Honk If You’re Psychotic

It was quite a thing to be alive in the year two thousand and eleven, when the humble pedestrian couldn’t cross a road without encountering a psychotic motorist, eyes bulging, glazed with hate, careering toward him at murderous speeds.

This morning, en route to wage enslavement, I stepped out onto the open road; a road that at first glance appeared clear. As I took those first foreboding steps, something like a smudge appeared in my peripheral vision. I turned my head and was surprised to see a burgundy bastard-wagon less than twenty feet from my brittle bones and soft flesh.

As it got larger, I caught a brief glimpse of the driver; an ordinary man, except that his face was ugly with rage.  As the second stretched to breaking point, I had the sudden realisation that I wasn’t human to this cockstand, simply an obstacle on the road; his road. The car, now nearly on me, was not decelerating. Now I knew, perhaps with only another second left to act, that if I didn’t quicken my pace I would be hit. At a rough estimate, this man, who presumably had been awarded a driver’s licence at some point in the past (during a test in which he’d have had to make a show of being cautious), was pushing his pedal to around 40mph. At that speed I’d be irreparably damaged or deceased on impact.

I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, though the clues were seeded in the preceding paragraphs, but I surged forward and survived. As soon as I had, however, annoyance flooded my system. It occurred to me that I’d had many of these near misses and they all shared a similar character. I should say before I continue that the road was clear of other cars, so I hadn’t walked out from behind anything, and I’d been in a bit of daze, because it was first thing and I’d only abandoned my dream about being trapped on a U-boat with an all female crew, just half an hour earlier. However, it troubled me and now I’m going to waste your time explaining why. Blame him.

I’m not a driver. That’s an important point. I don’t respect the culture of motoring; I don’t like it, I despise what it’s done to our cities and our countryside, I abhor the shift from the train to the world of Mr Toad that’s occurred over the last century and have no ambitions to learn to drive because thankfully I live in one of the few places on Earth where it still isn’t necessary. Nevertheless, despite being forever the passenger and never the pedal pusher, it seems to me that the act of driving seems to induce a soft form of mania in those that dare, which in the worst cases mutates into full psychosis.

Driver’s have little reason to complain. I’m not talking about fuel prices, because that’s incidental, and frankly, tough; I’m talking about the culture of driving itself and the advantages motorists enjoy. The most important point is this: wherever you’re going in your vroom vroom, whether it be a short journey to work, a school run or a trip to the coast, your journey time is much shorter than would ever be possible naturally. That’s right, you’re ahead. Try walking from your home to the nearest town and see how much of your afternoon it devours. Yet, despite the motorists mammoth time saving, time they can use to conceive more kids to take on that school run or to burn a mattress before their girlfriend gets home, drivers are some of the most impatient people alive.

It’s great to be alive.

My would-be killer could have slowed down and allowed me to walk across the road at my own pace but decelerating, maybe even stopping, then having to accelerate once more, might have cost him anything between 20 and 30 seconds. My life, which hitherto had seemed important, if only to me, wasn’t worth half a minute to this shithouse.

Were I a pragmatist, accepting the fact that life is cheap and that a creature on two legs has no business crossing a road, it is after all the dominion of the motorist and theirs to do with as they see fit, I might wear a sandwich board inscribed with the legend,

“ATTENTION: If I’m killed by you then you’re legally obliged to remain at the scene until the police arrive. You can’t drive off, that’s an offence. You may be arrested, which will detain you for a long period, possibly weeks or months, and there’s every chance you’ll be given a token prison sentence or worse, from your point of view, a driving ban. Think how late you’ll be.”

I’d have to cross the road like a crab you understand, else they might not get a proper look, but as the prospect of killing me holds no fear for these defectives, then appealing to their impatience might be the determining factor in whether I live or die.

If you’re a driver consider why you don’t care about committing murder, as long as the weapon is your car. Your argument is likely to be that you have right of way, after all the road was built for your wagon wasn’t it, not the humble pedestrian, but don’t you think that assuming they’ll get out of the way in time is, well, a bit dangerous?

Perhaps you’ll be lucky. After all, the fool that nearly squashed me one rainy night in 2001, missed by inches and the cyclist that was a finger length away had time to yell “watch out!”, though he didn’t think to apply his breaks. So maybe you’ll be like them, but what if you’re not? In a split second anything can happen. What if I freeze with fear, as is reasonable when some dazed speed freak comes at you at high velocity, or I move to run and trip, or there just isn’t time to make it to the curb before impact? Well, that’s my tough shit isn’ t it? I suppose I’ll just have to be horrifically injured or murdered.

The thing is you’re in a car. A car is more robust than a human body, especially at speed. Perhaps the way to think about it is that as I’d have little chance of surviving a collision and your car is 100% guaranteed to survive, then the logical thing to do is avoid hitting me any way that you can. If not, I must infer, and invite a jury to infer, that you’re very happy to kill me, which makes you a psychotic. Slowing down or stopping would show otherwise. Print this off if you like, I won’t mind.

Rationally I know that one day it’ll be over. One day, the car will only exist in a museum and what used to be roads will become pedestrianised spaces, or reclaimed by nature, as we circumnavigate our towns and cities using experimental telepods, underground mag-lev networks and non-polluting sky trams.

Transport museum guides will regale disbelieving groups with stories of irrational human behaviour induced by these laughable relics. They’ll explain how the soft power conferred upon motorists turned normal, healthy people into sweary, aggressive bastards whose god complex often leads to tragedy. They’ll tell them of the government study that confirmed the long held suspicion that public transport reinforced people’s natural propensity toward being mindful of others, as the group dynamic required that they be considerate and show a degree of empathy. They’ll explain how thousands were killed because a false distinction was made in the minds of these poop-poopers, between those on the pavement and those on the road, with the latter being sub-human the moment they crossed the threshold and walked onto their territory.

Sadly I doubt I’ll live to see this day. Not because it won’t happen in my lifetime you understand, it’s just that I’ve got a lot of roads to cross between now and then.

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