The headrest problem

A still from the YouTube video “How to set your head restraint correctly” published by AXA Insurance

There is apparently something called “forward head posture” which I’d never heard of till I decided to buy a car.

The car search itself was the same for me as it is for anyone else. Having decided what my budget was and what my requirements were, I had to decide whether to buy new or second-hand. The question of make and model would follow once that decision had been taken.

Second-hand cars are cheaper but like most people I dreaded the thought of buying a lemon. On the other hand, everyone knows at least one person who has managed to bag a bargain, a cheap old banger that just keeps on going with nary a problem.

If you don’t really know much about cars, lemon-avoidance is the reason why new cars have a premium: you pay for peace of mind. You know the car’s value will plummet the moment you drive it out of the yard but you also know the car’s complete history. There is much to be said for reliability. There is also much to be said about the rotten reputation of second hand car dealerships.

But I digress. Having decided I wanted a new car, the options seemed to be a Toyota Yaris, a Toyota Corolla, or a Hyundai i30.

The Hyundai i30 was an unusual choice and I would not have thought of it had I not read reviews recommending it. Such reviews were glowing. In head-to-head comparisons with the Toyota Corolla and the Mazda 3 it seemed to come up trumps.

I tested it myself to make a comparison. I had already driven a Toyota Camry, a Toyota Corolla hatchback, and a Hyundai Accent. To help make my decision I test drove a 1.3L Yaris, a 1.5L Yaris, and a Toyota Corolla sedan. That’s in addition to the i30 itself.

The biggest surprise and disappointment was the Corolla sedan. It simply lacks headroom. I can fit in a Yaris without difficulty but for the Corolla sedan I had to first lower the seat and then raise the steering wheel. And while the car itself was smooth the overall riding position left something to be desired.

Which gets me back to the car that should have been the outstanding winner – the Hyundai i30 Go.

On paper it’s terrific. There are those reviews I mentioned above, it’s won a car of the year award, it has plenty of power, and it’s a quiet and smooth ride. The Toyota Corolla hatchback is too expensive but the i30 is cheaper and hits the sweet spot nicely.

And yet… the headrest is a pain.

When I took it for a test drive I discovered that the headrest was forcing my head forward. I tried adjusting it. It went up, it went down. But it didn’t go back.

Search for this issue online and you will soon come across the wisdom that a head rest is actually a head restraint. The idea is that it’s right behind your head and stops you getting whiplash if you are rear-ended. Which is fine in theory but I don’t like having my head pushed forward.

I’ve already noticed the same pushing-your-head-forward problem as a passenger in an Isuzu D-Max. I’ve noted the problem in the economy seats of an Airbus A380 while flying long haul. And I’ve encountered it while riding intercity trains in Italy. In each case, the headrest pushes your head forward uncomfortably.

A Hyundai salesman told me that the problem can be resolved by reclining the seat a little. To an extent he’s right. With the seat reclined and my head against the rest, it is angled forward and doesn’t feel like it’s being forced down. But still, that’s a ridiculous solution.

Further research suggests that the headrests in the i30 are designed so that the car gets the maximum possible safety score when crash-tested when using a crash test dummy. The pushed-forward headrest suits a standard dummy perfectly.

I just wish some dummy had designed a better dummy.

The Melancholy Roman

A few roos loose

Map of the Mernda area, taken from Google Maps

When I was reading newspapers as a child, sometimes a story would be titled “Only in America”. It would be about some bizarre occurrence that had happened in the United States, and which by implication could never happen in Australia.

I’ve since been told that Americans themselves have the saying “Only in Florida”. I don’t know if that’s true.

Still, this blog post isn’t about either of these things. No, it’s about a story I read in The Age on Monday, 24 June. And this one could be titled “Only in Australia”.

Let’s give some background. There are a number of suburban train lines that run from the Melbourne CBD as part of the Melbourne train network. One of these used to be known as the South Morang line due to the fact that the terminus was at South Morang Station, but the line was extended last year to run a further three stations out. It now terminates at Mernda and hence is known as the Mernda line.

It isn’t actually true to say that it was extended last year, however. The extension opened in August 2018 but the works took some time. And it’s the consequences of those works that are the topic of the newspaper article.

Near to Mernda Station is Plenty Gorge, and Plenty River which runs through it. This area has an abundance of wildlife.

According to The Age’s report, the construction of the Mernda line in 2017 left a mob of about 40 kangaroos cut off from the gorge. They have been stranded ever since, on a block of land surrounded by Plenty Road, Bridge Inn Road, and a housing development.

So the question that inspired the article is, how to get rid of the kangaroos?

It should be pointed out at this point that a lot of farmers and truck drivers consider kangaroos to be a pest. They are notorious for jumping out in front of vehicles on country roads at dusk and after dark. According to Wikipedia, kangaroos account for 60% of collisions between vehicles and animals in Australia. I am surprised that the figure is that low. While kangaroos are pretty rare in the city, outside the city they’re not exactly an endangered species.

Not all problems need solving but in this case the kangaroos can’t just be left where they are. The vacant land that they’re living on is owned by Woolworths and they want to develop the site into a shopping centre.

So how to remove the kangaroos?

According to the article, negotiations about how to do this have been going on for over a year. Woolworths had been willing to cooperate with volunteers who wanted to sedate the kangaroos and then transport them, but apparently the state government’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning blocked this. There is a permit that must be obtained to move kangaroos. In the meantime, more than a dozen of the animals have been killed since they became trapped.

I suppose that the report is deadly serious, but it ends with Woolworths saying that they had attained a permit to move them. It will not be done by sedation. Instead, they will create a temporary path and encourage the kangaroos to go through a gate to Plenty Gorge. Yes, that’s right. A gate.

My mind boggles at this. Herding sheep is famously easy. Herding cats is famously nigh-on impossible. But herding kangaroos?

Only in Australia.

The Melancholy Roman