My second near road rage incident of the week. I was driving my daughter back from her gym class - it had been an eventful morning as just minutes before we arrived she had puked all over herself (but I had a change of clothes and she still wanted to go to the gym and she literally bounced straight back). The street outside our house is quite narrow and there are cars parked all along it and this does mean that as it becomes a single lane in lots of places you are relying on everyone being polite and considerate road users and making way for each other. Generally speaking this has worked fine for me so far and people go out of their way not to be dicks and to facilitate each other’s travel.
As I approached my house there was a long line of parked traffic, but there was nothing coming in the other direction so I went across into the right hand lane. I was about halfway to the bit of road with two lanes when I saw a lorry approaching. He had plenty of time to see me and all common sense dictated that he would stop for two seconds, let me pass and then get on his way. Because any other course of action would result in a bigger delay for both of us. Technically the driver might argue that as I was on his side of the road he had the right of way. But you’d have to be crazy to enforce that. I’d already committed and if I was going to let him through I’d have to reverse about a hundred metres, whilst I was only about 20 metres from the end of the parked cars going forwards.
But the van driver decided not to wait. He decided to proceed. Forcing us both to come to a halt. It was a scaffolders’ lorry and I know from the building works that I’ve had done that scaffolders are generally a bit unpredictable and crazy. Perhaps you have to be to clamber around on scaffolding all your working life. I have always liked them for their terrifying self-regard before, but now I was faced with some scaffolders in the wild and it was scary. The two men in the front of the lorry were already laughing as soon as they took the decision to approach. They weren’t waiting for anyone. Except, obviously, for me to get out of their way. Longer than they would have waited if they had just waited for me to pass.
They were enjoying the power they had by being in a bigger vehicle and in greater numbers than me and obviously physically much fitter and stronger. They intended to bully me off the road. Perhaps from their point of view I had been cheeky and tried to take a right of way that was not mine. They were incorrect about this though, but they possibly didn’t realise that I’d already committed to this course before I had even been able to see they were coming (but I’d still have gone if I had seen them, as in the honours system of this street, I was going to be much closer to their end than they were to mine.
The lorry pulled up and the laughing men pulled faces at me and waved me to reverse. I pulled a puzzled face at them.They had made a weird choice. But as much as part of me wanted to stand my ground (and in hindsight I have imagined a scenario where I just got out of my car, left it where it was and walked into my nearby house) because these men were being bullies (even if they had been in the right this behaviour would have been inappropriately aggressive as an opening move), I pretty much decided it wasn’t worth the hassle and possible death. I wasn’t too keen about reversing 100 metres down a pretty narrow road though.
The men were still mocking me and making wanker signs at me, which is possibly not the best way to get your own way, but I realised I could pull into the driveway of a nearby house and let them go. But as I am going to need some scaffolding on my house in the new year, I decided to take a photo of the lorry, which conveniently had the name, phone number and email address of the firm on it. This was partly so that I could ensure that I didn’t book these inappropriately offensive men, but also, I thought, it did give me the option to report the men for their rudeness. Even in the moment I knew this was unlikely to result in anything at all. In all likelihood this was a small scaffolding firm and the man at the wheel was the man who owned it.
So the scaffolders, who would have been up the street and half a mile on their way to their destination had they just waited, had to wait for me to take out my phone, turn on the camera and size up the shot. They jeered at me more, pulling the kind of pretend scared-face that I’d seen Keith Allen pull when the 19 year old me had said that I thought he might have been on drugs when he saw our student show. I wonder how he’s feeling about all the times he got his cock out in public at the moment.
It was the same impetus. These men had a power over me - in this case a physical one and they were asserting it in a way that was meant to make me feel small. Even had I been in error with my driving (which I was not) , I had still immediately given way and allowed them to pass.
They drove on their way with more wanker signs.
I did email the firm, telling them how I liked scaffolders and their sense of humour, but how perhaps this was not the best way to generate a positive public image and suggesting that I could, if I wish,continue the zany jokes by passing on their phone number to my followers on Twitter.
They know that the chances that I would have employed them to do my work for me was small, but I thought it was worth pointing out that it was now non-existent.
I told my wife that I felt like dobbing them in to the world and see is a small proportion of my Twitter followers might want to give them a ring or at least see the photo. My wife is sensible and knew I shouldn’t do that. And I could see how such a thing might escalate into an ever more childish and ultimately violent series of pranks.
But I did want whoever the boss was, even if it was the man in the driving seat who was gurning at me and waving at me to reverse 100 metres so that he didn’t have to reverse 20, to know that this behaviour had an impact.
I got no reply. But I will take the high road. Unless their lorry is coming the other way, in which case I will reverse up the high road and go down the low road, aware that proper men can use their confidence make me feel pathetic and defeated at any moment.
And just like any victim I am left wondering, after experiencing two such incidents in a week, if I am somehow to blame for all this aggression. Am I just a terrible driver/person? Who knows?