Sunday, 11 July 2010

Hate driving. Love driving.

I hate driving. And I love driving. Unfortunately, these days, there is an unfortunate ratio between the good miles and the bad miles.

Every morning, my commute to work takes me on the A12, which always seems to be one lane too narrow. And every day I find myself joining a 74 mph traffic jam. This, in itself, I have no problem with, 74 isn't bad, i'll be at work before long. What I have a problem with is the guy behind, who had decided that 74 isn't enough, and that there's something wrong with me for leaving sixty or so feet of safety between me and the car in front. He passes me on the inside, and is now indicating to pull in front of me.

So I close the gap. I can't help it, I'm programmed to do it. I accelerate until the gap is almost gone, and still he tries to pull in. Time for the horn. One long blast sees him pull back out,  having to then kick the brakes to avoid a truck in the slow lane.

All of which achieved him precisely bugger all because we had reached his exit anyway. What had happened, though, was that I had reduced myself to his level. By closing the gap I had abandoned any thought of stopping distances or road safety, but at least it was my own choice to do so. If that bloke had succeeded in injecting himself into the gap he would have made the decision on my behalf. He had taken my safety away and was therefore trying to kill me.

So I gave him the horn, the sonic equivalent of my middle finger.

I know I shouldn't let things like this piss me off. The dual-carriageway slip road from the A120, heading towards Clacton terminates in a roundabout with two exits. Heading from Colchester, the left hand lane is for Clacton and the right lane is for Frating. So, in common with all correct-minded motorists I will wait in the queue in the left hand lane, typically a queue of no more than five cars. And every single time at least one motorist, who for whatever reason believes themseleves to be above queueing, sails right past in the right hand lane before slamming the brakes on and barging his way across the roundabout and into the left hand lane. He is oblivious of the combined scorn of the other people in the queue and displays no remorse to the poor sod who had to make an emergency stop to let that wuzzock force his way in.

You wouldn't do this in Argos, or the Post Office. You wouldn't go straight to the front of the queue, say "excuse me" and barge in, would you? In fact, this is more like going to the front of the queue, whacking somebody with a hammer and nicking his place. It's not very nice, it doesn't achieve much, and it makes people think you're a wanker. No, it confirms it.

And that's the drudgery of everyday driving. The need to be on the defensive the whole time, the need to get everywhere yesterday. Unfortunately, more and more of our daily driving is like this. The cumulative frustrations of jams, roadworks and speed cameras build up, and are released against each other. When we drive, we see cars, not cars containing people. It becomes a race, and a fight to the death.

But of course, I'm only writing this because I love driving. I may suffer unprecedented blood pressure issues on the A12, but I get home and reflect, and can't wait for the next opportunity to get behind the wheel. It's the feeling of control, how it makes me feel to have all this advanced machinery responding to my inputs and mine alone. And on a clear or unfamiliar road, when there's no rush to get anywhere, when you can concentrate on just driving, as dynamic or as relaxed as you like, the sensations come thick and fast and all those stresses are rewarded several times over.

Fortunately, I can't see driving becoming obsolete within my lifetime. I just wish those people I share the roads with would embrace the joys of the road, and not just the joy of winning.

A bit of competition is fine, but a journey is always better if you reach your destination alive.