It is an unfortunate fact that, although most of us have legs, many prefer to use the car. This is not a lecture, I’m (nearly) as bad as the next person. My dog walk usually starts with a short drive although I could easily walk from home. The constraining factor? Time.
The reason I am more conscious of cars than many, is that I live on a ‘B’ road, and, about 100 metres from a primary school. It is often quite entertaining to watch from the warmth of my kitchen, the traffic struggling to weave its way between cars, often double parked and usually leaving very little room for the buses and lorries that have to use the road to get from Lay-it-on-berzooms to London/Duckchester or vice versa. Horns sound and voices raise in frustration at the complete ineptitude of some drivers, who don’t look before pulling out and find themselves trapped between vehicles; unable to move forwards or backwards without availing themselves of somone’s front garden or driveway. We have erected a metal fence at the front because our front garden (a cobbled drive way along our entire frontage) was regularly used as a rat run. Once, Whizz nearly stepped out of our front door into the path of a passing car, inches from the porch.
Now, knowing all this, you would think that I would avoid this time of day to take my car out. Yes, you would think that and in fact I usually do keep one eye on the clock, however yesterday I loaded the dog blindly into the car, my mind on some other approaching task, and it wasn’t until I had started the engine and looked up that I realised that I had picked exactly the peak time for the school run. Worse still, I was pointing up Robinghood High Street and could not turn out of the drive in the other direction because the way was blocked by parked cars opposite.
Undeterred I set off, noting as I pulled out, eventually, that the school bus was collecting children outside the school, but I hadn’t reached that point yet. Cars forged towards me and I dodged into gaps between parked cars, berating myself for my lack of planning. Eventually I reached the spot, right outside school and directly behind the bus. On the pavements, parents milled and gossiped. Parents of children with whom I work.
Ahead, a lorry had picked this time to deliver something and was reversing into a small lane, holding up the oncoming traffic but leaving no room for me to proceed. I waited resignedly. Meanwhile anarchic pick-up cars were beginning to nose their way back into the traffic. Behind the lorry, vehicles were building up: another lorry, some cars and two buses.
Finally the road was clear and the oncoming traffic began to squeeze past the school bus and then me. One more car, I thought, and I’ll be able to make a little more progress.
Imagine my fury when the final approaching car stopped, in the middle of the road, just in front of the school bus, preventing anyone on my side of the road from moving. The woman, wound down her window and beckoned her children to cross, in front of the bus and get into the car. She did look as though she wanted them to be quick and there were still no cars behind her. One child rushed across but there was another, more dilatory, who was still out of sight and would arrive in goodness knew how long.
My frustration got the better of me – I think that’s an understatement -I was incensed. Not so much by the fact that I was still waiting, but more the selfishness of this one woman, local, with a black Labrador dog, who thought her needs were more important than those of every single person waiting behind me, probably all the way back to the roundabout by now. I turned into ‘Fishwife-woman’ and leaned on my horn.
The woman in question (she has a Russian sounding surname by the way), raised her eyebrows at me in a disapproving way.
I gestured at her – no, not what you’re thinking; a simple but vigorous beckoning and a scowling face got my message across.
Finally, in a dignified, leisurely manner, this excuse for a citizen, closed the rear passenger door of her car and drove on. Behind her was still clear and I maneuvered my car round the bus, in and out of parked cars and eventually, on my way.
As I drove I was planning my retribution. I’d confront her tomorrow on the pavement (I was still in fishwife mode), no, I’d report her to the police, hmm, I should have taken her registration number. OK, calm down, I told myself, this isn’t good for your heart. You have to take some responsibility, you know what the traffic’s like at that time of day. You could have walked, you could have waited. OK I was a bit calmer.
I got out of the car at the dog field and it was a lovely bright afternoon. My heart lifted as I looked at the hills and heard the birds. The dog was prancing about excitedly and I threw his ball. He galloped off joyously. I remembered that I had finished my course of antibiotics so I deserved a stiff drink – that would relax me a bit. The pen is mightier than the sword, I told myself, especially with a drink at your side.
Write, slurp, publish.