A day in the country

A couple of years ago, I finally subscribed to the Melbourne community radio station 3MBS-FM. Because I did this during their annual radiothon, my subscription was entered in their prize draw. Renewing my sub this year, I won 6th prize in the draw, which was a weekend hire of a car from Toorak Mercedes.

(If you think this is a plug for 3MBS, you might be right. As Bill McLaughlan, presenter of Exploring Music says, if you’ve been thinking about subscribing, don’t feel guilty – do something! You do get a lot for your $30. And from their monthly online guide, one can actually see what programs are being broadcast. (Luddites can get this guide in hard copy, for no extra charge.) Planning one’s listening is practically impossible with ABC Classic FM, despite all the time and, presumably, money lavished on the recent upgrade to their web site. Don’t live in Melbourne? Support your local community radio station.)

Getting back to the prize, a Benz is a nice piece of metal to punt around for a day and generally put on airs. This is particularly so, given that our cars are 14 and 22 years old. My beloved and I were originally going to have a weekend in Daylesford, or somewhere like that, in July. This was pretty close to the date of her work moving to Port Melbourne and all the stress associated with that process. (Former colleagues relocated to Bundoora can sympathise!) So we decided to defer the country excursion for a bit until she was more used to getting herself to Port Melbourne and back.

Cometh the hour, cometh the vehicle, in the shape of a GLC 350 SUV with only 7,000 kilometres on the clock. (We had expressed interest in borrowing a GLA or C class. This being near the end of the month, however, there weren’t many sedans in stock, so we got upsized into the GLC.) The logistics of picking it up were not straightforward. I had originally thought we would get to Toorak by public transport. Given that this involved getting to Riversdale station, a train from there to Burnley, then another to Heyington, and a hike up the hill to Toorak Village, we opted to drive there, then proceed by convoy home. So guess who got to drive it back to beautiful downtown Burwood?

A sales “executive” showed us the ropes beforehand. It has proximity unlocking. This means it detects when someone approaches it with the key. To open the door, just press a button in the door handle, then pull the handle back towards you. Inside, you can leave the key in your pocket, or put it in one of the cup holders. Seats, steering wheel, and external mirrors have power settings that can be saved individually. Gear selection is done by way of a lever mounted on the steering column, like a turn indicator. (Yes, that’s the one on the left hand side, like all Euro cars.) Want to open the tailgate? Wave one foot under the rear bumper bar; then step back. The tailgate majestically rises. Same procedure to close it.

The Benz is chockers with this kind of electronic gadgetry. Seatbelts tension themselves across your chest as you draw out from the kerb. If you are changing lanes, and someone is approaching on that side, it shows a red triangle in the mirror and beeps. Draw in to park it, and the passenger side external mirror angles down so you can see how close you are to the kerb. When driving up our driveway, lined with rather overgrown plants, beeping begins to sound. Squeezing it into our garage, past the less ancient car, the front camera automatically switches on.  This screen gives you red and yellow lines (with more beeping) as you approach obstacles like other cars and walls. Lights and wipers switch on automatically. You get the picture.

We just drove it up to the Dandenongs and back. On the road it gets along very well. There is plenty of mumbo on tap, albeit with a long travel accelerator pedal, but the turbo diesel is quiet. Even on the Comfort setting, the ride is not plush, something for which the run flat tyres are probably responsible. You feel the road surface, lane markers, driveways, and so on. However, the seats are great, controls are beautifully laid out, and it is generally easy to punt along. It isn’t actually bigger than either of our existing cars; the SUV packaging just makes it feel bigger, on account of its being higher. Could I get used to it? Certainly! You would probably walk away from most prangs. We don’t have 80 large to splash on a vehicle, though.

We had lunch in Maling Road, after which my beloved proceeded to have a mani and pedi. I made myself useful by buying some meat and vegetables for tomorrow (being Grand Final day public holiday), then having an iced coffee sitting on the pavement. Did I mention it was a sunny day? 24 degrees! On our way back to the Benz, my beloved saw a dress in a little shop. Trying it on was facilitated by my taking her top off for her in the change room (so as not to muck up the newly done nails), buttoning and unbuttoning the dress. The dress having gotten a guernsey, as it were, the process happened in reverse. Being a Thursday, it was not too busy anywhere. And we got home in time to miss the school pick-up imbroglio. Each of us had something on order for home delivery; both parcels arrived. The day would not have been improved if my beloved’s ticket had won the lottery.

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