Sunday, April 08, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: In the News

Until a couple of years ago my parents lived in a house in West Auckland that had unfortunately been built on a flood plain. When they moved there flooding was supposed to be a 50 year event, but climate change and subdivision upstream lead to floods being a much more frequent event.

Many years ago now I was 23, still living at home and dating Hamish, who lived with his own parents in Mt Eden. My much-loved Mini had just been written off by an insurance company after I was rear-ended in town. I had replaced it with a little banana-yellow Mitsubishi with brown velvet velour on the dashboard.

I spent the evening with Hamish, but around mid-night I decided it was time to go home. There was a huge storm over Auckland, and I drove home on roads covered with surface water. Once home I considered leaving my car up on the road, which had always been above the level of previous floods. However my new Mitsubushi leaked, so I decided instead to park it in the garage under the house.

The inevitable happened, and I woke at 2am to the sound of dirty brown stream water running past my bedroom window. Mum and Dad got out of bed and went outside to rescue the cars while I put my contact lenses in (without which I was blind). By the time I could see anything the water had risen to the point where Mum had clambered onto the roof of the Mitsubishi to avoid being washed away. Dad had somehow (and we still don't know how) managed to tie a rope around the car's bumper, attaching the other end to the fence. Without that the car, with Mum onboard, would have been washed away.

I called Civil Defense, my sister called emergency services. By the time the fire service arrived so had the news media. The next night Mum was the star of national television news. There she was, dressed in nothing more than a wet, thin cotton nighty. She was stuck on the roof of the car, the water washing up the windscreen. The camera showed a middle-aged and paunchy fireman dressed only in skimpy Jockey's underwear. He made his way through the flood. tied another rope between the car and the road, helped my mother down and escorted her to safety.

Drama over, I prepared to go back to bed. However the rescuing was not over. Despite my most fervant protests I too was escorted into the freezing water, and taken to 'safety' roadside.

Poor Mum. She was interviewed from the front passenger seat of a neighbour's car, cold, shaking and in shock, and trying to protect her modesty. And that wasn't the end of it. A year or so later we were watching one of those reality television disaster shows, and there she was again. No one had bothered to contact us to let us know they would be reusing the footage.

Our family has had ongoing brushes with the media over the years. My sister featured when she sold a rare 5c piece on auction site Trademe. I appeared on several occasions in the local community paper whilst at school. However Mum is the true star of the family, however much she wishes she weren't. It raises some interesting questions about consent, questions that have certainly been debated in New Zealand. One couple, filmed after a crash caused because one of them had been drinking, took the media company that had used the footage to court. The couple lost the case, with public interest being deemed to be of greater importance than their own perceived right to privacy. It's an interesting issue, and I'm not coming down on either side. However I do think it's telling that no one ever asked Mum whether she wanted to be on television in her nightie.


gautami tripathy said...

The average citizen does not like the flash light. I don't blame your mum at all.

It made interesting read. Thanks.

khambagirl said...

Confidentiality and privacy are such a concern these days. At least she was alright!