This week, while driving, I got yelled at three times. The first time, an old bloke was behind me in the queue for the traffic lights and because they were taking a long time to change to green he actually jumped out of the car, knocked on my window and shouted “Come on, they’re f***ing broke, you ar**hole!” Pensioners shouldn’t use words like that. You don’t get words like that in Soduko. The Countdown Conundrum is never ‘ar**hole’. He was, however, wearing a neatly appropriate traffic-themed pullover. Chevrons..
The second time a woman actually stopped her car to shout across the lap of her mortified female passenger into the window of my stationary car to tell me that I’d parked dangerously and requesting that I relocate my vehicle (I’m paraphrasing there, she used her own specially selected vocabulary. Loudly.). I was not parked dangerously but I would have been more than happy to move if she had not come at me with such aggression. “I’ll call the police!!” she bawled. “Do it!” I heard myself shouting back. “DO IT!!!”
The third time, I was waiting to join the flow of traffic by turning right (coming out of the Co-op at rush hour! Not advisable) and a man behind me who was desperate to turn left, actually mounted the pavement in order to squeeze past and simultaneously shriek at me (who says men can’t multi-task?). He seemed not to be able to decide which particular term of abuse to throw at me because he ended up spluttering “You, you, you, ffff… you…. ming!”
Ming?! What is a ming exactly? I was equally angry at this point so I wound down my passenger window especially to have a lovely interaction with this Neanderthal (why didn’t I just ignore him?) but all I could think of to shout in the heat of the moment was “I beg your pardon?!” like some pathetic, wet, Victorian gentleman played by Colin Firth. The most surprising thing of all though was the bloke actually honoured my weak request and repeated his insult “Ming!” even though he had half-realised that the word he’d shot at me wasn’t even a real word. He had emotionally committed himself to it now though so had to repeat it. Loudly.
Three horrible confrontations in one week. I normally avoid confrontation like the plague but, on the roads, this is getting more tricky. There’s more and more cars, of course, and the roads are getting more and more broken down and neglected because councils have slashed their maintenance budgets due to the recession. It feels like the country has been in crisis mode for a long time now. The cracks are beginning to show and not just in the roads. It’s become a lot harder for lots of people to just get by.
Everyone is trying to get somewhere, everyone is late, everyone is over-stretched and over-stressed. In other spheres of life we try to maintain a degree of decorum but when we’re concealed and isolated inside our sweaty, little, tin cans on wheels, all bets are off. Just getting by has become a big ask.
Do cars turn us into aggressive monsters or do they just remove the social masks behind which we usually hide? I admit that I often get a red mist descending in front of my eyes when someone is holding me up by driving at 20 mph in a 60 mph zone. Then the next minute I feel a stab of guilt when I realise that the offender was a little old lady just like my Nan. When some idiot shouts abuse at me from their driver window I do feel a cold rage grip my heart and murderous thoughts explode in my brain. I hate the morons who eff and blind at me at junctions. But I also hate the person I sometimes become in response to them. There are lots of morons out there who drive us to fury but I suppose I should try to remember that, to them, I’m the moron. The Neanderthal behind me at the Co-op today… Like me, he was just trying to get by.