I’ve been in England a bit recently, which inevitably means I’ve been stuck in traffic. A lot.
I’ve been up and down the middle of the country on motorways, I’ve been in cities and towns and on country lanes, and it is no pleasure at all.
But whilst I’ve chugged along behind all the other cars trying to get from A to B in one piece, I’ve have time to think.
For instance: why do lorries overtake each other? It takes on average three minutes for a reasonable-sized lorry to pull out, creep up on the one in front, overhaul it, and pull back in – so close, mind you, that the overtakee flashes the overtaker as soon as he has passed the front wing by a hair’s breadth to say that he has achieved his goal. That’s to say, he has gained about thirty feet of road, and a change of view. He has also annoyed a lot of car drivers, but that’s just a bonus.
And why do people in big towns buy fast cars? What is the point? They sit in the traffic, commuting to and from their executive homes on the periphery – and it’s only a matter of time before their edge of town houses become not quite edge of town any more houses – in their BMWs and Audis, which were built for the autobahn, not the Manchester Ring Road. They can’t do more than 30mph at the fastest moments, which are few and far between.
Maybe the point is that, on the odd occasion when there is a gap in the traffic, they need all the torque they can get just to make a break from one lane to the next, because they are only going to get a tiny chance to do so.
Given the state of the roads, what you really need is a Land Rover – and not the fancy town version, either. Why risk your super-expensive suspension on the pothole-fest that is the British road system? In fact, get a 2CV – they were designed to be able to drive across a ploughed field, so that’s about right for the circumstances.
Whilst we were there, a lady was caught causing havoc by driving at 10mph on a major road, in the rush hour. Several drivers called the police, who came out in force. They tried to attract her attention in the usual way, but she ignored them, until she came to a roundabout. When they attempted to block her, she just kept going round in circles until a policeman got out of his car, ran alongside and tapped on the window.
Well, she said, she never goes 40mph – it’s too dangerous and you can’t stop.
It’s also practically impossible on most roads at that time of day.
The only plausible reason to own a flash car in urban Britain is so that the man in the next car can look at you in envy, and think, Gosh, you look good in that, or, That’s a handsome hunk of metal you’ve got there – you must earn a lot.
Or maybe it’s to pretend that, if you ever got the chance to go over 40mph, you wouldn’t be afraid to try. Otherwise known as, you’re bluffing. How can you possibly know?