An important online security warning. Why bumbling dads need to be protected too.

August 20, 2013

There are those out there willing to take advantage of the innocent. Tech-savvy types, ready to make fun of the unaware. They’re called daughters.

Yes, these delightful young ladies, with perfect manners and sweet smiles, have a secret agenda to humiliate poor old Dad. I hear some of you muttering that’s not a particularly difficult task. You’re not helping.

Like most of their age, The Teenager and Daughter Two are immersed in the world of social media. But not the ones you and I know.

Forget Facebook and Twitter. They barely rate a mention. It’s all about Snapchat and Instagram. And a few others I can’t fathom.

For those who remember black and white television, let me explain. As best I can. Instagram is all about photos, with smart comments. Snapchat is the delivery of photos and videos with smart comments, that disappear after ten seconds. Are you still awake out there?

I don’t understand the attraction. But then again, I still take Daily Doubles. For teenagers, Snapchat is the perfect way to communicate. Minimal effort required. Just a few words. Let the technology do all the work. And then it’s gone.

Armed with their new i-phones, my daughters are ready to capture anything, at any given moment. A squadron of friends is doing the same thing, waiting to swap whatever comes their way. The more ridiculous the better. And when it comes to ridiculous, Dads are hard to beat.

When we’re in the car, music is played at a decent level. The perfect place to trap an unsuspecting driver. And it’s taken me weeks to realise.

Their cunning system is as follows. One will take the front seat, and find a song that they know I like. As I launch into a version that may or may not be pitch perfect, they begin recording. Secretly, with the phone casually pointed in my direction.

Sometimes, I may be doing daggy dance moves while driving. They find this amusing. Apparently, so do their friends.

It came to a head on the weekend. My sneaky offspring slipped a favourite Christmas carol into play. I’m battling city traffic and red lights, and suddenly Mariah Carey springs into action. ‘All I Want for Christmas is You.’ What was a man to do?

I launched into it with great gusto. The judges are still deliberating on whether I hit the high notes. All in all, I was happy with my performance.

That was, until the giggling began. They couldn’t help themselves. Nor could hundreds of others. Thousands maybe. I was being shared around the globe. Well, South Brisbane anyway.

There’s every chance I have my own YouTube channel, and don’t even know. Someone could be getting rich from my unique sound.

Where are the i-phone police when you need them? Dads have rights too. I’m sure I read that somewhere.

Let this be a warning to all fathers. You are now a target. Do something remotely silly, and you will be a star. Sons and daughters will see to that.

I’ll be toning down my car singing in future. And my crazy arm waving. You can’t trust anyone. Especially family. And Mariah Carey.

Why it’s hard to be romantic at the Drive-In, when you’ve just broken a girl’s finger.

April 24, 2012

There was a time when the Drive-In was the ultimate in cool.

Much better than the local cinema, that required a bus trip. Hard to impress the girls when you’re fumbling for change and sitting in the front row.

The blokes who had wheels were in another league. As youngsters, we heard stories about legends who would spend all Saturday night, parked in front of the big screens. If only half those tales were true, they were going alright.

My first trip to the Drive-In was with Mum and Dad. We took our own sandwiches, and Dad plonked his beer bottle on the glovebox lid. I’m pretty sure it was in winter, and we froze not long after the opening credits.

When I got my licence, it was one of the first missions to embark on. A few of us would park side by side, and imagine we were an Eighties version of the Fonz on four wheels. How wrong we were.

The most memorable trip to the vast viewing ground was with a good mate and girls. In our minds, we had become the legends.

Thommo’s car was in better nick than mine, so we took it instead of the Kingswood. That also allowed me to take the back seat.

Things were going well, until we decided to go and get food. The typical fare of the time, dripping in oil and batter.

I was obviously excited about this teenage feast, because I lost concentration for just a second. What a mistake that would be.

In my haste, I slammed that back door shut. Firmly, and with great effort, onto the hand of my girlfriend.

One finger in particular bore the brunt. The sound of bone crunching and female expletives quickly drowned out the audio coming from our ancient speaker.

Being the sensitive guys we were, we offered sympathies. And then asked what their order was again.

This wasn’t what she wanted to hear. Thommo’s friend was equally unimpressed. The night pretty well ended there. Romance and busted blue fingers don’t go hand in hand.

I thought of those fun times, when we visited a Drive-In a few weeks back. Yes, they still exist. It was part of our school holiday adventure.

What struck me was the change in audience. It now seems to be a family venue. With utes, and trucks, and four-wheel drives.

Kids in pyjamas are set up in the back, with their blankets and pillows. Mums and Dads are perched in camp chairs. It’s like a camping trip on asphalt. No cool leather jackets in sight.

Those goofy speakers are still there, but they’re not needed. The audio comes through your car radio. Mighty impressive.

Along with their cousin Super Shaun, the girls munched on that greasy tucker, just like I did all those years ago.

They thought it was fun. Something different. Next time, we might go in our PJs too. And they know the golden rule. Take great care in the opening and closing of doors.

The world’s unluckiest car owner (and why screwdrivers should not be used as keys…)

May 10, 2011

The insurance woman was trying not to laugh. Yes, that’s right, two cars damaged. Yes, that’s right, both ours. Yes, one hit the other. In our driveway. Snigger snigger.

The only surprise here is that it wasn’t my fault. I must be careful what I say, because when truth be told, the Treasurer did have a role in the incident. In fairness, she was in a hurry. And tired. And the cars were parked too close together. (Anything else you want me to say dear?)

We have a proud family tradition of having car problems. Unlike others, who treat their motors like third children, I am unable to bond with vehicles. And they hate me right back.

My first car was special. It had been Dad’s. A Holden sedan. I don’t know the make or model, but it was old and olive-green. My father taught me to drive it down the lane that ran behind our house. You could do things like that back then.

I drove to school in my final year. Very cool. At lunchtime, I would nip down to the TAB and get a double on. Even cooler. Does that still happen? Mental note – don’t let the girls read this.

But the Holden had one fatal flaw. The petrol gauge didn’t work. Dad somehow knew exactly how much fuel he had on board, and when he needed to re-fill. Like his carpentry skills, this was something he failed to pass down to his eldest son.

I would run out of petrol constantly. Perhaps it was something to do with being unwilling to pay. Given I usually had no money. All around town, the Holden could be found, sitting on empty. And me relying on mates to get me moving.

The final straw came one Friday evening. Now a working man, I decided I should be rewarded for my efforts with a few cool drinks. Not far from my local, that familiar spluttering sound. Then nothing. An empty tank yet again. I glided gracefully into the kerb.

There are decisions one makes through life that in hindsight, can be considered rash. This was one. I got out of that wonderful old car, strolled to the rear, and kicked a tyre. And then kicked it again. Remember that scene in Fawlty Towers when Basil thrashes his troublesome machine with a tree branch? You get the picture.

I marched to the pub, gulped a drink, grabbed the house phone, and called my brother. If you can find taxi fare, and a petrol can, you can have a car. It’s parked not far away. And we shall never speak of it again.

My next car, bought entirely on hire purchase, was a Toyota Celica. Two door, five speed, baby poo brown. Sadly, car and driver were entirely mismatched. It was smooth and classic. I wasn’t.

Things went well enough, until I lost the key. Of course I only had one. It fell out of my pocket on a train coming home from a bucks night in Newcastle.

As luck would have it, my mate Don the Smash Repairer was with me. He had a cheap and sensible solution. Or so it seemed at that late hour. Borrowing tools from the pub (yes, I had my own parking spot), he removed the door lock and ignition bit. I now started my Celica with a screwdriver, which sat under the front seat.

There was only one problem. The Celica had a locking petrol cap. I didn’t realise that, until I went to fill up some days later. No key. So, with my ignition screwdriver, the boys and I ripped off the petrol cap. Second problem solved!

I am shaking my head at this now, but I drove around for some considerable time, with a dish rag for a petrol cap. This was the source of some hilarity among my mates. Until it rained.

Apparently, rainwater does not improve a car’s performance. Especially when it’s added to fuel. Once again, I had a car that kept conking out. At every traffic sign and red light. More hilarity.

Here I made another rash decision. Heading home after the early shift at work, the engine cut out at a red light. Location? To my right, Gosford racecourse. And a car yard to my left. In a scene straight out of any number of ads, I pushed that mongrel car straight into Grawill Motors. Dollar signs flashed as a team of salesmen fought to get to me first.

Working on hire purchase yet again, with nothing to my name, I bought another one. To celebrate, I ventured across the road, and parked at the races. And being so used to my screwdriver routine, I closed the door behind me. With my new key locked inside.

I should stop now. You’re probably bored and I’m depressed. To wrap up, that car, when I finally unlocked it, served me well, until it was swamped by tidal waters in Cairns. The car after that was wrecked, after being stolen and used in a ram raid in Townsville. And so on.

My point here, is that there are worse things in life than a little bump in the driveway. Of course, I’m going to be without a vehicle for a while. Does anyone have a spare I can borrow?