Van Man

It’s my ‘blog and I’ll tangent if I want to, even–as in this case–that tangent is the introduction to the piece. Back in 1979 British comedians Jimmy Mulville and Rory McGrath wrote a radio comedy called Glompus Van Der Hloed’s Tales From The Crypt. It starred people like Mel Smith and Andrew Sachs. And the only thing I remember from it was a joke about a Dutch painter called Hertz Van Rental. This gag would often recur to me because for ten years I drove a 1996 Toyota Liteace van. You see?

I owned the van because at the time of purchase I was involved in a lot of filmmaking and for a number of years it appeared on the set of ultra-short, no budget films made in Perth. It even appeared IN a number of films. The one film it starred in was called SLEEPER. I ripped off Woody Allen’s title and wrote a short about a guy called Rosko who couldn’t sleep and was a delivery driver. I fashioned this tale completely from my fertile imagination, my own previous work as a driver and my frequent insomnia having only the slightest influence on the finished script. The short was made and it was directed by Andrew Milner.

The film was how the van got its unofficial name. I decided that Rosko worked for a courier company called Reed Logistics. This obviously needed to be written on the side of the van. The producer Liz Fay and myself agreed that I would hire my van to the production and that the sign would be one of those magnetised rectangles that people use. Somehow, wires were crossed and in the end someone wrote Reed Logistics in some kind of special tape on the Townace’s sliding door. They used special signwriting tape that was extremely adhesive and difficult to remove. I was quite pissed off.

So the name literally stuck. Friends would ask if they could borrow ‘Reed Logistics’ to move house. Strangers wanted to know whether Reed Logistics was a company that had folded. Occasionally, I parked Reed Logistics in loading zones and never got pinged.

But recently it became clear that I had to give up Reed. It was breaking down too often and costing too much to fix. In fact I still owe my mechanic $700 (note to self – pay Tom this week). So last week, I traded in my excellent but ailing van for a shiny and rather anonymous Toyota Camry. And it’s great. It’s quiet, it handles nicely and it has no discernible character. Reed Logistics was a meat and potatoes mid 90s brick on wheels. It had one speaker on a radio that couldn’t get AM. It had an oversized battery that didn’t quite fit into the “well” behind the driver’s seat and a strange drive shaft/universal joint arrangement that is the reason I’m still paying off a large mechanical repair bill.

This new, still nameless Camry has forced me into the 21st first century. I’ve had to update my ideas on what is current for vehicle mod-cons. Apparently they’ve invented something called stereo sound. I can open any of the windows of my car – without having to stop driving and lean out of my seat!  And there’s this central locking gizmo that seems like something Goldfinger or Hugo Drax would have in their automobile to make sure 007 couldn’t escape.

But I’m still missing Reed Logistics a bit. It was raining when I bade my trusty old van farewell. Slate grey clouds had gathered over Wangara. Raindrops slid down moodily over Reed’s large flat windscreen. As I walked away, the metallic tongue end of the non-retracting seabelt hung out from under the door. I took this as a final gesture, a mute tribute, a stationary wave from Reed to me.

Phil Jeng Kane

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