Natural Law number 396

WHY are petrol stations always on the other side of the road?

If you doubt this try driving to Cairns. What’s even weirder is – they’re always on the other side of the road – both ways!

Whether you’re heading for Cairns or heading for Townsville the only fuel is across at least one lane of thundering trucks, bimbling tourists, and 90-year-old farmers with their hats over their eyes.

It’s one of the natural laws of the universe, like the one that says fuel is always cheaper at the previous petrol station, at which you didn’t stop.

And the one that says all petrol stations will mysteriously vanish the moment your fuel gauge brushes the red line.

And of course the other side of the highway is a detour, and detours aren’t allowed.

All male drivers know what will happen if you make a detour: the car will explode. Or vaporise mysteriously as you turn the wheel away from your dogged, white-knuckled course.

It’s almost as bad as stopping to ask someone for directions.

It’s the same with those rustic little fruit and vegie stalls at the side of the road. No… let’s be fair… they are not always on the other side of the road.

But if not, then they’re always behind you. Or to put it another way — they’re not attractive until they’re behind you.

Up ahead they look like old pig sheds held together with baling twine and wire. In the rear view mirror they look quaint, the fruit juicy and the vegetables huge.

“You could always turn round…” says my wife.

“What? What! But that’s the wrong way!”

“It’ll only take a few minutes. What’s a few minutes in eight hours driving?”

“But people will get in front of us!”

“There are already people in front of us!”

What is it about women that they think you can just meander your way from Cairns to Townsville as if it were… well, fun!

Don’t they understand that there will be another fruit stall up ahead? (Naturally — by the same law that governs petrol prices — its fruit will be flyblown and the vegies will be stunted, but there will be others).

“But you won’t stop at them!”

“But it’s not my fault. By the time we see them it’s too late to stop. There’s an eight-axle semi‑trailer fogging up my rear window!”

“You could slow down.”

What? What! God in Heaven. Slow down!

Slow! Down!

Doesn’t she realise what that’ll do to our average speed? And our fuel consumption! Doesn’t she realise that a Ford station wagon will not fit under the axles of a semi-trailer without some serious modifications!

Like removing the passengers’ heads!

And what about the space-time continuum? You can’t start interfering with destiny. I mean, what happens if there’s an accident up ahead, and we’re missing it by five minutes? If we turn round for a bag of lychees and a handful of bok choy we’ll be five minutes late up the road and we’ll drive straight into it!

“But we might be driving straight into it now; and if we stop, we’ll miss it.”

“Don’t be ridiculous!”

That’s the trouble with women: they don’t understand how stressful driving is. That’s why I’ll be the one who flops into an armchair as soon as we get home and she’ll be the one who makes the dinner.

Except there won’t be any dinner because all the vegetables will have turned to slime in the fridge.

If I’d known that would happen I’d have stopped at one of those roadside stalls.