The Road Worrier

I’m feeling remarkably happy today – and not only because it’s Friday (seventeen working days till I’m outta there!). This morning, I was late getting up, and so reached the station thirty seconds after my train was scheduled to leave. However, in what can only be regarded as a miraculous occurrence (my application for canonization has already gone off to the Vatican), said train had been delayed, and it rolled in four minutes later. Even the usual cattle-truck overcrowding, my face stuck in the armpit of some sweaty businessman, couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, for of such small things are tranquility and nirvana made.

I think it’s true to say that the daily commuting grind is something I will not miss in the slightest once I leave London for pastures Arizonan. Of course, it will probably be replaced by a different daily grind, as I drive to work instead — that in itself promises to be an experience, not having been behind a wheel in five years or so. I’m already nervous about having to take another driving test to get an American licence (or even “license”) — a Brit in his 30’s alongside all those 90210-styled teens. At least on American roads, you have a great deal more room to manoeuvre (or even, “maneuver”).

And, from what I’ve seen, American drivers are a good deal more polite, cheerfully waving away behaviour which would provoke a severe attack of road-rage – perhaps just a severe attack – if you tried them going round the Elephant & Castle. Perhaps it’s indeed true that an armed society is a polite society, and that you are less inclined to be rude if you can’t tell whether the other guy is packing. But it seems that driving, in itself, it less stressful than in London; or at least, it’s a different kind of stress, one born of fatigue and the fact that popping down to the corner shop for a pint of milk now requires a 30-minute drive. Each way.

This is still, however, preferable to London. I had been working on Litany of Hate 2 a sequel to (unsurprisingly) Litany of Hate, a list of things which piss me off. But I realised how many of these were linked to transport, even as a pedestrian who only has to dodge the shrapnel of car-related stress, as drivers explode in plumes of fury. Particular peeves include motorists who think that blowing their horns at pedestrians is the same thing as giving them the right of way. Or, as mentioned last time, there’s those who accelerate across the pedestrian crossing as they see you step onto it — inevitably getting a whole ten yards further up the road before the traffic brings them to a halt anyway. You may recall that I perfected the technique of clipping their rear wing hard with my briefcase as they whizz past, which creates a most satisfying sound. It scares the life out of them and is far less risky and more satisfying than shouting obscenities. Well, I have since discovered the additional tactic of then walking on as if nothing has happened, which really confuses them…

Then there’s cyclists… Oh, yes… No group of road-users probably whines more about how badly they’re treated – but no group of road-users has less respect for the rules of the road. One-way streets, stop lights, pavements — these are all things that apply to other people, as they swerve their way through the traffic like frantically-pedalling lemmings. For the death-toll among cyclists is perilously high — and I can see why. Once, when bus, tube and train all went on strike simultaneously, I cycled to work; even though the traffic was stationary, it wasn’t an experience I want to repeat. But until cyclists learn to behave like sensible road-users, why should they be treated like sensible road-users? Best just regard the annual death-toll as a cull of the most stupid and/or unlucky.