Around Christmas time last year, I decided to modify a bit of my behaviour that I wasn’t happy with.
It wasn’t about my glee in relating 70s, schoolkid anecdotes to my children, with all the wonderful elements of Health and Safety removed.
“And do you know, kids, in those days we didn’t even have to wear hi-viz vests when we were in the playground after school.”
“It’s all true, in fact at my secondary school, when we were raising money for St Joseph’s Penny, the teachers used to allow us to box at lunchtime. I think that Mr Fedoruk, the Games teacher, used to run a book on the fights, resulting in one of the Maths teachers getting heavily into debt.”
“Wow, I wish we went to your school.”
“Yes, it was great. It was a place where people who obtained more than a couple of O Levels, were seen as professors.”
I love horrifying and wowing the kids in equal measure, with embellished tales of my childhood, so it wasn’t this that needed some thought.
It was about driving. I don’t get the classic road rage that Channel 4 like to make documentaries about.
I’ve been in a car with someone who has, so I know I’m not in that league. It was a Geordie mate of mine and we were travelling up the M6. We were in the left hand lane and as we passed Junction 38, a little old lady came tootling down the slip lane, ready to join the motorway and head for Penrith. The only thing was, she didn’t have her indicator on, so my mate wouldn’t move over and kept pace in his car. As the old lady got closer and closer to me, it became very clear that she was coming straight on. I relayed this urgently to the driver and he replied,
"How man, she’s not fuckin’ indercayatin’, so she can fuck off.”
He wasn’t screaming his head off, but that’s a level of intolerance I know I’ll never reach. He’d have been happy for us all to have a nice big crash, because of a ‘tech-ner-fuckin-cality.’
What I have is more of an urban impatience. If you’re driving round a city, then you need to be quick off the mark, or you can spend your life at junctions or traffic lights.
Over the years, I’ve found myself doing a little commentary as I go along and viewed objectively it’s a bit embarrassing. ‘C’mon mate’, ‘Are you ever going to go?’ ‘It’s on green! it’s on green!’ That sort of thing.
I was never shouting it, but that constant irritation has a corrosive effect on your stress levels. It serves no purpose to be annoyed. It doesn’t get you there any quicker. The person in the other car can’t hear you, so whatever you’re saying is going to have absolutely no impact on what they’re doing. Most importantly, if you’ve got anyone in the car with you, you look like a right dick.
So I decided at Christmas that I was going to stop doing it. I went cold turkey as well. No gradual reduction in the comments or volume. I went from being mildly irked by every perceived bit of ignorant or inconsiderate driving, to not giving a toss.
It’s absolutely great. You should try it, even just for a morning or a day. You’re mental state will be a lot better for it.
I was always happy to let people through on a busy road, where there’s only room for one car, but sometimes I’d make a bit of a snap judgement if they were driving a bit aggressively. Not any more. Happy to wait, on you go, mate, you’re obviously in more of a rush than me. It bloody works, you know. I’ve tried to keep it up and am achieving good levels of success. I occasionally backslide, but note it and spend the following few minutes being extra nice.
My greatest moment was at one of those junctions, where you get a bellend who races up on the outside in the right-turn-only lane and then goes straight over, bypassing the huge queue of highway-code followers in the left hand lane. A few months ago, if I found myself at the front of one of the left hand lane when this happened, I’d have consciously tried to beat him across the junction to annoy him. Last week, when this happened, I just slowed down and let him nip in. Amazingly, it felt really good. Course he’s a knob, but why should I be bothered.
The only nut that I’ve failed to crack, is a particular little junction in Chorlton. It’s where Kensington Road joins Manchester Road. If you’re daft enough to try and turn right here, you’re going to be there for a long, long time. Most people who live in the area will take a big detour, rather than attempt the madness of a right turn there. If you get stuck behind someone who is, you may as well get your butties out.
The couple of times it’s happened to me since Christmas, a quick, ‘Oh, for fuck’s sake!’ escapes before I remember my new ethos. I will do it though. By Christmas, I hope, if I find myself in this position to sit there with a smile like a Jehova’s Witness and say, ‘Good luck, mate. Hope you don’t have to wait too long.”