WITH A COUPLE OF NOTABLE EXCEPTIONS over the years (including most recently where I finally came to the end of my tether with the redneck one street over) I don’t go looking for trouble. Same goes for when I’m on the road: I like to think I fly under the broad sweep of dickhead radar. And I can do that because of my personal policy of never assuming that the bloke in the next car is (a) Awake, (b) Concentrating, or (c) Anything other than a homicidal tool having a bad day. It’s a policy that has served me pretty well over the years.
By assuming the worst from my fellow road-users (often with enormous justification, I should add) I can take steps to avoid the tangle even before the dope in the other car suspects he or she even has a chance to make a situation my problem. By watching the car next to me and where the driver’s hand is, I can predict whether or not they’re planning to make a lane-change on top of me.
By estimating the instantaneous weight distribution of a car heading for a traffic light, I can predict whether the driver is planning to stop or give it the berries and blast through on a stale orange. By checking the makes and models (and condition) of the cars in front of me as I roll to a red light, I can usually pick the driver that will be the nose-picker when the green arrives, and arrange to be in any of the other lanes.
Okay, so the aim of the game is to avoid conflict and let other folks claim road-rage for their own; get on with my life and leave others to their own messes. But what surprised me the other day was just what a magnificent aggro-firewall this policy of non-engagement through invisibility has created for me.
And it all happened because I was having a bad one. Not only that, but it all happened in thirty seconds as I returned to my parked car after a frank and meaningful discussion with my bank manager. Anyways, my crook knee was playing up at the time (too many F-grade hockey matches and motorbike crashes) so I was slow to get back into the car. More than that, I had the door flung wide open to avoid bending my knee any further than I had to.
Which is when a Territory came around the corner, spotted me dragging my carcass into the car and blasted his horn at me because he had to move slightly closer to the centre-line to get past me without actually slowing down. Then, not 10 seconds later, I attempted a U-turn to go back to work, but (and an unfamiliar car is no excuse for a bloke who changes cars more often than a meth-head switches doctors) I misjudged things and had to do a three-point turn. And whaddayaknow? Territory-Boy’s brother (I assume) is now coming up behind me. But instead of slowing a bit and going around me as I shuffle the Ds and Rs in the tranny, he flashes his lights and floors the gas, screeching around me with a finger out the window. Nice.
But then it dawns on me, for the last half a minute, I have become THAT guy. You know, the bloke who constantly mis-reads the traffic, doesn’t know the dimensions of his own car and faffs about with his radio volume when the light has already gone green.
But more than that, it made me realise that by driving like an imbecile myself, I had managed to flush out the other half-wits; the ones I usually avoid by not giving them the opportunity to do anything stupid or offensive to me. I had ceased to fly under the Radar of Stupid. Lesson learnt; I won’t be doing that again.
Oh, and my hill-billy neighbour? He miraculously found an excuse to move suburbs. I think he’s shacked-up with my bank manager.