Saturday, 12 July 2014

Driving You Crazy


This week I have encountered quite a lot of impatient motorists.  There have been drivers who have pulled out on me.  Drivers who have cut in.  And then there was the driver who loudly objected when I gave way to a bus.  A glance in my rear view mirror revealed an apoplectic face and a hand gesture that definitely wasn’t a friendly wave.
          I haven’t fared much better in car parks.  Earlier on in the week, whilst visiting my accountant, some ‘thoughtful’ soul boxed me in.  Of all the empty spaces in the car park, apparently none were close enough to the door of the building he wished to visit.  Are people really in such a hurry that they can’t drive within the speed limit, or be considerate to other motorists?  It would seem not.
          I’m not a fast driver.  Indeed, the one and only time I ever received a speeding ticket was when mistakenly driving at 34 mph in an area I believed to be 40 mph.  However, the local Council, without any warning, had changed the speed on that stretch of the road to 30 mph.
          My husband didn’t believe me when I told him I’d been caught speeding.
          ‘You?’ he asked incredulously.  ‘No!  Where’s the proof?’
          And so I showed him.  And anybody else who doubted I’d been so daring as to break the law.
          It’s been a long time since I drove like a girl racer.  In fact I can pinpoint exactly when it happened.  It was the day after I took my driving test.  It’s the same phenomenon that happens to 99% of all newly qualified drivers.  Overnight, you turn into a lunatic.  Back then, in those heady days of singledom and being child free, I’d roar around in my ancient Morris Minor – a gift from my grandmother – thinking I was the bee’s knees, terrifying all the granddads on the road.  I was an arrogant know-it-all.
          Toot toot.  ‘Get out of the way.’
          Parp parp.  ‘Try studying the Highway Code!’
          Beep beep.  ‘Call yourself a driver?  You don’t know the meaning of the word!’
          The road was mine, and the Morris Minor was my Ferrari.  Unfortunately my car begged to differ.  Six months later it needed not just a new clutch but also a new engine.  Oh, and a re-spray where I’d driven into the garage wall not once, not twice, but three times a lady driver.  Parking had never been my strong point.  That and roundabouts.  Every accident I’ve ever had has been on a roundabout.  But I digress.  I can still remember the incredible guilt, as I looked at my beloved grandmother’s crestfallen face, telling her the car was ‘worn out’.
          ‘How strange,’ she’d said, brow puckered, ‘I can’t understand it.’
          ‘Mm,’ I’d nodded.  ‘It’s a mystery.’
          ‘I only ever drove it to Carréfours and back at twenty miles per hour, and twice a year to Kent at thirty miles per hour.  It always behaved perfectly.’
          Yes, until a twenty-year-old madwoman took over the controls.
          My reacquaintance of driving within the speed limit came the day after becoming a mother.  Another overnight phenomenon occurred.  Suddenly I was one of the slowest drivers on the planet.  Couldn’t get out of third gear for years.  I’d drive along, sweating profusely, as car after car overtook me, with my precious cargo strapped into a baby seat.  It was always a joy to pal up with another new mother and swap tales of manic drivers on the road.
          ‘I had a near miss today.’
          ‘No!’
          ‘Yes!  This madman blared his horn and overtook me on the Top Dartford Road.  He must have been doing at least 38 mph.’
          ‘How terrifying.  There should be a law against it.’
          Which reminds me.  Nothing confuses a man more than a woman driver who does everything right…

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