I’ve had enough. The groundswell of cynicism, the avalanche of snide remarks; it’s simply too much. That people react to joyous news with such unbridled skepticism and unquenchable scorn is a dark stain on humanity’s shriveled soul. Enough! I, for one, won’t stand for it. I renounce every snippy remark and piece of poisonous commentary and declare that I am over-the-moon happy. Whereas others greet the news that part of the Eastern Freeway is being considered for heritage listing with a spray of invective, I say ‘about time’.
I mean, seriously, what took them so long? Who hasn’t been stuck in traffic waiting on the off-ramp to Punt Road and been overwhelmed by the wonder, the beauty and pure concrete grandeur that is the Eastern Freeway? Frankly, a heritage listing doesn’t go far enough. I intend to continue campaigning until the most visually stunning piece of freeway known to humanity is declared the eighth wonder of the world. The Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Forest, Uluru and the Eastern Freeway; they should all be celebrated and protected.
It’s going to be great for tourism. As news spreads, they’ll be turning up here by the planeload in the hope of getting a glimpse of the thing. Ideally, busloads of tourists will use the Eastern Freeway to travel down and visit the Fairy Penguins, thereby experiencing two of our greatest attractions in one afternoon. The only thing I’m concerned about is that the emergency lane may not be sufficient for buses that wish to pull over so that eager visitors can take photos. It’d be a crime not to take loads of pictures.
The possibilities are endless. I see postcards, hats and key rings. Posters, commemorative plates and spoons as well as snow domes will crowd the shelves. I’m not quite sure how to approach soft toys, but I’m sure we’ll figure something out. Apparel that says ‘My Grandma visited the Eastern Freeway and all I got was this lousy t-shirt’ will be keenly sought-after. There will be DVDs too, featuring slow motion images of the freeway (which is how it often feels when you’re stuck on it) with a voice over by Sam Neill describing our most historically significant stretch of road.
So much has happened in that bit of freeway. There’s the spot near Bulleen Road where Bourke and Wills, along with their camels perished after getting stuck in peak hour. There’s the stretch where President Bill Clinton was forced to wait when returning from a top-secret trip to Tyabb to do a spot of presidential antiquing whilst Hillary was fishing for flathead on Frankston Pier. Then there’s the bit just before the Punt Road off-ramp where Albert Einstein got a flat tyre and developed the Theory of Relativity whilst trying to get the wheel nuts off. It’s a little known fact that the Treaty of Versailles was not, as many believe, signed somewhere in France but in the back of a maxi-taxi on our very own Eastern Freeway. ‘Versailles’ was, in actual fact, the name of the driver. This is history that should be celebrated.
This is not the kind monumental paradigm-shifting event that can be commemorated with a mere plaque. We need to make a proper fuss. Some type of ceremony with dancers, music and an appearance by the Little River Band could do the trick. Or perhaps a festival that lasts a week and is capped off with a public holiday. No festival in the history of the universe will ever have been so suited to having food trucks. Marvel at the drainage. Bathe in the splendour of the transit lane. Ponder the meaning of life as you gaze upon the Chandler Highway overpass. There’ll be something for everyone. Bring the kids.
I get that there are some incurable cynics who prefer to scoff at the news that the Eastern Freeway will be heritage listed. I find that sad. What those professional naysayers fail to grasp is the sheer potential that has now been unleashed upon Melbourne. Because if the Eastern Freeway is eligible for heritage listing then, truly, anything is possible. Think about that for a moment. If a congested stretch of concrete and bitumen can be safeguarded for reasons of cultural or aesthetic significance, then there’s no reason why any one of us might not be named Secretary General of the United Nations. Let your imagination run riot as you consider all that could be.
If the Eastern Freeway is heritage listed, then I look forward to Punt Road being nominated for the Gold Logie. Camberwell Junction deserves an Oscar. The big roundabout at the top of Elizabeth Street should absolutely be up for a Grammy. How it didn’t win ‘Best New Artist’ after they installed the traffic lights is a complete mystery. Personally, I’d like to see the roundabout on Coolart and Mornington-Tyabb Roads shortlisted for the Nobel Peace Prize. I am personally willing to travel to Oslo for that. Doubtless, I’ll need to travel on the Eastern Freeway to get myself to the airport. That seems fitting, somehow.