The squeal of brakes. The scream of metal pushed way beyond its limits. The other car pulls sharply to the left, the driver’s face distorted in a rictus of pain or anger. You slam your foot on the accelerator, leaping ahead and edging past as he tries desperately to bring his vehicle back onto the tarmac, still trying to gain the advantage, still trying to be number one.
Then there’s a flash of lights. You stand on the brakes, narrowly avoid slamming into the car in front of you. And you adjust your tie as you wait for the traffic light to change back to green, so that you can carry on your way to work.
Not an unusual scenario on our roads these days. But why should that be? What is it about being behind the wheel of a car that turns mild-mannered businessmen into raging psychopaths?
I’ve recently discovered that, in any gathering of a dozen people, you’ll probably find 15 or 16 different personality types. OK, so many of my friends are schizophrenic. But guess what – they have drivers licences. And none of them sees things the way you do. None of them thinks the way you do. Or responds the same. Or has the same priorities.
You might wonder why the guy in front of you didn’t bother to indicate when he changed lanes, cutting you off. And yes, I agree that he should’ve used his indicators. Should have checked that the lane was free before changing. But perhaps he has just been told that his wife has cancer. Perhaps he himself is suffering from a debilitating mental condition which paralyses the part of his brain responsible for flicking switches. Or, just possibly, he could be a complete wanker.
But how should you respond? Should you flash your lights? Switch them on bright and drive 6 inches behind him? Hoot your horn and make threatening gestures with the flick-knife you keep under the dashboard? Will that really improve the situation?
I’m tempted to say that, yes, it might actually help matters. Let evolution do its thing. If the wanker can’t master what has become a basic survival skill in modern society, then he probably shouldn’t be allowed to breed. If he has already spawned another generation of wankers, then it’s your obligation, as a member of a higher species which has mastered the essential indicator functionality, to hunt down the surviving members of the wanker gene pool and cleanse society of their dysfunctional DNA. Take out their dogs while you’re at it. And the goldfish.
Yes, I’m tempted to say that. So tempted, in fact, that it might look as if I actually did say it. But no….we all know that this is not the ideal solution.
But what is? Neglected indicators are just one of the bad habits we see on the roads every day. Some of my other favourites include the clueless prick who wanders from lane to lane, either because he’s lost or because he’s trying futilely to beat the odds and somehow get ahead of the other cars. Or the selfish motherfucker who thinks that he is so much more important than everyone else that he has an automatic right of way wherever he is, no matter how brainless the maneuver might be – like deciding to drive in the emergency lane, because his mommy told him that he’s special and, well, let’s face it – nobody else could love that kind of cocksucker.
This might sound rude. Some sensitive types out there might even be thinking that I’m calling these fellow travellers by nasty names. But these are, in fact, documented clinical terms which have been rigorously researched and found to accurately describe the type of person who has no regard whatsoever for other road-users; their property, their safety, their lives or the lives of their loved ones.
Then, of course, there are taxis…..
The funny little man who commissioned this article might have hinted that it was to be circulated to an international audience. In fact, I’m sure he said it would be intergalactic. Perhaps the echoes in the dark alleyway distorted his words. Or it could have been the drugs talking. Or the voices in my head. But on the off chance that this reaches foreign shores, it might be appropriate to elaborate on what is possibly the worst road hazard ever faced by civilised society.
In South Africa, the term “taxi” refers to a dilapidated minibus driven by an illiterate lunatic who cannot drive, speak English, or understand why the entire population hates him. No, I exaggerate – some of them can speak a few words of English.
These taxis transport our previously disadvantaged communities to their places of work and back again. The drivers seem to be under the impression that this gives them special rights on the road. Meaning that they can swerve from lane to lane whenever they like, or cut in front of any vehicle at any time. They can also stop wherever they like, whether or not it disrupts traffic, and they believe that their taxis are emergency vehicles entitled to drive in emergency lanes.
Until recently, the local police forces were intimidated by these organised criminals. But the rising numbers of deaths on our roads eventually led someone to decide that maybe the rules of the road should perhaps be enforced now and again, and taxis are now being policed sporadically. Except when they march on parliament, or blockade the roads in a childish attempt to impose their will on the rest of us.
Evolution again? If we allow these hooligans to ride roughshod over us, do we deserve to be at their mercy on a daily basis? After all, I take more offence at the chickenshit in the car in front of me who lets the taxi force its way back onto the road in front of him, than I do at the taxi driver himself. If we’re not prepared to stand up and fight for our rights, then they will be taken away from us. An interesting solution was discussed recently – a bag of ball bearings, tied beneath a car and somehow attached to a string which could be pulled to release the balls when a taxi gets too close behind. Which compares favourably to my own policy of redistributing wealth by tossing spare change, coin by coin, at anyone aggressive enough to cut in front of me. Strangely, I haven’t yet received any letters of thanks.
But back to the personality types. This is not a Billy Connolly joke, so feel free to refer back to the previous paragraphs and refresh yourselves on these personality types and where I was going with them before I so rudely interrupted myself.
The point is, who are we to judge other road users? Until we’ve walked a mile in their shoes, or driven 100 miles in their car, listening to their stereo and playing with their fluffy dice, we have no idea what is going through their minds when they do these stupid things on the roads. And yes, most of the actions mentioned above are undeniably stupid. Some are criminally stupid. But does that make them bad people?
Would it not improve matters considerably if the rest of us, those of us who think of ourselves as “capable” drivers, develop a tolerance for those who are not quite as capable as we are? Should we not try to keep our distance from these folk, ensuring our own safety and letting them sort themselves out in their own time? When you think about it, are there really two groups of drivers out there: one bunch which includes you, me, and everyone we know; and another group which includes all the lunatics? Methinks not. Methinks that somewhere out on those roads, someone was under a little too much pressure at work – possibly one of your friends or neighbours. Or he was thinking about his son’s marital problems. Or his sister’s kidney operation. And perhaps he just didn’t remember to flick that indicator switch. Negligent? Yip. Dangerous to those around him? Probably. But does that mean that he is a bad person? That he deserves to be punished for one little slip?
Answers can be sent via the editor’s e-mail address, and will be tallied into yays and nays. Don’t wait too long, please. I’ve got the fucker in the basement, and the rattling chains and screams for mercy are threatening to keep me awake at night. Which might have a detrimental effect on my driving.