Many news and opinion sites are presenting stories today looking backward at the year 2019. But the Night Owl can be about nearly anything, so in the spirit of looking backward, we present to you Harpreet Devi.
He is a professional taxi driver in his home town of Bhatinda, Punjab in India, and he drives a Fiat Padmini that caused him no small amount of panic when, in 2003, the gearbox became stuck in “Reverse”.
Faced with no alternative way to make money at his chosen profession, he responded by spending the day driving in reverse, looking backward over his shoulder to navigate the road. As he hadn’t made enough money to get it fixed, he drove that way for the next day, too. And the next.
By the time he’d amassed enough money to get the car fixed, he’d become familiarized with driving in reverse… and he’d become a little bit of a local celebrity. Bolstered by this minor fame, he had the car modified during the repair process, giving it four different reverse gears and only a single forward gear.
His car can now reach speeds of 50 mph in reverse, and the local government has given him a special dispensation to drive the highways with his car facing backwards. His headlights have been remounted to the back of his car, and an ambulance siren alerts other drivers to his presence so that they don’t startle when they see his backwards car racing along the asphalt beside them.
He admits that the odd contortions have resulted in chronic neck and back pain. But, fame is fame, and after years driving in this fashion he no longer feels comfortable driving while “facing forward.”
Question of the night: Is there anything distinctive about your car?