Never turn up to a motorcycle driving test drunk.
"You are an outrage," Mayhem texts when i tell her the bad news.
And it is bad. The driving test officer and i stand in the early morning rain on Stirling Terrace, as the front comes sheeting across Princess Royal Harbour. I'm swaying, confused, and very hung over. And inebriated. He asks me again to actuate the brake light with the footbrake lever. I press the brake, but then i suddenly realise that this exercise is in vain, because the switch has been disconnected. It disintegrated somewhere between Geraldton and Gingin, and the brake light was permanently stuck on. So i disconnected it. And promptly forgot about it. Oh, my head hurts.
The front brake will light it up no worries, i say. I squeeze the front brake lever, and, sure enough, the taillight glows like a Hay Street brothel. I indicate this with a flourish. See? i say. The officer shakes his head. "Footbrake," he says. Wearily, i fiddle about under the bike to find the wires leading to switch. The rain is dripping off my nose. Water, water, everywhere, and i'm dehydrated as fuck. I make the connection and the brake light immediately comes on. "You haven't got your foot on the brake," the officer points out. Obligingly, i put my foot on the brake, and indicate the glowing taillight. The officer is unimpressed. He shakes his head.
This is not entirely my fault, of course. The previous evening, one of our esteemed journalists left The New Newspaper under dire circumstances. The circumstances were dire. So there was nothing for it but to drink. A photographer, a couple of tv news girls, the journo Dotti and i were the last to leave the pub. We were literally shown the door, which was a good thing, because by that stage i had difficulty seeing it. Things had deteriorated rapidly once Miss TV turned up. A couple of weeks ago Miss TV volunteered to do some Musing. We were both fairly trashed, well at least i was, and i mentioned that i needed another model for an upcoming exhibition. Miss TV seemed really keen. What about me, she said. I'll do it, she said. She gave me her mobile number. I sent her a text the next morning. "I'm going to Waychinicup to take some photographs. Want to come for a ride?"
There was no response.
Later i heard from my agent at the art gallery. Miss TV had mentioned she had not heard from me, which seemed a little strange. But i just put it down to One Of Those Things. We were trashed. It was probably for the best. I had neglected to tell her that i needed a model in order to paint her blue and lie her naked on the orange rocks of Waychinicup. And perhaps tie her to a railway track. Or maybe i did tell her that. I can't remember.
Over a few pints of beer we untangle our crossed lines. I didn't hear from you, Miss TV says. I texted you, i say. About Waychinicup, i say. No i didn't get it, she says. Maybe i gave you the wrong number, she says. Let me see. She looks at my phone. Oh, no, she says, that's not my number. That's my boyfriend's number. I'll give you my number.
She is totally insane, i'm thinking.
"Can you start the motorcycle," the officer says. I jump on the bike and kick it over. Nothing. The rain makes its way down the back of my neck. Down my spine. This morning i had to start the bike with jumper leads. It seems that all the mucking about with indicators and headlights and brake lights has flattened the battery again. I kick it over a few more times. Nothing. Oh my head. I'm not just hungover, i'm flungover. Which is like hungover, only further over.
A friend once told me he'd ridden his motorcycle home from the pub drunk. Really plastered. Couldn't remember getting home. (Let's get this clear: the Art Director does not condone this behaviour. I walked to the pub last night. On foot.) Anyway, he wakes up next morning and his head is swollen like a balloon. He can't hear anything. Just the blood rushing in his ears, and the pounding in his head. His peripheral vision is gone. He gets up and staggers into the bathroom. His head weighs a ton. It's the hangover from hell. Then in front of the mirror he discovers he still has his helmet on.
So later that night, much later, after being shown the door of the Tanglehead pub, i send a drunken text to Miss TV with another proposition. After a while a reply pops up. This is her boyfriend, it says. Oh sweet baby jesus. I pour myself a large glass of port and stare at myself in the mirror. What kind of fool am i, i ask. There is no response.
"How about we reschedule for next Monday?" says the driving test officer. "And you fix your brake light."
Thursday i drive the 400km up to Perth in a borrowed car to see Mayhem and to attend our lawyer's wedding. I pick up a replacement brake light switch from the wreckers, then head back down to Albany on Saturday night slash Sunday morning. I get into Albany at 5am Sunday, put the motorcycle battery on charge, and go to work. Monday morning i fit the switch, go to work again, meet deadline, and front up for my rescheduled motorcycling test at 1.30pm.
I do have a motorcycle licence already, of course. I just need an all-class bike licence so i can ride the 650. I have been putting it off, which is not entirely my fault. I mean, how was i supposed to sit a licence test when my licence was under suspension?
After the emergency braking test, the turning in a tight circle test, and the leisurely ride over Mt Clarence test, i do the obligatory park and hill start and we head back to the station. I wait in the Departmental office. That went really well, i’m thinking. Poised and elegant. Sweet lines through those corners. Very smooth braking and gear changes. Occupying the correct space on the road at all times. Using both mirrors and looking over my shoulder when changing lanes. Fully aware of the traffic around me. Indicating correctly on roundabouts, as per Albany Roundabout School methods. The driving test officer comes in.
"Does your speedometer work at all?" he asks, exasperated.
"Not exactly," i say. "Well, no. The cable is broken. Why? Was i going too slow?"
"You were speeding," he says. "Once in a 40k zone, once in a 50k zone, and once in a 60k zone." He hands me back my papers and shakes his head.
Well. At least I was sober.