap and was mistreated. 

In the grand scheme of things, this is really not a big deal. But it feels like a VERY BIG DEAL to me. The wounded iron represents that way I've been carelessly treated, and I could even get really fancy with the image and tie the red residue on my iron plate to droplets of blood I've lost at the hands of others such as the time my roomate shoved a German book into my face and started a copious nosebleed. The ironing board is not pretty and the cover is hopelessly dated. The grim brown and dull green are the colors of my life as I peceive it, and again, I can contrast this with what I would like in my mind, but then I am overlooking things like my pink striped pillow and blue leather handbag that I bought years ago and still receive compliments on when I carry it.

Like the man my sister knows, I am focusing on the things that I don't like and allowing them to rob me of joy, peace, happiness, and contentment. We were led to believe that the things I was going to see yesterday would be free so it was something of a shock to see price tags on items I liked. I've given things away that I ended up needing, my sister and I talked about this yesterday. I was upset when my husband didn't particularly care for the dining room table that I would have bought, but I left my therapy appointment with a statement about being less impulsive in the future and a reminder to let go which is so much easier said than done for someone like me who wants to hang onto the futility of past resentments and injuries.

We tend to pay for our guests when we go out to eat. It was my daughter's birthday. There were four of us and my sister and her husband were only two people. Her husband had picked up flowers for my sister's niece and gave those to her with a colorful bookmark he thought she would like. He works at a large hospital complex so it wasn't like he had to go far to find flowers, but the gesture and sentiment were appreciated. My sister ordered a bottle of wine that I wouldn't have. I was nervous about telling my husband that, but then I thought that it was nice that she and her husband had made the effort to come out to celebrate with us and a birthday is a special occasion that comes but once a year.

My sister ended up picking up the tab and I was so grateful I almost started crying. It wasn't even the money although that was certainly a factor. She's been out of work since January, she's very tight with her money, and to see her pick up the check for a party of six where we had ordered drinks and dessert was healing and heart warming. The girls and I had bought her a small bouquet after she was let go. At the store they wanted to buy something that was already assembled, but I picked out a collection of daisies and a basket for them. We added a tiny balloon and the florist put everything together and used bright orange and white tissue paper to protect everything from the January winds. My sister's birthday was the Monday after she lost her job so the flowers were part empathy and half birthday acknowledgement.

In the past I wouldn't have done anything like that. I would have wanted to, but I would have told myself that we didn't have the money for such trivial expenditures. During our conversation I had mentioned that I was going to get my mom some new kitchen towels for Mother's Day. Presents are a sore subject in our family with some of us giving explicit orders and others of us secretly resenting the things we didn't ask for and don't want or need. I was bitterly unhappy when my mom bought me a stock pot for my fortieth birthday. Not only did I already have two of them, I had told her that, and I had also given her several other ideas. In the past she's given me cash so that's what I had been expecting. She bought my sister a stock pot and in my mind I can see her buying me one because she was there and it was expedient.

My anger boiled over when she told me that my present was my problem. If I wanted to return it I could and for many months I hated the pot and her since it was tall, narrow, and useless as a stock pot. My husband had told her I wanted a new stock pot and that angered me further because in reality he wanted that type of a pot, and having never made stock in his life, couldn't see that the shape and design were horrible although the pot is attractive enough if I wanted to sit and stare at it sitting out on my stove. I go through this complicated cycle where I really want something, feel like I don't deserve it, or can't articulate it to others and then end up with presents that people bought me because they didn't know what else to do. 

I've written this before, but few things are as satisfying to me as cash. Cash is king in my world. It comes to me without restrictions. I control that money and that spending power, and for whateve reason, a check is not the same. A check is another trip to the bank, waiting for it to clear, and me feeling like I need to leave that money there to pay bills. Cash is mine alone. I can save it or spend it or do whatever I want with it when it comes into my greedy hands. Money I spend is gone. I forget that. This morning I came across a Red Lemon article that was a posting of things to tell a seventeen year old self. They were wise ideas and I agreed with the majority of them. The author is ten years my junior and has figured out lessons I have yet to learn. That makes me angry too.

The anger is only hurting me. I found a dining room table that's in better shape, closer to us, and the seller is asking for less than the people I know are. To buy this table means I have to let go of other ideas and that's hard for me. I have to sit down and really think about this table. Whether I want it, whether I'm willing to spend that kind of money on it. I think I do, but will I get it home and find that it's not exactly what I had envisioned after all? Will I be upset the first time someone spills a drink or sets something hot down on the top? It isn't really the table that's worrying me, it's the idea that I have a tendency to be careful with my things while others are careless with them. I would like to blame my step-daughter for the mishaps my iron suffered since neither of my children iron, but I can't prove anything either way.

It really doesn't matter who broke the flap off of my iron. The ironing board I have can be sold, donated, given away, or otherwise replaced. I don't feel like I deserve a new iron and board and that's the real problem. I want someone to come over and mourn this loss with me. I want to go down to a laundry area that is fresh and clean and gleaming with white and splashes of intriguing color. I bought myself a fabric basket to hold things that need to be ironed and it makes me happy every time I see it. I know what I want, but I take these very convoluted paths where I get substitutes that aren't what I want which ends up costing me more in time, money, stress and frustration. What I really need is to make up my mind about what I want and what I'm going to do about things.

I can go out and buy myself a new iron and board. Last night I was writing about a man who thinks that his wife is cheating on him. His family bought him a hobby farm for his birthday, he hates farming so people are furnishing his new house with antiques and vintage items they think that he will like. It's an effort on their part to make weekend farm life more palatable to him and his father chastizes him while he's describing the antique ironing board his mom bought him off of Etsy. The story helped me remember that things are much less important than people and beautiful surroundings can become a gilded cage if a man's house is also his castle. I'm still working through a lot of these things, but I feel better having gotten some of these things off my chest for now.  

P.S. I really want to race out and buy a new iron and board, but I'm going to do some research first. Impulsivity is not all bad, but extremes in my life need to be tempered. 

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