Monday, 16 August 2010

Miss Daisy Drives

Courtesy of me!

My husband and I have been together for a number of years- exclusive of our marriage- and over that time I have transformed from single, independent driving lady to chauffeur driven wife. I'm not quite sure how this has happened however it appears that over time my default setting is to head for the passenger side of the car, as opposed to the drivers side.

It's not that I am actively avoiding driving its just a combination of splitting my concentration from that immediate post work haze to driving a car and navigating a conversation on our work related pet peeves is a level of multi tasking I do not enjoy. You'd be surprised at the number of pet peeves that can crop up working in analysis .

None the less its just easier and in the words of "Someone" if we're going to get home at a reasonable time then its probably best that he do the driving. I appreciate that this sounds incredibly sexist and old fashioned but it works for us. Certainly for me who can stare out the window and watch the world go by without raging at some idiot who has tried to cut me off.

Besides, strange things happen when I drive Charlie (the Corsa) despite the fact that I am a safe driver. I am not saying this out of some kind of misplaced arrogance surrounding my abilities behind the wheel, but I have no points on my licence and have not been involved in any accidents which have required the exchange of details. That is not to say that I have participated in the hit and run scenario but more that if your definitions of safe were legal and no accidents then I am your woman.

So what strange things might happen when I am behind the wheel? I hear you ask.

Well it would appear that other drivers are compelled to act recklessly and at times dangerously when they are within a relatively close proximity to my little car. It has resulted in incidents of "passenger rage" where my husband has been found to be dramatically gesticulating to other drivers. While I sit serenely behind the wheel driving in what would appear to be a calm and unaffected manner. As my passenger rants and raves and would take on the appearance of having some kind of episode involving loud uncontrolled swearing.

I seldom get further than "WHAT the . . .!!" before my husband has finished the sentence for me (in a more colourful way than I was thinking possible) complete with facial expressions and Italian style hand throwing.

Generally these events consist of people pulling out in front of me, without indicating, near junctions or lane conversions etc where an indicator is probably at its most crucial. At least that was what I was taught- signal, mirror, maneuver. However clearly there are drivers who have gone to the school of look, mirror, maneuver and are not too sure what the stick at the side of the steering wheel does. Having already established that its clearly not the windscreen wipers stick.*

At the height of Other Driver Madness I did, late one evening on the motorway heading to Stirling, have to say the fastest and loudest prayer to The Man Upstairs. Next to a roller coaster this particular strange event was a PB in uttering the Lords Prayer at speed. An American style truck/car thing shot past me in the outside lane carrying three IKEA looking arm chairs. When about 100 yards in front of me one of the chairs decided to make a bid for freedom.


My entire body broke out in a sweat and I started muttering as I watched this huge, white arm chair bounce across the motorway. Having rocketed out of the back of the truck it bounced once in my lane before shooting to the right (into the outside lane) then bouncing back into the left hand lane- now RIDICULOUSLY close to me- before bouncing right again and rolling back left onto the hard shoulder around me. It was a real finger of God moment directing that arm chair around my little puddle jumper (a real little banger of a ford fiesta, my first set of wheels) and not into me or any other car. ***

Anyway, in addition to being safe, and by implication slow, my music tastes have also resulted in the birth of a Car Rule. Which is simply "Drivers Prerogative". Another reason I don't do much driving, apparently my taste in music is far too suspect. Those friends of mine lucky enough to have heard my eclectic music collection will testify that is does hold some fairly questionable choices. In my own defence I believe that having a wide and varied taste in music makes for a more rounded individual.

Besides what is wrong with a bit of Meatloaf followed by some Kenny Rogers chased up with a bit of Basement Jaxx!?! On second thoughts don't answer that.

Regardless, presented with the opportunity of heading to the Lake District on my own (a girlie weekend away) I took the chance to pack for the car journey, as well as the weekend away. This included ensuring the sat nav was properly set up and the car had adequate chocolate, water, blankets and other essential supplies in case of a stranding (admittedly this was unlikely in the middle of June but I was a girl guide the motto "Be Prepared" has stuck with me**).

In amongst this planning was, at the top of the list, ensuring that my i-pod was loaded with all the latest 80's power ballads that I might need to belt out in the 3 hour car journey South. I am not too sure how relaxed my husband was with the prospect of me driving for that length of time without there being an incident and we agreed that a phone call would be made on arrival or impact- whichever came first.

Armed with post codes, bags and i-pod I jumped into the car got all the necessary gadgets hooked up and started driving- with a bit of Bruce Springsteen to get the party started (don't judge me). I had to spend just over an hour along country roads before I would be able to hit the motorway and could relax. That is not to say I was not relaxed on the pre motorway section just that I inevitably got stuck behind every truck and tractor going and had the young and arrogant teenage drivers shoot past me on dangerous bends to contend with first.

I reached the motorway in one piece and turned up the power ballads to sing my heart out. Cline Dion, Madonna, Alicia Keys- the Girls and I were in town & we were doing a show for the M74's benefit. At the national speed limit I doubt anyone could distinguish the loud warblings coming from my car as belonging to me or the sound of the wind whistling through the bike rack on top of Charlie.

We were as one- The Girls, Charlie & me- for the 2 1/2 hours that would be the motorway section before I was to come off and head for the Lakes. I can only assume that the sat nav was taking umbridge at having been subjected to a relentless singing session and was inclined to feel that its "human" rights were being seriously infringed. Because the route became decidedly more challenging for want of a better word. The sat nav is great for indicating which roads to take and can give you a good indication of where the bends ahead lie however it is totally rubbish at gradients.

The moment I left the motorway the bends became considerably sharper as did the inclines, which were short, sharp and on occasion made all the more interesting with a bend somewhere in the middle! The i-pod was turned off, the window rolled down and my posture changed from relaxed to up right, with my nose about an inch away from the windscreen. The atmosphere in the car became far more concentrated and less care-free with me talking to Charlie. Coaxing him around the roads in an effort to convince him as much as myself that we would be capable of reaching our destination in one piece and ahead of the other girls.

Not that we were racing but dinner was booked for 7pm and I had left the office at 3pm in an effort to be able to unpack for the break before heading to dinner.

45 minutes of concentration was leaving me fairly clammy and exhausted. Just as I was contemplating "retiring" the sat nav by giving it a first time swimming lesson by launching it into one of the many Lakes I was driving past, and resorting to the map the route took on a whole new level of challenge. By now if it had been possible I would have actually had my head through the windscreen my nose was firmly pressed against the window.

The weather had closed in, misty and wet. Not unfamiliar to a girl who has spent many summer holidays heading to the North of Scotland, which is not renowned for its sunny climate. The sat nav barked " in 100 yards take the next right". While my eyes were rapidly covering all the mirrors available and flicking to the sat nav I caught sight of the sign which indicated my right turn was present.

My heart sank. If I thought that the roads this far had been the equivalent of a tarmac roller coaster I was in for a surprise. This was going to be a real education in No Guts, No Glory. It read:

Via The Struggle"

Somehow all I could read was the word "Struggle". If what the roads I had been on up until now had not signposted with a warning to all then this one road was designed to separate the men from the boys. Or in my case the woman from her sanity.

I carried on. If I had convinced Charlie to get me this far then I would be able to do it too, we weren't that far from our destination and we'd manage this last leg together- as a team. Car and driver as one unit.

The sweat was well and truly running as I took these sharp bends and tried to be relaxed at the 13% gradient signs and took the gear selection advice seriously. I couldn't have been going any more than 20 mph at the best sections and spent a majority of that last leg at a steady 10mph. No mucking around. I wanted to get there in one piece with Charlie intact.

Unfortunately I appeared to have collected a couple of cars on my journey through The Struggle. A BMW & a souped up Subaru being driven by a 12 year old. I did the only fair thing I could, at the safest point I pulled over and indicated for them to over take. Which they duly did and within a minute I had lost sight of both. Until I came around another bend and saw the BMW doing the same thing to the Subaru- pulling over to let him pass. Clearly I was not the only one not prepared to take any chances on this road by having a young, local in a powerful car drive up my backside.

Never the less I arrived, abandoned the car and on shaky legs went to get a large glass of wine to steady my nerves before proudly calling my husband to boast at my advanced driving skills. I did still have to get home- however there was a massage first and that would surely put me into the right frame of mind to face The Struggle on my homeward journey. . .

You'll have noticed by now I am not particularly technical or mechanical with my descriptions. For this I make no apologies, although I probably should. . .
Although give some previous postings you might have noticed this is not necessarily always been at the fore front of my planning and organising. I am considering getting this tattooed to the back of my hand. Not as some form of permanent dedication to Guiding but as a permanent reminder to check and recheck I have everything I might possibly need for my adventures.
Mercifully at that time of the night there was next to not traffic on the motorway.

1 comment:

  1. I'm starting to believe that they don't teach new drivers the purpose of the orange flashing lights at the side of cars. They are INDICATORS people the INDICATE the direction in which you intend to travel!
    I'll need to get himself to take you out on the single track roads to boost your confidence or better yet I'll just loan him to you.