Our roads are becoming an all-out assault on the senses

This column published as "Something Stinks" in November 2019 issue

David Matthews / November 05, 2019
David Matthews
What seemed to be a case of vehicular bullying in Japan allowed an ordinary driver to become an everyday pooperhero.

Our tale begins when the driver, cruising down an ordinary road this past summer, noticed a van in his rearview mirror getting uncomfortably close. When the van began tailgating aggressively, our hero feared that he could be embroiled in an episode of road rage. 

And that’s when his cell phone beeped, notifying him of an incoming AirDrop message. 

AirDrop is a file-sharing service on Apple devices that allows users to transfer documents between mobile devices within a 30-ft radius. It was intended as a quick and easy way to share files and photos with nearby friends. 

However, since the man was alone in the car, it was clear that this message could only be emanating from one source: the angry tailgating van.

Now certain that he was going to face an explosion of rage and abuse, he cautiously peeked at the message and was shocked to read the following words: 

“Poop. Let me pass.”

Needless to say, he was relieved that the aggressive van driver was just in desperate need of his own relief. Afterward he tweeted that the tailgater “was on a crusade against pooping his pants, so I let him pass straight away.”

His tweet received more than 170,000 likes and over 65,000 retweets from users who hailed him as a hero. Many praised his empathy, while others were happy to hear that there are still drivers who will always have your back(side). 

Smells like trouble

A highway construction project in Australia faced an even bigger struggle with uncontrolled, stinky emissions. 

CPB Contractors was ordered to pay $298,000 USD for “causing an offensive odor” at the site of a highway interchange project in Sydney. 

Road construction isn’t typically known for punishment-worthy putridness, but it turns out that the construction was taking place over an old landfill site. When the builder allowed pooling rainwater to percolate through old waste, it created “leachate,” a fancy word for “garbage tea.”

Landfill leachate is known to smell bad due to the presence of hydrogen, nitrogen, and sulfur, but local residents offered more colorful descriptions of the odor.

One woman said that the “rotten egg, farty smell” that she encountered around her children’s school gave her a tight feeling in her chest and made her feel like her throat was closing up. Another resident said the smell was so bad it almost made her vomit. Someone else said the smell was so awful that it made her believe her colostomy bag had broken. 

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) investigated and found that CPB not only improperly managed the pungent smells, but as holders of an environmental protection license, should have had a plan for dealing with the waste before construction even began. 

Due to this negligence, the EPA came up with a unique punishment for CPB. In addition to the monetary penalty, CPB was ordered to send a letter of apology to local residents. 

On top of that, the company also had to publish details of its aromatic offenses in its parent company’s annual report, in three prominent newspapers, and even on its own website and social media accounts.

Sex on wheels

Waste isn’t the only filth on our roads.

Hundreds of personalized license plate requests are rejected each year in the U.K. by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) for being rude, sexual, discriminatory, or otherwise distasteful.

It seems, though, that someone was asleep at the kiosk this summer when the DVLA let one unfortunate combination of characters slip into the hands of Vanarama, a dealership in Birmingham, England, and onto the brand new Nissan NV400 van of an innocent driver. 

The customer arrived to pick up his new vehicle and was alarmed to discover that his license plate said “BJ69.” 

The regrettable combination of two slang terms for sexual activities shocked the customer, who refused to take ownership of the van until the plate was replaced.

Vanarama CEO and founder Andy Alderson later explained on Twitter that the matter had been sorted out and that the customer would receive a new license plate that doesn’t look like “a quote from the Kama Sutra.”

About the Author

Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news since 2000. The stories are all true.

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