Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Peasants & nomads

Riding a motorcycle in the city every day you rapidly become accustomed to people trying to kill you – ok maybe that’s a little melodramatic – but you certainly get used to people not giving a toss if they do you some serious damage.

My bike's a bright orange Harley with an exhaust note that is loud to the point of illegality; you’d think that I’d be pretty conspicuous. But this isn’t enough for the negligent driver who has their head so far up their arse that they are unaware of my presence. They’re too busy with the mobile phone clamped to their ear, doing their make-up in the rear-view mirror or reading the newspaper propped up on the steering wheel.

But most of the time you develop a kind of paranoia to protect you from the ‘oblivious driver syndrome’. What I’m really talking about though is the driver who deliberately tries to do you harm – here’s a couple of examples from recent weeks.

The salesman / middle manager in what was obviously a company car: I’d filtered alongside the outside of a stationery queue of traffic (perfectly legal in the UK by the way for any readers in the US), up to a red light. As the lights change, rather than let me cut in he wheel-spun for about twenty yards before doing an emergency stop, swerving towards me at he same time in an attempt to force me into a traffic island.

The builders in a white van: I seem to have offended them when I slowed down to allow a taxi to come out from the kerb in front of me. So they followed me for half a mile with their bumper about a foot from my rear wheel with the horn jammed on – they even followed me as I tried to weave through the lanes trying to shake them off.

Of course I ‘remonstrated’ with them and I expected a bit of hostility in return. But I was genuinely shocked by their sheer hatred and bile – these were people who really did want to kill or maim me (I know because that's exactly what they told me). One of them even took a laughable and very poorly executed swing at me.

I can only put this all this down to a kind of automotive penis-envy: Feelings of inadequacy and frustration at being trapped in their little metal boxes when someone else is so obviously enjoying their freedom. The eternal tension between the peasant and the nomad.

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