Somebody called me ‘gentle’ this week. It was on Twitter, actually, and it surprised me.
I’d never think of myself as gentle. Although, thinking about it now, I suppose on Twitter I am, mostly… gentle. I certainly don’t come looking for fights or conflict and I like to take an overview on stuff whenever I can.
In life too, I guess I’m pretty gentle. Maybe that’s too strong but I don’t go around screaming at people or mugging them or stealing their handbags and such. Yes, ‘gentle’ is definitely too strong – it really is – but non-aggressive is about right, maybe even a bit kind. Sometimes. That might fit.
So, okay, maybe I’m gentle…ish.
Except in my car.
Twitter doesn’t get to see me in my car. Hardly anybody does. And whenever anybody else is there to see me, I tend to temper my behaviour. Which is just as well because if I didn’t, somebody would probably try to lock me up.
The simple truth is, I’m not so gentle in my car.
In fact I’m a bit of a git in my car. Something of a bastard, a fuckwit, a gobshite.
It’s not that I drive aggressively, I don’t. I feel a huge responsibility when I drive. I try to do it as well as I can and with a weather eye to other people’s safety as well as my own.
The problem isn’t with me, it’s with everybody else. I am hyper-critical of everybody else’s driving. You are either too fast or two slow, too big or too small, too old or too young. If you are in my vicinity in your car, when I am in mine, then chances are I will find fault with you. And I won’t just do it in my head either, oh no, I will tell you about it, out loud.
Of course nobody can hear me. Nobody except me. If you saw me in full flow, there in my little car, you might assume I was having a passionate discourse with someone on a hands-free mobile phone call. Not so. I am berating you, sir. Yes you.
Nobody is exempt from my vociferous critical attentions. From learner teenagers to octogenarian bottle-spectacled granddads, you are all cannon fodder for my righteous ire. You are all completely and utterly in the wrong.
It’s quite a recent development, this cynical commentary on the world from within my car. I always did a bit of it but I would position the escalation at about the time I had to give up jogging on account of my knee.
Sometimes, when someone is in the car with me, I forget that they are there and I do a bit of my ‘diatribe’ thing. They look at me as if I’m mad and who is to say they are not right? Maybe I am mad, sitting there behind my windscreen, railing against you because you cannot walk a bit more quickly across the bloody road.
It’s not terrible nice and it’s most certainly not gentle. But I don’t think I’m mad. Not yet anyway. It’s rude and childish and pretty much unforgivable but it’s contained too and, if I didn’t write about it like this, you wouldn’t ever know it was happening.
I tend to think it’s my overflow valve.
Alone in my car, I get to spit a little vitriol in the eye of the world. I let off a little steam and the car ventilation system deals with it and disperses it to the air harmlessly. I also kind of amuse myself a little, letting my bad side out in this way. Who the hell needs to be gentle all the time? The trick is to pick a place to be non gentle where you can do no harm.
And, yes, perhaps my car is not the best place to do that. Perhaps I should have a punch bag out in the shed or something. Perhaps the car is still too public a place to vent a little steam.
I’ll think about that now and see if I should try to change my nasty little car habit. The point for today is that I’m maybe not quite as gentle as you think I am.
In one place, at least.
I’m not sure I miss having a car. I miss the convenience—I have to go to the chemist to renew a prescription and it would be so nice to not even bother sticking on a jacket and I’d be there and back in twenty minutes—but then there’s all the other stuff that goes with cars, the oil and water and air, the fact that they’re constantly dirty, the fact that it wouldn’t be twenty minutes there and back because there’re road words on Balshagray. That’s assuming the ruddy thing would even start. I don’t have many fond memories when it comes to cars. I tend to remember all the breakdowns, the flat tyres and the vomit. There was the freedom too. The freedom was good, sitting on Princes Street in Edinburgh listening to AC/DC on my ghetto blaster in the middle of summer or hitting a ton in a Transit van on the M8 travelling through the centre of Glasgow; not sure what I was listening to then but I still had my faithful ghetto blaster. I don’t recall being angry too many times or even frustrated in extremis which is my version of anger. I remember my daughter choking on a sweet on the Queensway (or it might’ve been the Kingsway) in East Kilbride and having to pull over to do something to stop her dying which I later learned was the wrong thing to do but it worked. I never sounded my horn at anyone. I discount the dozens of times I sounded the horn in the drive as a kid. I haven’t driven in at least ten years now. Don’t expect ever to again.
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