What could possibly be the difference between rolling a ciggie and reading a map and eating a Mars Bar and using a SatNav? I remember my dad rolling with one hand whilst driving down the motorway when we were kids. Map reading was left to my mum but you could guarantee that once out of the bounds of the three counties there would be a row and dad would take over. This meant a very large extremely complex origamied map being spread out across the steering wheel whilst my sister and I argued in the back and my mum would sulk in the passenger seat. It would take a while but eventually dad would give up and pull over. If it was illegal, then my dad was the luckiest bugger on this earth, for he never got caught.
My first insight into the dos and don’t of driving came on my way back home after a family visit. I wasn’t hungry but there is a ritual that takes place whenever I have to drive for more than an hour and a half. I have to stop. The halfway point has to involve coffee and something to eat. To be quite honest with you any trip out of the house should involve a coffee and something to eat. I had stopped at a petrol station, filled up, but forwent my coffee. The vending machine looked as though the elf inside had had a nervous breakdown and wasn’t doing his job properly so I opted for a Lucozade. My craving went to a sausage roll which as anyone who has tried to rip open a packet with their teeth, grasping a plastic bottle wedged between their legs whilst pulling out on to a B road, should know, is no mean feat. Did it, crumbs showering down over me, reminding me to get some Vosene on the way home for my dandruff.
The radio on, the news cut into the droll seventies flashback tracks, T-Rex had a lot to answer for in my youth. “A man has been arrested for eating a Kitkat whilst driving. An on the spot fine was issued….” I kid you not, look it up, May 2000. I suddenly felt extremely conscious of the chewing motion going on in my mouth and the cellophane wrapped sausage roll expertly held in two fingers whilst steadying the steering wheel. And yes, Sod’s law had its say as the police car came towards me. Chewing stopped, and sausage roll deposited between my legs, along with the now open bottle of Lucozade. I was that flustered I pulled over. Oh my god, how was I going to light a cigarette whilst driving?
My dad had been an expert at rolling cigarettes and apparently map reading, although I was brought up to believe that all map makers were idiots because they never seemed to know where my dad wanted to go. I mean it wasn’t his fault that he found himself half way up a one way street facing the wrong way. He had used that road many times when he was younger, it had to be the map that was wrong.
We now have Sat Navs and google maps. I don’t go anywhere without plugging in and starting up. Eating whilst driving is now illegal as is operating a phone. My dad would be turning in his grave if he had one, we burnt the bugger.
So what is the difference? Are we now more conscious of being bloody idiots when we sit behind the wheel of a two ton vehicle, or were cars slower and less dangerous in my dads time. The truth is I still drink my coffee whilst driving, but now I wait until I’ve stopped at lights, or in one of the endless traffic jams I seem to find myself in. But today I saw one of the most stupid things I’ve ever seen.
I can feel a song coming on.
“I seen a peanut stand, heard a rubber band
I seen a needle that winked its eye”
I haven’t really, but I have seen a man reading a book at the steering wheel of a BMW on the M1. And a woman driving and smearing on lipstick.
But the worse thing was the stupid cow behind me at the roundabout applying her mascara. Now I’m not an argumentative person, well not always, not a lot, not really, but I was totally incensed. I stopped and looked in my rear view mirror and there she was brushing her eye lashes. I was one click away from bursting out of my car and stepping up to her window, but the knight in the white Astra beat me to it. He was alongside her. He wound down his window and began what I could only describe as a barrage of abuse. Of course with it being so hot in my car I just had to wind down the window. Funny, there seemed to be a area wide breakdown of air conditioning units. Windows fell.
Hers was not one of them. She checked her car lock, and quickly put her mascara away.
“I heard a fireside chat, I saw a baseball bat
And I just laughed till I thought I’d die
But I be done seen about everything
When I see an elephant fly.”
Well I think I seen about everything,
When I seen a woman,
Put on her mascara whilst driving by.
The distraction was enough to make me miss my turning making me late for my appointment. What I also became painfully aware of was some of the stupid things that us motorists do whilst driving. The woman leaning back and sorting out her kids whilst driving in two way traffic, the man texting, the woman on her phone, the man looking through his Filofax. I know that one really got me, I mean who has a Filofax in this day and age. But the woman with the mascara got top dog. Maybe dads ciggie rolling and map origami wasn’t that unusual for its time.
What me? What did I do today that frightened the begeebers out of myself and every other drive? I wonder, does conducting the philharmonic orchestra on the M56 count?