If you’ve got a problem with a tinkering neighbour, don’t call the local council. Go and say G’day!

Photographers: Jordan Leist

WE LIVE in a time where people are more connected than ever. Just about every one of us has a device in their pocket that allows us to speak to, send a message to, or send a photo to any person we know, or – if we want – to every person we know.

If you really want to broaden your audience, you can even share it with a whole bunch of people you don’t know. Yet, with all this technology and connectivity, society is somehow becoming even more disconnected.

New suburbs are popping up everywhere with smaller block sizes, much higher population densities, and with houses built so close together there’s barely enough room to get the rubbish bin down the side of the house. When I was a kid, your average block was a quarter acre in size (over 1000sqm) and everyone had a yard to play in. We still spent most of our time out the front on the road with all the other kids from the street; riding our bikes, playing cricket and footy, throwing bolt bombs in the air and running for cover – the simple things. If we wanted to play a computer game, we had to ride our bikes to the local deli and pay for the privilege.

You’re probably starting to wonder what this stroll down memory lane has to do with street machining? Well, a couple of years ago I got a letter from a ‘disgruntled neighbour’ accusing me of ‘reliving my youth’ and constantly playing with my ‘noisy car’. To this day I don’t know who that person was; although I’m pretty sure I’ve figured it out. At the time I had planned to do a letter drop to everyone in the street explaining the situation. I even had the reply letters printed up and stuffed into envelopes. It was the middle of winter and I was about to head overseas for a couple of weeks, so it never eventuated.

More recently our mate Peter Flint copped a similarly gutless anonymous complaint to the council. Firstly for parking his car trailer on the verge after getting home from an event at midnight, and then a few days later he got a visit from the council because someone had put in a noise complaint. Flinty has lived there for 12 years and has never had a problem before.

Street machiners are a dying breed, not in the sense that street machining is getting less popular, but there aren’t too many people these days who are hands-on and get things done by themselves. At a time when people are more likely to throw stuff away than fix it – or pay someone to do a simple service on a car – we’re in the shed dropping spanners, spilling oil and skinning knuckles. Sorry if that wakes you up or interrupts you from whatever (un)reality show you’re ­­watching.

As a society we’re constantly being reminded to recycle, in fact most councils are now making it mandatory. Machiners have been doing that kind of thing for years; never throwing anything away, pulling usable parts off wrecked cars and repurposing components to make our junk run. We’re the original tree-hugging hippies!

Hardly anyone has a back shed full of tools, hammers, nails and bits of wood to bang those nails into. Most kids wouldn’t have a clue how to use a hand tool and very few schools are teaching the vocational stuff anymore. Woodwork, metalwork and technical drawing were subjects you had to do as part of your lower school education, but then someone thought it would be a better idea if everyone headed off to university to get a higher education and work in professional jobs. Who needs to get their hands dirty doing some kind of trade?

I admit I was one of those kids that headed off to university for a higher education, but I never stopped messing around with an old car. And even though I’m not a mechanic by trade, I know how to fix most things that go wrong with my car. Most of that was learned through experience, trial and error and reading a bunch of car magazines as a kid. Maybe if more people spent their week nights and weekends with the garage door up working on their cars, people would be more inclined to come over for a look and say hello. Who knows, they might even make a new friend.

The problem here isn’t the noisy neighbour, it’s the fact that the disgruntled neighbour doesn’t feel comfortable enough in his own neighbourhood to come and knock on the door and let us know that there’s a problem.

Communication, folks. That’s all it takes.